Pieces in place

The storms that brought a 500-year flood to Eastern Iowa last summer did a good deal of damage in Southern Wisconsin as well. And, while many boat dealerships were slowed last year by the economy, Redline Watersports, based in Madison, Wis., was off to a good start in 2008 (18 percent growth through the spring) until the rains came.
Many of the lakes used by Redline’s customers were closed due to flooding during the all-important months of June and July and didn’t reopen until August. But Redline persevered, and by the time Boating Industry paid a visit to the dealership on a Tuesday afternoon early last September, the company had just recorded one of its biggest days of phone sales ever.
The state’s capital and home to the University of Wisconsin, Madison is a good market in which to sell boats, thanks to the large number of government and higher-education jobs that allow many potential customers to weather economic turbulence, and also the variety of boating opportunities the area offers. And opportunity is what you sense when you visit Redline Watersports.
Located on the southeastern side of the city, the dealership sits just off a four-lane highway that carries 25,000 cars per day, and is only a couple of miles from Interstate 90/94, the main traffic artery between Minneapolis and Chicago.
Although the business is situated in what is now a somewhat industrial area, General Manager Paul Vitucci says a large, multi-screen movie theater will soon be built within a few hundred yards of the dealership, and more construction will soon follow as the Madison area – one of the fastest growing in the state – expands. That should spur more walk-in traffic, which is already good for the dealership’s pro shop, but not as constant for its other operations.
However, Redline is poised for growth in more than just its geography. Vitucci has structured the dealership to operate almost as if it is three separate businesses under the same roof. Each segment of the company – boat sales; service and marine accessories; and the pro shop – has a “team leader,” who is responsible for how it performs.
The team leaders set goals annually for their respective departments and their compensation plans are then built with bonuses that reflect the net profit of the department. The leaders meet with Vitucci weekly to discuss the progress toward those monthly and yearly goals as well as the performance of the business and personnel, action plans, events, etc. The system has worked well and achieved strong results.
Redline has also added a marketing coordinator and a customer care position as it continues to fill key roles and put the pieces in place for further growth. Considering the dealership has just nine full-time employees, the company seems to have most of its bases covered as it expands.
Vitucci says that one of the company’s most exciting opportunities for growth is to “maximize the potential” of the JC Pontoons brand it began carrying a couple of years ago. Redline Watersports has carried MasterCraft Boats for years, and focused on the ski/wakeboat segment of the marketplace and developing its expertise there. But with the addition of pontoons, the dealership now has a product for a different kind of customer, and Redline’s challenge will be to gain the same kind of understanding of those buyers that it has with its established clientele.
With the systems, personnel and products being put in place, a physical expansion might be the logical next step if Redline ever decides to expand its service operations or offer storage, etc. And the dealership has that base covered also as the developer who helped Redline set up its current location also owns the land next door and says it will be available if the company ever wants it.
If success is where preparation and opportunity meet, Redline Watersports is poised for great things.
Dealership name: Redline Watersports
Location: Madison, Wis.
Number of locations: 1
Number of full-time employees: 9
Boat and engine brands: MasterCraft, JC Pontoons, Honda
CSI score: 95.3
Of particular interest: The Watersports Experience, which provides customers a free half-day of boat and/or watersports instruction a few weeks after their initial on-water delivery, is a great value for buyers and sales opportunity for the dealership.

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