Nothing to lose

Liz WalzThere’s no more effective method of education than learning from your peers. You can read about an idea, be taught a strategy in a classroom or take a course online, but it’s not the same as learning about it from the person who thought it up and put it to work in their business.

 That’s why most of the best dealers are in 20 Groups. And that’s why this year’s Marine Dealer Conference & Expo will be more powerful than ever before.

In fact, I like to think about the conference as one humongous 20 Group meeting. It’s a gathering of more than 400 dealership principals and employees (plus another 200 people when you count the suppliers and their employees), coming together to work on their business, to get better in areas like sales, marketing, service and lending. And a big part of the value they get from the conference will come from what they learn from each other. Even if you set all of the networking sessions aside, this year’s MDCE offers five panel discussions in which dealers like you will be sharing what they’ve learned in their own businesses.

There’s only one way to maximize the learning experience at a meeting like this, and that is to put all your cards out on the table. Just ask any 20 Group member. Of course, I’m not suggesting you literally bring your financials to the conference and lay them out in front of your peers. But if you want to milk the conference for all it’s worth – and can any of us afford not to? – you need to embrace that spirit.

Set some goals before you arrive at the conference. Think of your businesses’ three biggest challenges, and commit to asking other dealers how they are handling them during breakfasts, lunches and cocktail receptions. Stand up and ask questions during at least two of the seminars. Track down the five most interesting speakers and start a conversation with them. Go to and click on the list of exhibitors. Find the four that could be most useful in helping you meet your goals this year and set aside the time to visit with them. And plan to take good notes from the keynote discussion to the final panel. What, really, do you have to lose?

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