Earlier this year, completion of Hagadone Marine Group’s new $7.5 million mega marine center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, added three new buildings and more than 51,000 square feet of service center space to the dealership’s facility footprint.
“We tackled it as a three-year process,” said Hagadone Marine Group President Craig Brosenne. “Mr. Hagadone’s vision was getting boat sales moving.”
Owner Duane Hagadone felt his dealership had to invest in a new facility if the company was going to continue to be successful, Brosenne said. That’s when the idea of reverse-engineering a page from an automotive industry giant came to mind. “Toyota’s service is better than anything I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Observing them provided the perfect mold for our service center design, since we could not change the footprint of our sales area.”
Hagadone’s new mega marine center is modeled after a Toyota dealership’s service center, right down to the service desk counters.
“There aren’t any glass windows. Our service counters are islands, and the computers at each station are double screens,” Brosenne said. The service manager’s office is close by, and has an office that can fit three people.
“There’s a back door to that office where anybody in operations can see the service manager,” he said. “You don’t have a technician at one counter telling someone an engine is broken while another customer is at another counter signing up for something. Those are little things we learned from Toyota. We enacted them here.”
HMG is a multi-tier Top 100 dealership with 1,000 marina slips, Brosenne said. On the marine side, he manages 200 of the company’s 3,600 total employees.
“We service 17 surrounding lakes in the inland Northwest,” he said. “There are 20,000 boats in northern Idaho. Having and developing waterfront facilities has been a key component of our success over time.”
The new center is located on 43 acres of annexed land near the mouth of the Spokane River.
Brosenne has scheduled a Cobalt 20-group meeting at Hagadone Marine Center’s new facility this month, and he can’t wait to show off HMG’s most recent improvements.
“After you have a grand opening celebration, you are always raising yourself to the next level,” he said. The Cobalt meeting will raise the bar, and make HMG’s new service center and employees cleaner, neater and tighter.
“We have a lot of processes to work out over the winter, but having a 20 group come in right away will help us to improve,” he said. “If you don’t set benchmarks, you are never going to reach them. Our open house celebration in August pushed us to get everything polished up. Their visit is a final touch to make sure I’m not missing something that they see and find out that we need to improve before we go into 2018, because it’s going to be a critical year,” said Brosenne.
Planning an opening celebration for a major facility improvement requires a unique set of skills when it comes time to assigning team member tasks. HMG had an advantage honed from experience, Brosenne said, but kept the focus on customers. “We had to build excitement for boaters,” he said. “That was a real challenge. From a marketing standpoint, we came up with some great ideas. We had an online video of the service center, and a web page with the grand opening event RSVP.”
HMG does about 30 or 40 events a year and its boat show planning starts three months out.
“We carefully mapped everything out for the grand opening,” Brosenne said. “We knew exactly where everything was going, right down to the music, and the food and beverage tables. For us, doing all of that came naturally, because we are in the hospitality business, but for a lot of dealers, I think that would be hard.”
Brosenne said if dealers are doing boat shows well, they could take HMG’s planning philosophy and work at it.
“Events create experiences, and from that, customers end up buying,” he said.
More than 1,000 people turned out for the grand opening gala. Chris Craft Boats Vice President Gavan Hunt, Volvo Penta North America OEM/Dealer Sales Manager Susan Bonivich, West Coast Malibu/Axis Representative Chris Loomis and Cobalt Boats Regional Sales Manager George Muffick also participated in the Aug. 12 event, which received front page newspaper coverage.
“Some owners out there think service is out of sight out of mind, and hang their hat primarily on sales,” Brosenne said. ‘They will get the same results as last year, and they remain comfortable with that. We aren’t.”