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5 Tips for Building a Great Team

The best hiring processes at any dealership are just that: processes

Even without the craziness of today’s workforce market, recruiting and hiring can be some of the most frustrating job duties for a dealership manager. If you’re an owner, you’ve admitted quietly to yourself that you didn’t get into this business to deal with all of these human-resources headaches. The payroll taxes, the benefits administration, the complex needs of every different team member, not to mention those annual performance reviews — it’s enough to make you wish you could just do all the work yourself.

Similarly, if you’re a manager who is as understaffed as industry numbers suggest you are, then you simply don’t have the time to spare amid all your other job duties: writing job descriptions, posting jobs, building a hiring team, scheduling candidates, compiling questions, conducting interviews, negotiating job offers and more.

About a decade ago, a seemingly innocent shortage of available help made operating a boat dealership slightly more challenging. In today’s pandemic-fueled, high- demand environment, the inflamed workforce shortages make it darn near impossible. And as if that’s not bad enough, projections suggest that current shortages will persist for years.

This reality stems from causes that neither you nor your trade association nor any government entity can correct. They include generational transitions that have led to a huge increase in the rate of retirement — the “silver tsunami.” And then there’s the “great resignation,” which has driven employees to seek more rewarding jobs. When you mix in the fact that Americans continue to spend more on goods than ever before, it makes the labor shortage even more extreme.

For all the untouchable macro trends, there are simple, concrete steps you can take within the walls of your own dealership to win the battle for great employees. Here are five tips.

Document and Stick to a Process

This will help you develop consistencies in your hiring practices. If you do this right, you will continually find ways to refine the process over time, to sharpen how you define and discover great employees. Our people process at the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, where, humbly, I believe we have developed an extraordinary team, includes seven steps all the way from recruitment through the exit interview.

Start with Recruitment

Recruiting isn’t just about slapping up a “help wanted” ad and hoping for the best. You should be strategic about how you tell the story of your dealership. People are looking for fun, rewarding places to work. This desire gives the boating industry a competitive advantage. In your job posting, talk about the excitement around selling someone the boat of their dreams, or about your standards for incredible customer service. Make people want to be a part of your team by telling them a story that showcases why and how you offer a great place to work.

Pay Attention to the Interview Process

Managers hurriedly throw together a question list, which leads to bad decisions about whom to hire, compromises the organizational culture, creates poor performance and missed goals, and either drives out good employees or necessitates firing the bad ones. The true cost (in dollars) of a bad hire is a lose-lose situation. Do better from the start. Craft great interview questions that will dig into a candidate’s real behaviors, not just opinions or beliefs.

Our process at the MRAA includes questions modified from several hiring books, including Topgrading: How to Hire, Coach and Keep A-Players, by Brad and Geoff Smart, and The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues, by Patrick Lencioni. These books help you focus on the skills, traits and behaviors of the people you are interviewing, and can help you improve your approach.

Have a Real On-Boarding Process

On-boarding process? Seriously? Yes. You should have a process for how you introduce a new team member to your organization. It’s so easy to overlook this, and failing to do it right will ultimately underwhelm your new hire on his or her first day. There’s nothing worse than having a new hire wonder about having made the right decision. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so plan out your new employee’s first couple of weeks. Hold his or her hand. Give tours. Go to lunch. Celebrate the arrival so you everyone will feel great, and so you don’t have to hire again in the near future.

Create an Ongoing Development Program

Employees want to do great work for a great company, and the path to leading them there is through continuous improvement. What opportunities do you offer to help them learn and grow and contribute more? What steps do you offer on a career ladder for them to move into new roles, take on more responsibility, make more money and so forth? You should have a documented plan for what that looks like in your dealership.

At MRAA, one of our most important roles is to help your organization succeed with its people processes. To do so, we’ve created job descriptions; employee handbook samples; compensation studies; online courses about managing, training and development, and employee benefits like health insurance; and more. Dealers who want concrete tools to help them solve the great questions related to hiring can visit

Check it out, and let us know how else we can help. 

Matt Gruhn is president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue.



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