Top 100 Profile: Seattle Boat Co. No. 3

Great success requires incredible imagination, a detailed execution plan and a team with the determination to make it happen. And very few companies in the boating industry better exemplify this than Seattle Boat Co.

All of the Top 100 Dealers believe in continuous improvement. Some may be striving to become No. 1 in sales for their top boat brand, others perhaps aim to achieve the highest CSI score in their 20 Group. But Seattle Boat Co. – ranked 16th on last year’s list – has imagined for itself a future in which it will serve its customers, its employees and the industry at a level beyond anything this business has seen before.

Many businesses have impressive visions for themselves, but this dealership has developed a detailed planning and project matrix to achieve its vision, and it’s carrying it out. In fact, Seattle Boat Co. noted in its application that it accomplished 77 percent of its 66 goals for 2006 and that 86 percent of its long-term goals could be considered a work in progress, likely to be accomplished in the next calendar year.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that the company isn’t easy on itself. One of its “failures” in 2006, for example, was its CSI score of 98.26. Seattle Boat Co.’s goal for the year was 99 percent satisfaction.

The results so far are phenomenal. Not only did Seattle Boat Co. demonstrate improvement across every area of its business in 2006, it did so with innovation and ingenuity. It continued to refine programs like its Super Tech service strategy, its Great Exchange trade-in promotion, its Cut the Steak ownership trial period program, and its Hall Pass Friday customer events, while introducing completely new initiatives such as its Order Smart program through which consumers can custom order their favorite boat at rates that beat upcoming show prices by at least 5 percent and require no payments until the following April.

Other improvements were more basic. The company grew its alternative profit centers by hiring a dedicated finance person and creating a used boat rigging team. And it sharpened its focus on the return on investment of its marketing tactics through in-depth reviews of its boat shows, analysis of local demographic info and the development of an Internet sales position. But even here, the impact on its business was substantial. The company’s new focus on F&I, for example, helped it more than triple its reserve income and net profit from extended warranty sales.

It’s no surprise that these initiatives, added together, translated into stunning financial results, including double-digit revenue growth and a double digit net profit margin. While the company certainly has Washington state’s stellar economy to thank for some of this growth, it’s clear that Seattle Boat Co. has the infrastructure in place to thrive even under the type of conditions faced by boating communities in Florida, California and Michigan.

A key test of a dealership’s professionalism- and a major factor in its ability to satisfy its customers – is the satisfaction of its employees, the importance of which Seattle Boat Co. hasn’t forgotten. In fact, President Alan Bohling pointed out that the company’s employee surveys reported ratings higher than “the top three” on the Marine Industry Certified Dealership employee survey. It’s easy to see why they’re so happy. Not only does the dealership offer great benefits, a strong incentive plan and terrific training opportunities, it also shares 10 percent of its annual net income with its employees, offers several annual employee events and allows staff to sign out dealership boats for their personal enjoyment.

What’s most impressive about Seattle Boat Co., however, is that its vision keeps evolving. In a testimonial, one customer said, “Need not change a thing. Everything was great.”

Yet the company isn’t taking his advice. Its future plans are detailed enough to outline improvements through 2010 and beyond – improvements that require the same intense focus demonstrated in 2006.

Despite its status as an industry leader, Seattle Boat Co. continues to dream up a new and better future for itself, creating a new standard of excellence for the entire industry to aspire to.

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