Dealers share their best ideas at MDCE

ORLANDO, Fla. – The inaugural Marine Dealer Conference & Expo Best Ideas Panel opened to a full room at the Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando yesterday.

Created to support and reward dealer-to-dealer learning, the MDCE Best Ideas program invited conference registrants to submit the single best idea implemented in their dealerships over the past year.

A panel of judges read and scored all 30 of the ideas submitted, which resulted in a field of six finalists, each of whom presented their idea during yesterday’s panel discussion.

The finalists included Lauren Woodard-Splatt, general manager, Woodard Marine, Lake Bomoseen, Vt.; Gary Poole, owner of Buckeye Marine in Bobcaygeon, Ontario; Roy Parker, president of Parker Boats in Orlando, Fla.; Barry Bensz, president of B & E Marine Inc. in Michigan City, Ind.; Jeff Wilcox, president of George’s Marine & Sports in Ottawa, Ontario; and Mark Watts, owner and president of Liquid Sports Marine in Orlando.

Here is a summary of each of their ideas:

  • Trade-In Coupon (Woodard Marine) – A sales promotion in which the dealership sent its boat storage, service and mooring customers a coupon that looked like a check made out to them in the amount of the trade value of their current boat. Through the promotion, the customer was pre-authorized to use that amount toward the purchase of a new boat package, should they decide to trade-in their current boat.
  • Team-Focused Approach to Expense Cutting (Buckeye Marine) – In February, the dealership held a meeting in which all its employees were shown a detailed list of the company’s expenses, the largest of which was wages. Management told the assembled group that it wanted to keep as many staff as possible, and to do so it would need to make cuts in other areas. Management then collected ideas from the staff on where to cut, which ultimately resulted in a 50-percent decrease in expenses and no staff reductions.
  • Winter Work Process (B&E Marine) – A process implemented to encourage service technicians and the service office to track work and repairs needed on customer boats during the winterization and storage period. By determining how much work it would need to accumulate to keep the service department busy and setting goals to hit that number, the dealership was able to increase service work and refrain from laying off technicians during the winter months.
  • ABCs of Inventory Management (Parker Boats) – A system by which the dealership classified its inventory so as to make more educated decisions about what to buy and when to buy it.
  • F&I Outsourcing to Car Dealership (George’s Marine & Sports) – A strategy this dealership used to refrain from hiring a business manager during the offseason. By working with the F&I department of a local auto dealer, this company was able to increase its approvals, increase its sales of aftermarket products and avoid the cost of paying a business manager during a slow time of the year.
  • Approved For Trade Stamp (Liquid Sports Marine) – A strategy used to increase the number of pre-owned boats the dealership could offer for sale. The dealership created a red “Approved for Trade” stamp, which it used on service customers’ repair orders. It allowed the dealership to acquire more than 15 boats for trade-in or consignment, which has resulted in 11 pre-owned boat sales at an average profit of 21 percent.

    Once the best idea presentations were complete, members of the audience voted on their favorite idea. Those votes will be tallied today, and the winner will be presented with the Grand Prize, a brand new Acer Aspire One 10.1″ netbook computer.

    All 30 of the “best ideas” will be published by Boating Industry magazine in an e-White Paper to be distributed to attendees following the conference.

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