For our team here at Boating Industry, very little compares to the high we were on coming out of the 2009 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo this past November.
Two-thousand-nine had been, without a doubt, one of the toughest years on record — both for individual businesses and for the marine industry at large. But in the face of that, our team (in conjunction with the Marine Retailers Association of America) rallied to create one of the biggest and best dealer events the marine industry has ever seen.
For the most part, the results were in before we left Orlando. Total attendance had tripled and dealer attendance had more than doubled compared to the year prior. The exhibit hall, too, saw incredible growth over the 2008 event. But in the afterglow of the facts and figures, one thing remained to be seen: What real-world results would the event offer attendees?
We take a lot of pride in what we do, not just because we think we do it well, but, more importantly, because of the lasting impact we believe our work has on our readers. We fly our banner with the words: “Trusted Source. Proven Solutions. Real Results.” on every product and service we create. But we can’t lay claim to the first two components of that tagline without following through on the most critical component — the real results.
So when we launched into the post-MDCE surveys, perhaps the most important we asked was: What initiatives or strategies have you put into place since attending the conference? The answers to this question are humbling. We’ve been overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of ideas dealers have taken home and immediately implemented into their businesses.
Personally, I’ve been most humbled by a relationship I developed with Art and Deb Olson of Farm Island Repair and Marine in Aitkin, Minn. Prior to the event, they were like a lot of dealers who had never been to the MDCE: skeptical. They added up the likely costs of a trip for two to attend the event, and it quickly piled up to more than their budget seemed to allow. I promised them that this event would deliver a value that surpasses any investment they would make, and now two months after the event, I’m happy to report that the Olsons are thrilled with what they experienced.
“We learned more than expected at the conference,” Art told me. “We were very, very, very happy with the conference, and we are definitely going to be back next year.”
The Olsons, too, put words into action following the event. The company created a three-year business plan on the advice of MDCE presenters, and has already presented it to their banks and begun working with an economic development team from their county.
Those are the kind of Real Results that keep our team on that post-MDCE high and keeps us striving to do more.