MRAA beefs up sessions at Vegas conference


Dealers will get to hear and question CEOs of leading companies at final-day ‘Industry Giants’ panel

An expanded number of sessions with industry experts is scheduled for this year’s Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, which organizers say is designed to give attendees the tools they need for success.
“[Attendees] wanted to have more stuff they could use as takeaways,” says Phil Keeter, president of the Marine Retailers Association of America. “I think, all in all, what they are going to have is quite a bit in the way of educational opportunities.”

The event, which runs Nov. 17-19 at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, features 10 sessions on topics ranging from “keys to small business success” to “value-based selling” to “service department best practices.”

An “Industry Giants” forum on the final day of the conference features such notable marine industry leaders as Dustan McCoy from Brunswick, Irwin Jacobs from Genmar, MasterCraft’s John Dorton, Roch Lambert from BRP, Yamaha’s Phil Dyskow, Kevin Riem of Crownline and Paxon St. Clair of Cobalt.

There will be a dealer solutions panel discussion, which will be an in-depth best-practices session, according to organizers, in addition to a “Learning to Thrive” session featuring tips from dealers in the “Top 100” dealer program sponsored by Boating Industry magazine.

“We’ve made a sincere effort to give [attendees] as much [of an] educational component as we can possibly give them, because we know how tough times are, we know how difficult it is for them to stay afloat,” Keeter says. “This isn’t just fluff, we’re not just having a bunch of motivational people. We’re trying to have some really serious discussion here.”

Last year, about 400 people attended the conference, and Keeter is hopeful that number will stay the same or grow this year. He adds there are some companies that are bringing large numbers of their sales staff and holding their own company meetings in addition to attending the conference.

“We expect a better turnout. We have more people involved in the planning of the conference, and they’re working very hard at getting the word out,” says Robert Soucy, chairman of the MRAA.

“This is where they need to go to get the information they need to survive. That’s the theme of our conference this year, and all of the topics are going to be focused around issues that will help dealers do better [at] what they do,” he says.

In addition to the educational sessions, there is space for 55 to 60 tabletop exhibits by industry providers to network with dealers.

Also, awards such as the Darlene Briggs Marine Woman of the Year will be handed out, in addition to cocktail receptions and a Top 100 Dealers Gala, which is an invitation-only event.

Here is a list of scheduled educational sessions:

• Karin Iwata, E-Myth Worldwide: “Keys to Small Business Success.”
• John Spader, Spader Business Management: “Survival Mode.”
• Liz Walz, Boating Industry magazine: “Learning to Thrive.”
• Bob Williams, Five Star Solutions: “Service Department Best Practices.”
• John Lane, JL Solutions: “Value-Based Selling.”
• Steven Ramel, GE Capital Solutions: “Economic Landscape.”
• David Parker, Parker Business Planning: “Strategic Profit Planning.”
• Wanda Kenton Smith, Marine Marketers of America: “Today’s Top Marketing Strategies.”

For information, or to register, visit

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue.


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