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Could objective advisors help dealers?

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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.

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