Plan to improve

One of the most difficult components to true improvement can be found in the planning. As the old saying goes, fail to plan, plan to fail.

Flerlage Marine Company, the corporate entity owning Sea Ray of Cincinnati, Louisville and Lexington, took that axiom to heart, and rather than just hoping that its efforts would help it improve, the company documented its goals.

“We have been more diligent about creating written action plans for each department and store facility,” explains Edward Alf III, president and owner. “These action plans have allowed us to track our improvements and determine if we are growing our business.”

The company’s improvements, which were broken down into seven sections, took 16 pages to report in its 2008 Top 100 Dealers application. They focused on customer satisfaction, sales, finance, service, parts, marketing and HR.

The individual categories, such as sales, were then broken down into other initiatives that, when accomplished, would help it achieve its bigger-picture goals. Alf says that he has learned over the years that you can create a list of 50 action items, but the odds for getting all 50 of them accomplished are probably unrealistic. “So, we pick two or three that will have the biggest impact and that will provide the biggest bang for the buck.”

The improvements have been profound. The company’s revenues are up dramatically year-over-year, and its CSI scores, which are affected by most every other area the company targeted for improvement, were also improved. They jumped from 93.9 in 2006 to 97.8 in 2007.

“The key is writing down the action plans,” Alf says. “You need to write down the action plans and document them and not to put them in a folder or binder and put it on the shelf. It needs to be a living, breathing document. And you need to make sure you’re living up to those action plans and holding people accountable.”

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