Trust or Die

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The education component of the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo kicked off Monday evening with a presentation by Marcus Sheridan called “Rethink Sales, Marketing and Customer Service in the Digital Age.” David Horsager gave the opening keynote, “Build Trust in the New Economy or Die.”

Horsager spoke to a packed auditorium about the importance of trust in business, saying every company’s growth is based on trust. “Lack of a trust is your biggest expense,” Horsager said. “It leads to attrition, in-fighting among executives and often the loss of sales. It’s not leadership or communication issues. It’s always about trust.”

Horsager, head of the Trust Edge Leadership Institute, has done extensive research issue about trust and how it plays out in business. He cited Volkswagen, Harvey Weinstein and Tiger Woods as examples of business leaders who lost customers because of trust. “Tiger Woods lost $150 million in sponsorship money in two weeks because of trust issues,” Horsager said.

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The speaker went on to provide an actionable framework around the “8 Pillars of Trust” based on work he has done with companies. Horsager cited case studies from Caribou Coffee and other businesses on how they rebuilt their corporate cultures around some of the pillars. “Every leadership issue revolves around trust,” Horsager said.

Liz Walz, MRAA vice president and director of education, said each year’s education component has been built around the needs of the dealer base. In addition to the two presentations, there are four educational tracks, or different levels of education, with five sessions in each track. There are also workshops and roundtable discussions during MDCE.

It takes time to decide on keynotes, Walz said, mostly because they are the single largest expense of the educational program. “We’d been talking to David Horsager for five years and agreed on a presentation that would best work for our dealers,” said Walz, who was clearly pleased after his keynote address.

MRAA knows how expensive it is for dealers and their staffs to attend MDCE, so her staff feels obligated to present the best possible educational programs. She blanched at the suggestion that Horsager is a motivational speaker. “What he had to say isn’t just motivational but actionable,” Walz said. “Our job at this conference is to provide dealers with an actionable plan that gives them measurable results.”

Horsager’s presentation, for instance, includes a 10-week follow-up plan for dealers to work his program.

Marcus Sheridan, who also spoke at this year’s International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference, talked about the evolution in marketing and staying ahead of business and buyer trends. “Marcus also spoke last year and received the highest rating,” Walz said. “He’s very savvy on how to adapt to today’s customers and was also a dealer in swimming pools. He can relate to most of our dealers because of his experience, and he speaks very authentically.”

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Of the 23 speakers at this year’s MDCE, 10 are new. The returning speakers were asked back based on dealer evaluations of the sessions. “We also find out what problems the dealers need to solve, the return on investment in terms of how actionable the speakers’ programs are, and we also look at CSI results,” Walz said. “We spend hundreds of hours each year looking at the potential speakers and then the shortlist goes to our education committee.”

The three-hour workshops were developed for dealers who wanted a “deeper dive” into certain topics. “These are the most actionable courses, and we can often customize the topics for the classes, which tend to be smaller,” Walz said.

The four tracks have expanded over the last few years into such topics as sales, marketing, leadership and service-plus, Walz said. “The expansion into these subjects shows the trajectory of the show over the last three years,” she said.

The remainder of MDCE will include the track sessions, dealer roundtable discussions and networking events. On Wednesday, the track sessions will continue until 3 p.m., at which point the expo hall closes as the event ends.

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