Dealer Outlook

Trade Only Dealer Outlook Blog

Could objective advisors help dealers?

Big corporations have them. Most small businesses don’t. Since boat dealers are genuine small-business entrepreneurs, they’re usually so busy handling the daily challenges of keeping the doors open that they find it nearly impossible to devote serious time to examining a bigger picture and planning for the longer haul. That’s not good.

Large corporations have a board of directors from outside the organization that provide objective advice about current and future directions. For small-business owners, however, lack of time and/or financial resources to have such a board (directors are paid) prevents them from getting the same helpful views and strategies.

That’s why recent reports in Business Week, detailing something called “peer advisory boards” (PAB) caught my attention. The PAB concept claims to be an affordable option for small companies. In essence, the PAB serves in the same manner as big corporate boards, focusing attention on strategies and asset allocations for business growth. There are many such business advisory groups’ franchises with offices throughout the country, such as Growth Coach in Cincinnati. Chief Executive Boards International in Greenville, SC., and the Alternative Board in Westminster, Colo. All claim to offer a selection of services from mentoring to advisory meetings.

While these and similar firms may be well-worth the money, it’s the basic idea of having advisors from outside the dealership that intrigues me. I suspect most marine dealers don’t really have anyone except employees to whom they can take their ideas for an objective review, and employees are most likely to say whatever they think you want to hear, anyway. So, the value of an outside advisory board seems desirable whether it’s a paid commercial service or it’s a group of non-competing area businessmen you know and respect that you invite to join your “board.”

The closest thing I can find in our industry today is the MRAA-endorsed Spader Companies 20 Group program. The 20 Groups are made up of non-competing marine dealers from around the country who candidly advise each other on key matters that can make each dealership more successful. Check it out through www.MRAA.com

The point is clear: All businesses can benefit from good outside-the-box advice. In today’s challenging climate for marine retailers, I think we ought to get as much as we can.

Comments

5 comments on “Could objective advisors help dealers?

  1. Anonymous Bob

    Norm:

    Don’t forget that the SBA (Small Business Administration) and SCORE (www.score.org) are readily available to help counsel owners about business topics and decisions. SCORE, in particular, consists of business people who volunteer their time and expertise to help small business owners more effectively run their businesses. SCORE offices are located throughout the country and available with a simple phone call.

    I believe it is imperative that we consult with others outside our industry to get a broader view of consumer behavior, trends, and the local economy. Plus, the more people you know, the more stuff you’ll sell.

    Thanks for bringing this to light.

  2. Nyla Deputy

    Norm, I have to agree with you. I think you are on the money. However, most small businessmen tend to think they know everything and since they don’t have to answer to anyone as to how they run their business, they aren’t usually willing to listen to, let alone try out anything new—–even if the business is sinking. Generally, their solution is to try and sell the business and get out from under it, or if it is too far gone, they shut the doors and declare bankruptcy.

    The marine retailers who would consider ideas out of a ‘different box” don’t have the money to gamble with to be able to do anything. Even if the advice is free, it takes money to implement new ideas.

    I hope for the sake of everyone, that business turns around in 2008!

  3. JACK DOLAN

    NORM, I SUGGEST THAT YOU ORGANIZE A PEER ADVISORY BOARD. YOUR MENTION OF THE SPADER 20 GROUPS IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE. I PARTICIPATED IN A SPADER GROUP FOR SEVERAL YEARS AND WE WERE ABLE TO SOLVE MANY DEALER PROBLEMS. OUR GROUP ONLY MET 3 TIMES PER YEAR SO IT WAS A LITTLE UNWIELDY FOR DEALING WIITH IMMEDIATE PROBLEMS, BUT IT WAS GREAT FOR SETTING OR ADJUSTING STORE OPERATING POLICIES. OUR NORTH CENTRAL MARINE DEALER GROUP HAD A TRAVELING CREW, WE MET IN SEVERAL MINNESOTA TOWNS WHERE THE LOCAL DEALERS COULD PICK ON OUR EXPERENCE FOR PROBLEM SOLVING. RECRUIT A BUNCH OF US “OLD TIMERS” TO HANDLE THE QUESTIONS. I ONCE HAD A DEALER CLAIM THAT HE HAD PUT HIS THREE KIDS THROUGH COLLEGE USING AN IDEA WE DEVELOPED DURING A SESSION. JACK DOLAN, RETIRED

  4. David Parker

    Norm:

    I enjoyed your article on Peer Advisory Boards and the value of 20 Groups. I could not agree with you more.

    I also do 20 Groups for the marine industry. Four of which are Branded groups that are endorsed by Cobalt, Regal, MasterCraft and Monterey boat companies and one Non-Branded group that is open to dealers who carry any brand.

    I have the joy of consistantly watching dealers become more professional and profitable as a direct result of their membership in one of my groups. In fact 30 of Boating Industry’s 2006 Top 100 Dealers are my clients. To see the list of these dealers you can go to my website http://www.parkerbusinessplanning.com.

  5. Michael Joyce

    About 20 years ago I finally responded to a Spader ad and attended the five day dealer management program which was a life changing experience. I brought our in-house CPA to that meeting and came home with a totally different business plan and rebuilt my entire company from the ground up. The first few years were really traumatic but now I look at the assets we have acquired, the cash in the bank, and I sleep better knowing that I have a sound plan for the long term. I can’t imagine what dealers do that have no outside experts and advisors. The stress must be unbearable. I look forward to your topics Norm; they are right on the money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. For more information, please see our Comments Policy.