Singleton Marine Group is the kind of company that people want to work for.
Austin Singleton knows his employees are the driving force behind the dealership’s success, and he rewards them accordingly. Employee incentives range from dinner gift certificates, spa treatments, fishing trips and Rolex watches to bonuses and cruises with their spouse. To top it off, employees know that their hard work will pay off in the long term: The company’s policy is to promote from within, and its recent expansion has provided plenty of opportunities for movement.
“Everybody has the ability to move up, down, left and right” within the company’s corporate structure, Singleton explains. All of the company’s key management members are cross-trained, enabling them to advance within both the corporate structure and at individual dealerships. This not only encourages employees to give their best, it provides the company with stability amidst change in leadership — expected or unexpected.
Stability doesn’t necessarily mean immobility, though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, in this case. A lot of the industry’s best dealers saw growth in 2006, despite challenging market conditions. But not too many can report the 55-percent increase in revenues that Singleton boasts. For this dealer, much of it comes back to its aggressive growth plan. The company acquired two marine businesses— one of which became an additional location and the other of which included a new boat line — and opened two new stores in 2006. While the company now sports a total of seven locations, its long-term plan includes expanding to 10 stores throughout the Southeast.
One of these new stores will be a Pre-Owned SuperCenter, which is expected to hold its Grand Opening in July 2008 with a 6,000-square-foot indoor showroom and reconditioning bay. Singleton is opening the store in response to the rising costs of boats, coupled with increased demand for used boats.
“This SuperCenter store accomplishes many goals for the Singleton Marine Group,” Austin says. “It gives its dealers an outlet to sell carryover inventory; it attracts new groups of customers, some of whom may also be courted to buy new boats at other Singleton dealerships; and it reduces heavy fees for unloading boat deliveries.”
Not only is Singleton staying on top of consumer trends, it’s also staying on top of market conditions. The company recently integrated ADP software into its business and is already seeing the benefits of its salespeople’s up-to-the-minute access to inventory. It has hired an employee solely devoted to inventory control and has used GE’s At The Customer For the Customer program to help improve specific areas of its business. In addition, its new project manager has been mapping and improving many of the company’s sales and service processes.
Streamlining the internal management of the company was a major focus of the company in 2006. Singleton continued the effort to centralize its corporate departments at its headquarters, moving all of the accounting, inventory control and marketing and naming a new CFO to supervise and unify all financial management departments.
And working hand-in-hand with that was Singleton’s work to address what might have been considered its biggest challenge – the use of multiple brand names across its locations. In 2006, Singleton created a full-time PR and marketing coordinator position to work hand-in-hand with its marketing agency. Together, they have redesigned the company’s Web sites and marketing materials to better co-brand their locations.
As part of that effort, Singleton has created a number of incredible marketing initiatives. Its marketing efforts have been centralized and include a prioritized strategic plan to brand the Singleton Marine Group and increase the visibility of the corporate entity.
Each of the dealers adopt a “boutique-style” niche marketing approach centered around the three different types of boats that are popular among Singleton’s customers. In addition, they’ve partnered with local realtors to launch an innovative new strategy that so far has led to the sale of 15 boats worth $750,000.
Together, all of these initiatives will serve the company – and the industry – well as Singleton continues to grow, spreading its vision of the boating lifestyle across the Southeast.