Service keeps us goin’

It took Ken Doran only a minute to warm up to the conversation.
He had entered the conference room suspicious of why he had been summoned, and the magazine guy who met him with all the questions seemed to put the service manager a spark plug’s gap outside his comfort zone.
But back in the familiar surroundings of the department he has worked within for the past 21 years, he opened up like a finely tuned motor when prompted to talk about the 65 service jobs he has in the queue. And he smiles as he recounts the CSI reports that just crossed his desk.
“This guy, here,” he explains, pointing to one of the reports, “I worked on his father’s boats. And I’m on a first-name basis with his grandmother and his kids. When they get treated right, they come back.
“When times get tough, it’s the long-term things like that that take over.”
It is truly the focus on service that has taken over at this Lockwood Marine location. Like many marine dealerships across the country, Lockwood’s boat sales have slowed. In addition to the poor economic climate and rising gas prices, this dealership is also battling water-access issues.
Considering its proximity to the Georgia coast, one would think that access to water would be the least of this dealer’s customers’ concerns. But launch ramps are hard to come by and lift operators charge a costly fee to lower boats into the Intracoastal Waterway.
Nestled a couple of miles inland from the coast, the Shellman Bluff-based dealership has experienced a strong growth trend since its inception in 1987. It has grown from a much smaller storefront just down the road from here, to a facility whose footprint has grown significantly since the company moved in 17 years ago.
Of all the changes that have taken place over the course of the company’s history, last June’s change of ownership stands out as the most dramatic, although it transitioned quite smoothly. With then-owner John Underwood searching for someone who could manage, take care of and eventually buy his business, and new-owner Jerry Hamm managing a like-brand dealership in Georgetown, S.C., Grady-White rep Greg Idol matched the two up.
Hamm joined Lockwood as an employee in 2000, living briefly in the company’s studio apartment above the service department. His wife Michele joined him a year later. Conversation surrounding the purchase of the company took place off and on for nearly four years, but it accelerated two years ago, and the sale closed in June 2007.
Doran is one of the many constants that have remained in place at Lockwood through the transition. In fact, he has been with the company since just two weeks after it got up and running. He was there when the company added on to the front of the building. And he was there when it gave him more service bays, adding to the four original. He was there when the canopy that covers the outdoor showroom was added. And he has been there long enough to explain why the wall behind the current parts counter — commemorated solely through the worn-out line on the floor — had to be moved.
“He has seen all the good and bad and the progress,” explains Jerry Hamm, “and he takes great pride in the name Lockwood Marine. It’s nice to have employees who care as much as you do.”
Doran beams with pride as he looks around his service area. His five technicians and his fiberglass guy are hard at work. There’s a list of 65 customers waiting to be serviced and a series of electronics packages waiting to be installed in new units.
“The economy hasn’t slowed us down,” he says.
“Service is what keeps us goin’,” adds Michele.
Dealership name: Lockwood Marine
Location: Shellman Bluff, Ga
Number of locations: 3
Number of full-time employees: 18
Boat and engine brands: Grady-White, Regulator, Cape Horn, Carolina Skiff, Stumpnocker, Tidewater, Gheenoe, Yamaha and Honda
CSI score: 98
Of particular interest: This is the kind of guy Ken Doran is. A competitor’s customer showed up to take his new boat home, but didn’t have a hitch. The competitor sold him the trailer hitch ball, but wouldn’t let him use a wrench to install it. The customer drove down to Lockwood, Ken installed the hitch — at no charge — and sent the customer back to the competitor to pick up his boat.

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