A Strong(er) team

There is perhaps no better way to improve your company than by improving each and every individual within. Jeffrey Strong, president of Strong’s Marine, Mattituck, N.Y., knew exactly that as he looked to make his company stronger prior to 2008.

Upon returning from last year’s Top 100 Dealers Gala, Strong analyzed his annual financial, customer satisfaction and service department results against the best dealers in the top 20. The company had already realized solid improvement from 2005 to 2006, but Strong and his team set their sites on more.

Using an overall theme (courtesy of Barbara Glanz, noted speaker and author) of providing “Service from the Heart,” Strong wrote to his employees, in a memo, that “There are four specific areas we need to continue to improve on relative to the Top 20 Dealers.” The memo compared the company’s performance to the best in the top 20 in those categories, and he challenged his employees to “think of at least one item you can implement this week that would help increase CSI, boat sales, technician efficiency, revenue and/or profits.

“It is from these important individual improvements that will improve us to the next level.”

With a dedicated person to track these individual improvements, the company created a list of commitments made by each team member. The ideas ranged from personal approach — “to always come to work with a positive attitude” — to specific, measurable goals such as “sell three boats by Christmas.”

While the latter individual was well on her way to that goal with one boat sold by Dec. 5, the group showed great progress toward its goals, as well. The company realized a one- and two-percentage-point increase in net profit and CSI scores, respectively, a nine-percent increase in revenue and an increase of 9.5 percentage points in billable efficiency.

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As if the individual improvements weren’t enough, Strong’s also outlined 42 year-over-year improvements that it made in other areas of its business, covering more than eight pages of its 2008 Top 100 Dealers application.

“We believe,” says Strong, “that being a Top 100 Dealer involves long-term planning, adapting and changing to challenges and opportunities, excellent team communication and ongoing training to encourage consistent improvement.

“It is the idea of having a theme or banner for the year, such as our ‘Service from the Heart,’ that reaches way beyond any specific goal and ties the numerous individual components into one that will create a common synergy for the entire group.”

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