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The Miller name has been recognized for generations in the St. Cloud, MN, area for their car business. Since deciding to expand their business and incorporate boat sales and service in the late 90s, the name continues to grow and now has the same quality sales and service reputation in the marine industry.
Discover what steps Dana Hinkemeyer, the accountant at Miller Marine, and her fellow co-workers have taken to grow their business and how switching from Reynolds and Reynolds to IDS Astra G2 has helped the marine side of their business grown annually and boost efficiency.
IDS: What do you consider to be the strengths of your business compared to most other marine dealerships?
Dana: “I think that being a family business and having a name people recognize helps. We also have long-tenured employees and little turnover. They are very dedicated people who’ve been working in the business for a number of years and they know our products. They know what they need to do and how to get it done. It makes all of our jobs easier. Our sales staff is very confident and it shows. We go to the Minneapolis boat show at the end of January and each year we’ve broken our sales record. We usually sell over 100 boats just at that show. We have 300 pontoons people have ordered this year. We also sell a significant amount of fishing boats.
We also make it a point to give our customers whatever they need. If they don’t want to buy a trailer, we’ll deliver a boat to their door. In our service department, our guys will work extra hours to get a customer’s boat ready for the weekend. We have someone in our service department that makes house calls and will come out to your home and fix your stuff right there. Word of mouth is huge, so we just want to make our customers happy. You wouldn’t think a lot of boat customers would be repeat customers, but we get a lot of people wanting a new boat, or refer their family, friends, etc.
Another factor that sets us apart is that we added a huge new building where people can look at boats all year long. Being a car business, in addition to a marine business, allows us to have more capital when it comes to resources. Because we have more capital, we’re able to get great deals from the manufacturers and can pass that down to the customer. People also like that we’re easy to get to. We’re not that far from Minneapolis/St. Paul and we bring in people from all over the Midwest. A lot of people come through here on their way to the lake homes.”
IDS: Tell me how you went about choosing IDS Astra and the impact it’s made on your marine business.
Dana: “We used Reynolds and Reynolds for the car business. I was able to change a few things so we could stock inventory and run a separate general ledgers, but it just didn’t work well for the marine industry.
We started looking for other systems around 2005 and our service manager suggested we go with IDS. They came out and did a presentation and we went live March 1st of 2006, which ideally is not a great time to switch. It has produced though because every year we’ve increased sales. It was kind of crazy because even with the recession hit, we were still able to increase sales. We’ve had record years every year so we’re still gaining momentum.
We went on Astra G2 shortly after they introduced it. When you do something new people are always skeptical. I know once I went on it, I really liked it. If you know how the blue screen works, it flows naturally in G2. I use G2 for the majority of the accounting. I use all of the inventory features and I know the service department utilizes it as well. They really like some of the work order features. We’re also working on implementing the Service Scheduler into our business later this fall and I think that will make a huge impact.”
IDS: You mentioned your continual increase in sales. Would you say that IDS Astra G2 has contributed to your profitability?
Dana: “Absolutely! It makes everything more efficient, smoother and easily boosts our productivity. I can get inventory in quicker. Everything flows better. We have that instant, real-time information and don’t have to wait for other processes to happen to get the information we need. It also helps that everyone in our business has instant access to our business information. We don’t feel like we have to hide information from our employees. We could have never done this well and our marine business never would have been this successful had we stayed on Reynolds and Reynolds.”
IDS: Which features in the IDS Astra G2 product do you find most beneficial for your marine business?
Dana: “Overall, I think all of the features benefit our business. I’d say the inventory features are the best for everyone across the board. The sales staff looks products up to see what’s in stock. The service department uses it to see which parts are available for work orders. We use Astra G2 for quotes and F&I and those features work out great. I use the accounting features and it really simplifies my job on a daily basis.”
IDS: What advice would you give to someone that is looking to buy software for their business?
Dana: “It would make your life much easier to have something designed specifically for your business. Compared to Reynolds and Reynolds, IDS Astra G2 does so much more. Once you get use to the differences in accounting, it’s also much better. You can track everything so much more accurately. We have KPIs now, which we never had before and that’s really made a difference in our business. I can’t imagine running our marine business without it.”
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