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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it: “Never waste a good crisis.” If you know anything about Netanyahu, a decorated soldier in the Israeli Army, you would likely assume he was referring to some incident in Israel. He was not.

Instead, he was at the 2009 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum’s in Davos, Switzerland, when he reportedly gave his advice to those attending the conference from around the globe. It seems to me he could have just as easily been conveying his wisdom to marine dealers.

What Netanyahu was preaching is a simple idea: A crisis really generates an opportunity to look at your products and services, indeed your entire business from top to bottom, and determine whether you are truly delivering value to your customers. And there’s never been a better time to do it since we are in crisis mode.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Harvard Business School professor Bill George characterized a crisis as the best opportunity to change things – to add new products or services and to gain market share. Most people look at an economic crisis as something to “get through” until they can go back to business as usual. Don’t be “most people." Besides, business “as usual” will be changed by all that’s happening now anyway, so why wait to be reactive to the changes, be proactive and make changes.

The truth is it’s much more difficult and much less likely that you’ll make changes when business is good and things are going well. That’s because when the economy is robust and we’re making money, we all fall for that old idea – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Managers and staff assume they doing the job and no one is motivated to think about change.?
Conversely, when the economy is in the tank, everyone is naturally open minded and interested in finding new, better ways to generate business. Ideas will freely flow in such times. After all, if nothing else, self-preservation can be a motivator!

So, if there was ever a time to stop and rethink your business -- examining everything your dealership is doing, from every single product you’re investing in to every way you think you’re meeting customer expectations -- it’s now! Not just how to survive, but how to grow! And, it’s not just a task for the owner. It should be a staff project, looking to answer questions like: Which products are the least successful and might be dropped; What products have we always wanted or should we get to increase business; What can we do to get customers to give us more of their business; Where do we waste out time and money; Who’s going out of business and how do grab that market share. Well, you get the idea -- questions about the business as it is and where it should be expected to go now and after the recession.

The dealers that do it now will be far ahead when the turnaround comes. They’ll be positioned to capture business and grow. Those that don’t take time to do it now . . . well, they will have wasted a good crisis!

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