Joe Hoffmaster is about as humble a guy as you’ll find in the marine industry. But perhaps the best characteristic of the Woodbridge, Va.-based dealer is that he’s one of those guys who just “gets it.” He understands that although he runs a good business, there’s always room to improve. And he takes advantage of every opportunity he can to do just that.
That’s exactly what brought Joe and me together in late November. You see, Joe’s dealership barely missed being selected as one of our Top 100 dealers. And in his quest for improvement he took me up on my offer to discuss where his company fell short in its Top 100 application.
That was the idea behind the phone call — to give him some ideas on how to improve his business with real-world examples of what other dealers are doing, and of course to improve his 2006 application. But candidly, these calls often put me on the defensive, and I half expected someone who runs a quality business like Hoffmaster’s Marina to riddle me with detailed questions and further descriptions of his company.
But I should have remembered the humble nature in which Joe submitted his application: “We might not be Top 100 yet,” he wrote. “We have in place now the training, quality control, CSI and margins to make ourselves the best we can be.”
So, no, I didn’t get an earful of distaste for our evaluation and selection process, and I didn’t hear about competitors of Joe’s who never should have made our list before he did. What I did get, after encouraging him to apply again next year, blew me away: “I will,” he said, “but quite honestly, I hope I don’t make the list again next year.”
Naturally, I was dumbfounded. Speechless, in fact. I could barely mutter, “Why’s that?”
“Because we’re going through the dealer certification program,” he explained, “and we’re implementing all these new processes to improve ourselves, and if we don’t make the Top 100 next year, then that just means that this industry has really improved itself, and that’s what it’s all about.” Indeed it is.
I don’t know that we could have said it better ourselves. In fact, in hindsight, maybe we should have taken Joe on our trips to pitch those sponsors who couldn’t see the value in the Top 100 program. Lord knows that that is what this program is all about.
In our minds, the Top 100 is the perfect complement to the Grow Boating effort. The criteria found on our application mirrors that in the dealer certification part of the program, and not by accident. Both programs are grounded in an effort to recognize those dealers who are running the most professional marine businesses in existence today — and to help others reach that level. And both are poised to drive consumers to the best of the best among dealers.
Will Hoffmaster’s make the Top 100 next year? I don’t know, but I hope so. I hope that when our Top 100 is said and done each and every year, we can sit back and say, “these dealers just ‘get it.’”