How This Boating Industry Top 100 Dealer Sets the Course for Growth

Strong's Marine LogoGetting the fifth spot on Boating Industry’s list of Top 100 dealers in North America is no easy feat. For Strong’s Marine – it is “all hands on deck.” They are known as the “home of super service” and are dedicated to exceeding customer expectations at every customer touch-point. They are one of the strongest dealerships on the beautiful North Fork of Long Island, a region loved for its abundant coast, water sports, local wineries and farm-to-table food scene.

Started in 1945, Jeff and Re Strong have grown it to five locations today. The family tradition has continued with son Ryan Strong overseeing operations for all locations. Continuing healthy growth is clearly a team effort

We sat down and learned the ropes from two perspectives. One from Will Bartesch, the General Manager who has been with Strong’s Marine since 2005. The other from Jim Groeneveld, the Controller. With a different set of backgrounds, each man offers his unique point of view on what helps keep this dealer “Strong” and growing.

What is your role in the dealership and what was your background?

Will: “As the General Manager, I oversee five revenue streams: Service, Sales, Rentals, Yard Position and the Yard Management System. I work with each one of the independent managers to make sure that they are managing their staff correctly and doing exactly what Strong’s Marine expects of them. When I first started in 2005, I was the Parts Manager.

I came from a construction equipment background and learned the whole Parts aspect of it on the job. After being in that role for about 13 years, I submitted a request to apply for the General Manager’s position at my location. They offered me that role, and I’ve been doing that for about two years.”

Jim: “As far as my key responsibilities for Strong’s, it’s the overall Financial Management of the company, as well as overseeing Human Resources and some of the Administration. I worked in New York City for many years, and I didn’t want to commute anymore, so it was the perfect fit, since the dealership is close to my home. I’ve been here for about two years.”

Strong's Marine Boat

What sets your dealership apart?

Will: “What sets us apart from the competition is the service that we provide. Our tagline, for the longest time, since my history here, is that ‘we are the home of super service.’ And from the ownership down to the people who clean and do the yardwork, every one of us lives that culture. We believe that we are providing super service to every one of our clients.”

What is the toughest part of your job? 

Will: “Managing the managers. Basically, it is learning each individual’s personality and getting to know how to get the best out of them. It’s a lot of work-in-progress in dealing with their different idiosyncrasies and how they work with their staff. So, I have learned about how to talk with them, manage them and encourage them.”

Jim: “The toughest part of my job, initially, was getting the finances in order in terms of procedures. Just prior to my arrival, there was a consolidation of the locations. Getting the data accurate and up to date was the first priority.

The other part is getting the management of Strong’s to buy into the mindset and experiences that I’ve had in running an organization of this size. From Financial Reporting to Human Resources to Administration – my experience in working for large organizations in New York City helps me bring a different perspective.”

Strong's Marine Team

What would be some of the must-have features for a system like IDS?

Will: “The tracking and the reporting. The reports that show the performance, or lack of performance, for each department and each person. IDS provides those valuable reports, so we can deliver what is needed.”

Jim: “I have only worked with IDS for a short time and am using just a fraction of the system. With that said, I’ve done system conversions three times in my career for three different companies, so I’m well-versed in it and I have strength in that. So far, everything that I see within IDS, I like. It’s clearly a very powerful system.

I spend most of my time in the General Ledger. As far as that is concerned, I like the detailed drilldowns that the system provides. Any time that I want to see any dollar hitting an account, it’s very easy for me to access that information. In terms of managing expenses and sales, I like the DMS report.”

Strong's Marine Hanger

What is the biggest reason to own a system like IDS?

Will: “It’s impossible for one person, or even a small team, to independently run a business like Strong’s Marine without software like IDS. The system tracks how everyone is performing and helps them learn from their mistakes, correct them and move forward. Without a system like IDS, you can’t succeed and grow along the same path that we have.”

Jim: “One of the positives for Strong’s Marine right now is that we are experiencing significant growth. It’s not only the day-to-day, it’s managing and making sure that the growth is maintained, managed and handled properly. A management system helps with these tasks.”

How much has IDS contributed to your overall success?

Will: “I think it’s been a huge factor in the success of our dealership because I don’t think we’d be where we are without it. Without a software like IDS, we wouldn’t have the performance we have; that’s a direct reflection on the work that I do every day. I can see what’s going on with all the departments that I oversee. I can only say that it has steadily increased because of the software that we use.”

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