During my travels at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in Orlando in November my iPhone “Voice Memos” app got a workout. I conducted and recorded about 20 interviews, speeches and presentations with dealers, manufacturers, business experts and speakers.
New boats and products were introduced. Business advice was delivered. Reasons for attending the event were explained. And jokes were made.
The event continues to grow and gain praise from the industry. Matt Gruhn, who is in his second year as president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, told me that the conference and expo attracted more than 600 dealers for the first time.
“We’ve come a long way from humble beginnings,” he says. “The educational opportunities we have created here are far superior to anything we’ve ever offered. Dealers have responded to that. We had a record number of dealers for the sixth year in a row.”
More than 30 percent of the dealers who registered had never attended the MDCE, Gruhn says. About 100 exhibitors displayed products and services across more than 100,000 square feet of exhibitor space.
Gruhn hopes a successful conference will lead to a strong 2014. “All indications are that things are going to improve,” he says. “Inventory levels are healthy at the dealer level, and dealers and manufacturers are talking about a lot of good developments for them over the past year.”
Here’s what some of them were saying at the conference.
“How many of you have competitors in this room who you wish were dead? That’s not very nice [of me], is it? I am from Philly, remember? [You may say] there’s plenty of room for everyone. No, there isn’t!”
— Jeffrey Gitomer, keynote speaker
“Manheim has been here for a number of years, but this is my first year here. We love coming here; it is a great organization and we get to meet a ton of dealers around the country and in Canada. For us — we are a wholesale auction — our dealers are extremely important to us. They have to buy the boats and hopefully sell the boats. So it is a great venue to make contact with people.”
— Peter M. Trench, vice president of national accounts for Manheim
“What are the aspects of your business that you can claim, but nobody else can? To draw that distinction is hard because if there were a magic bullet, everyone would have found it. First and foremost, it’s about recognition. We tend to blend in with our competitors and we fall short in that way. Everything we say is true, but true doesn’t equal compelling and accurate doesn’t equal persuasive.”
— David Avrin, marketing speaker, author and executive coach
“The reason we came [to MDCE] is because we wanted to find out what went on here. We have heard good things about the event. We wanted to look at the possibility of representing Regulator down here next year. If we can pick up a couple of good dealers here, why wouldn’t we [attend]? The industry is on an upward trend and because of that there are dealers looking for other products to sell, and we want our product to be considered.”
— Joan Maxwell,
president Regulator Marine
“Bryant has signed about 20 dealers since this time last year. We now have 62. In a lot of markets we’re No. 1. We’re just not that well known yet. We are starting to partner with the right type of dealers, especially in the Midwest. We bought [the company] with no debt and no outside investors. It is a boat company. It’s a boater’s boat — no wood in the boat, triple-stitched upholstery, well-finished. Bryant has been building boats right for a long time, and I have. I was at MasterCraft for 16 years. Around this time last year I arranged to buy controlling interest in the Bryant family. We are right in the breadbasket of where boats are built here in Tennessee.”
— John Dorton, chairman,
“Here’s my best advice to you. Sit down when you get back to the office and write down all the stuff you cannot control — all the things that give you stress, give you pain, give you worry — all the things you and your people talk about. Write that list down and promise you are not going to talk about it anymore. Write down that short list of things you can control and take massive control of those things.”
— John Spence, guest speaker
This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue.