Your Must-Do

Most dealers view Boating Industry’s Top 100 Dealers Program simply as an awards event and an annual ranking. But for five years now, we’ve been tirelessly explaining to anyone who will listen that there is solid business value to be found through simply completing the Top 100 application.

We’ve told them the importance of putting accomplishments, goals and processes down on paper. We’ve explained that sharing the application process with employees helps to foster team unity and a common direction. And we’ve shared testimonials from a number of dealers who share their gratitude with us for helping them get their systems, processes, ideas and strategies out of their heads and onto paper.

One dealer this past summer even wrote to thank us for encouraging him to complete the application because, in his words, if he were to walk out the front door and get hit by a truck, his son could use the application as a guide to running the business. So after years of merely suggesting that there is value in completing the application, we’ve just recently been able to put our finger on exactly what that value is: Completing the Top 100 Dealers application is a near-equivalent to writing or maintaining a business plan.

If you don’t yet have a business plan to help you operate your business, it turns out that you’re not alone. Industry experts suggest that likely 90 percent or more of all marine dealerships don’t have a written document to guide them.

Coming out of the 2009 Marine Dealer Conference &?Expo, our editorial team was as befuddled as a number of the dealers were. We, like those 440-or-so dealers who attended the MDCE, had heard the message repeated countless times during the event:?If you don’t have a written plan, get one. Many didn’t know where to start. We counted ourselves among them.

But as we sat around the conference room table we knew one thing very well: We wanted to help. So we began researching the topic. We looked at books, software and Web sites. We sourced the U.S. Small Business Administration, industry experts and dealers adept at creating and adapting business plans. This issue is the culmination of that research.

We don’t mean to oversimplify the concept by referencing it as Dealership 101, as we have on the cover. That line was a subject of great debate among our editorial staff. The reality is, however, the business plan should be your foundation for operating successfully. It can be your guide when times get tough. It can help you grow in a manageable fashion. It can unite your team toward one common goal. It can help solidify your business, financially, and perhaps most significantly in light of the current economic climate, it can help you get the lending you need.

This issue will help you toward those goals. And the Top 100 Dealers application, available at, can help you answer some of the most important questions a business plan will ask. We hope it helps you toward that end.

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