Interview with Old Mill Marina on Achieving a 500% Service Growth in the Last 36 Months

Old Mill MarinaRob Walisser has been a marine enthusiast all of his life. In 2003 he and his wife had the opportunity to purchase Old Mill Marina and have experienced incredible growth. 

Through expansion, computerization, placing a high focus on its service department, and hiring Jeff Barnes to help manage the second location, Old Mill Marina has seen a 500% growth over the last 36 months in its service department and projects a 50% growth in overall revenue for 2015!

We recently sat down with Rob to discuss his success.

IDS: Tell us about Old Mill Marina and how you’ve been able to expand the business.

Rob: “The marina will be celebrating 60 years this coming summer. Since my wife and I purchased the business in spring of 2003, we’ve continued to have a tight focus on service, storage, and slips for water access customers.

In 2010, we had the opportunity to expand and acquire a piece of property and in 2011 we hired a guy by the name of Jeff Barnes who has brought a very strong sales and marketing focus to the business. Jeff runs our second location and almost all of our boat sales come from there.

From the first meeting with Jeff, he identified things we would need to help grow the business. We didn’t even sell boats until he came onboard, so that was one of the first things we focused on. He also had a lot of input on the computerization of our business and was very influential in our implementation of the IDS SMS product.”

IDS: What do you think sets your dealership apart from the competition? 

Rob: “I’d say there is some competition here and there isn’t. What we do to set ourselves apart is place a strong focus on service, storage and our facilities. We are the only authorized marine dealer within a two-hour radius that carries six engine brands. We’ve invested in the best service facility within an hour-and-a-half radius, and we hands down have the best winter storage facilities. We’ve really set ourselves apart as the premiere service and storage place. 

In terms of boat sales, there’s a lot of competition and all of the major boat lines are represented with strong dealers in the area.  We’ve taken the time to make sure the brands we’ve put in place will help build our business and will grow from there.”

IDS: You mentioned Jeff has a strong marketing and sales background. What kind of approach have you taken to market your business?

Rob: “We are in an extremely wealthy market with being located in the Toronto cottage country area and rely a lot on word of mouth referrals. It’s a long, slow process to get yourself out in front of them. I’d say a lot of things we are gaining from IDS are helping us get our name out there, especially on the service side by having the work history available and the ability for a service advisor to talk to customers. 

We made a conscious decision to market ourselves as the premiere service provider for the two lakes in the town of Dorset and let the business grow organically and it’s working. We also do social media marketing and e-blasts. In addition, we try and focus on a lot of customer events. We’re planning a big bash this summer for our 60th anniversary. We do a strawberry social in June to kick the season off. We represent Tige boats, so we’ll have our first owner’s reunion this year. We also have barbeques and fireworks shows in both locations and we have a wine and cheese event coming up in March.”     

IDS: You mentioned the service features in IDS.  What features have helped you the most?

Rob: “The things that have made the biggest difference are the centralized database of customer history, unit history, the work orders, and the bill of sale. Our shop has increased over 500% in the last 36 months and it has more than doubled in just this last year alone. We now have four techs, two apprentices, two yard guys and we’re in the middle of hiring a full-time service advisor as well as one other person to split time between service and warranties. We wouldn’t be able to achieve and manage that growth without IDS.

IDS’s multi-store functionality is also very good. Jeff came out of a DockMaster environment and now he raves about how well IDS manages a multi-store environment. I think IDS does this extremely well compared to other providers in the market. We only run service out of one location, but work with both location’s customers. The ability to go back and forth between the two locations without realizing you’re doing it is pretty critical.”   

IDS: What are the future goals of the dealership and how will IDS help?

Rob: “We will see a 50% increase in revenue growth this year, so we are beyond the point to where we’ll need a full-time bookkeeper or staff accountant in place. That’s definitely a priority. Beyond that, we have plans to add additional locations in the next 4-5 years and we hope to grow our software system to the next level from SMS to a full G2 setup.”

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