Getting industry feedback contributed the most to the four decades of success at Grand Pointe Marina, a family-owned dealership near Lansing, Mich., according to Patrick Stevens, who purchased the business in 1968 with his wife, Sandy. Participating as a member of a Spader 20 group provided excellent access to that industry feedback, he says.
“I don’t think we’d be in business if it weren’t for Duane Spader,” says Chris Stevens, Patrick and Sandy’s son, who works the business with them. “That’s my No. 1 best advice for rookies: call Spader and get into a 20 group.”
Grand Pointe has been involved with Spader 20 since 1977, and it has gained invaluable insight from comparing notes candidly and confidentially with 19 other dealerships around the country that are similar, but not in direct competition.
“It’s a benchmark, and if you don’t have that I don’t know what you compare yourself to,” Chris Stevens says. “You’re just floundering.”
When Grand Pointe recently made drastic staff cuts, eliminating 40 percent of its workers because of the economy, the company stayed in constant contact with its Spader group.
“It was a lot of phone calls and e-mails making sure we’re doing it correctly and not cutting off too much or too little,” Chris Stevens says. As a result, “I would say our cutback was successful.”
Out of 8,000 boat dealers nationwide, only 350 are in a Spader 20 group, says Patrick Stevens. That means plenty are not taking advantage of a crucial industry tool.
“Just this week we called four or five dealers in my 20 group and asked them a specific question that we were having a problem or discussion with,” he says. “We got four different perspectives from people that are leaders in the industry.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2008 issue.