Editors Pick: Legendary Marine

I’ve always been impressed by the way that Legendary Marine does business. Founded in 2001, Legendary, based in Destin, Fla., is a relatively young company, and its managing partner, Fred Pace, brings some interesting insights to its operations from his experience in the auto industry.

I think I’ve become even more impressed over the last two years as Legendary has proven that it’s not just an operationally sound company but that it is also a resilient company, overcoming an incredible array of challenges in impressive fashion.

As was the case with everyone else reading this publication, the economic downturn took its toll on Legendary Marine. It was particularly painful for the four-location dealership, however, because in late 2008 it made a critical decision to drop all but one of its boat lines in favor of aligning itself with one manufacturer — Genmar Holdings. Just six months into 2009, of course, Genmar declared bankruptcy, and its brands have since been sold off to a few different companies.

“Two thousand nine,” Pace explains in some sort of a monumental understatement, “was a very unusual year.”

It would have been easy for Pace and his team to just as quickly reverse course and leave Genmar behind. Instead, he spoke out in support of the company when few others would, and his loyalty has been rewarded by those companies he stood behind.

For example, just prior to submitting its application, it was named a “factory store” for Marquis and Carver, two of the brands purchased by J&D Acquisitions in the Genmar bankruptcy. And since submitting its application, Legendary has been named a Premiere Demonstration Dealer for Four Winns, which was acquired by Platinum Equity in the bankruptcy case. These designations allow the respective manufacturers’ dealer networks to host VIP guests considering purchases at Legendary’s location.

As new unit sales waned through 2009, though, Legendary became proactive, seeking out new revenue streams, eventually making aggressive efforts to attain and sell repossessed inventory from three major lenders. The efforts here paid off as well, as the profits helped to offset losses from the glut of new unit inventory aging.

The company also pursued business from the customers of a local dealer that went out business. It initiated a direct-mail campaign to capture their service business, and in the process its service and parts department had its best year ever. And it also replaced a boat brand with a new entry level boat, giving it better appeal to first-time boat buyers, and the move produced what Pace says were significant results in unit sales.

And finally, although Pace suggests that 2009 was a “difficult year to develop clear goals for inventory turns,” the company performed quite well when it came to reducing its total inventory. It had entered the year with more than $20 million in new boat inventory, and $7 million of which was greater than one year old. By the time it submitted its application, it had reduced that to $6.5 million in total inventory, and only one unit — worth less than $120,000 — that was more than one year old.

Then, on June 10th of this year, Pace e-mailed me a simple message: “A new challenge!” Attached to the message was a photo of waves lapping up on shore, but the Destin, Fla., waters’ brilliant green coloration had been replaced by an orange-ish mixture of sunrise reflecting through water and crude oil.

Another challenge and a new solution on the way. Something tells me that Pace and the team at Legendary Marine will find a way to win.

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