Interview with Canada’s #1 Boat and Yacht Dealer M&P Mercury on How Effective Business Processes and Technology Breed Success

M&P MercuryIf you’re familiar with the marine industry, there’s probably a good chance you heard of M&P Mercury. Recognized as the top dealer in Canada, the business has nearly 60 years of experience in providing the best in sales and service to the Greater Vancouver area.

When owner and president Robert Pappajohn took over the business from his parents in 2007, he set his goals high and wanted to expand and modernize the business. He believed that while it’s important to preserve the history and culture of the company, by implementing new processes and new technology the company can operate more efficiently and provide higher quality services and products. The results during that time speak for themselves. The three-location business has received numerous top dealer awards and is recognized as the first Five Star MICD and Brunswick Master Dealer. 

The success of a business isn’t possible without a great staff to help put the right processes in place. We had the opportunity to speak with Victoria McComas, M&P’s Director of Finance, HR and Operations to discuss how the right business processes and technology have put this dealership in such an elite class.

You are recognized at the #1 boat dealer in Canada and the first Five Star MICD and Brunswick Master Dealer. What factors contributed to this unbelievable success and what does it mean to your business?  

Victoria: “Our success is due to our winning culture and our unique vision. We focus on people, relationships, and continuous improvements on process and service quality. We have a different selling philosophy and look at our customers as lifetime friends, not just a one-time sale. We also invest heavily in our people. We bring the best people from this industry, as well as other industries, and invest in training and consulting so our team can continually exceed our customers’ expectations.

We’re process-driven and have developed processes for everything whether it’s sales, service, customer experience, etc. We’ve been certified as Brunswick Master Dealer for a long time, and first achieved the MICD Five Star rating in 2008. We just completed re-certification under both programs for 2016. Both certification program require our business to satisfy a variety of important requirements including Dealership Planning, Continuous Improvement, CSI Scores, Lead Management, Sales, Service, Parts and Marketing. The framework of the programs are very broad, but they really make you look at the bigger picture of how our business is operated. The certification programs also allow us to compare our processes vs the benchmarks and ensure we’re operating at very high standards. 

Your mission statement on your website reads, “Make the Boating Lifestyle the most Rewarding, Fulfilling and Memorable Experience Possible.” Talk about how you adopted that statement for the dealership and what it means to your customers.  

Victoria: “We’ve had our mission statement for a long time. We live and breathe it every day. We want both our employees and customers to understand that we’re not just here selling boats, we’re selling a lifestyle. The way we define success is turning our customers into passionate boaters and lifelong customers. We promote the passionate lifestyle through community involvement and delivering high quality products backed by award-winning service. Our sophisticated customers not only have confidence in our service and products, but also trust us to help them achieve their dream.”  

You mentioned investing in people. How do you go about hiring the right employees that help you achieve such high standards? 

Victoria: “In Vancouver, there’s a shortage of talent in marine industry so we hire people based on qualifications and broader experience. Take myself for example, I worked in the real estate and property management industry before and had no prior experience in the marine industry. However, I have a lot of experience in process improvement and internal control. Our sales managers came from the auto industry and are outstanding in motivating sales team and setting targets. 

Our team of employees have been specifically chosen for their skills, enthusiasm, and ability to work together effectively. We think it’s essential for our team to understand our vision and goals. Passion for boating is also important to us. If the candidates have the qualifications and experience we’re looking for, we feel we can train them on product knowledge and business process. That being said, we also use different assessments to identify candidates’ strength and weakness. We evaluate what they can bring to our company based on their previous experiences and how it will benefit our business.” 

What events do you participate in throughout the year and what impact does that have on the dealership?  

Victoria: “We are actively involved in all kinds of events. We believe one of the most important reasons for our success is our strong events and community involvement. We are the official sponsor for Vancouver Water Ski Club and we provide a lot of support to BC Wakeboard Provincial Championships Games and BC Summer Games. M&P and Bob’s family also participate in many charity events and host a lot of fundraising for charity organizations such as Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver Art Gallery and Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. We’re also very involved with the local Chinese business community. There is a high concentration of people of Chinese decent in Vancouver so we’ve done a lot to introduce boating into that community. We even have a section on our website written in Chinese and have special events such as the Chinese Getaway, Chinese Fishing Derby and Chinese Yacht Training.”  

With multiple locations, it’s essential to have a good dealer management software. What made you choose IDS and how does it help you manage all locations?  

Victoria: “Bob decided to implement IDS in 2008 after he took over the business. IDS was recommended at that time because it had the most cutting-edge technology. Another reason is that he felt the need to run business differently since our customers have very high expectations of our products and operations.  IDS played a significant role in the standardization and modernization of our business operation. 

IDS is a well-designed dealer management system that allow users to manage and integrate all the important aspects of the business from purchasing, inventory, sales, marketing, F&I to accounting. With three locations, sometimes it’s difficult for us to know what’s happening at each location and IDS gives us the real time information we need. Each IDS module focuses on one area of business operation and input under each module all goes into one integrated database so we can see everything that’s entered into the system even it’s from a different department or a different location. This makes it easy for the team to collaborate and improves productivity and efficiency over the organization.”  

What features in the software do you like best?  

Victoria: “IDS has very powerful reporting functions, I love it because I’m a numbers person. There are reports that you can run under each module from Parts/ Service Gross Profit Report to Sales Analysis Report. Our staff can always tell me about their daily activities, but these reports will show me the real picture of the business operation and company financial position. We do a lot of department performance analysis and ratio analysis, so my team uses report functions including customized reports almost every day.”

Do you use the Service Scheduler? 

Victoria: “Yes, the scheduler does everything! We had a hard time tracking efficiency in the past and by utilizing the Service Scheduler, we’re able to see what our techs are doing, what we’re paying them for and what is being allocated where. We run efficiency and billable hour reports for our technician weekly, and we base their compensation off of these reports. We wouldn’t be able to do that without the help of the IDS Service Scheduler and service efficiency reports. I would highly recommend the Service Scheduler to any dealer who is trying to improve labor efficiency and reduce service labor cost or un-allocated hours.”  

Do you use the IDS CRM module?  

Victoria: “We’re getting CRM installed this month and we’re really looking forward to it. I think this will improve the efficiency in communication, streamline marketing, lead management and sales process, and really take our customer relationship management to the next level.”  

What future goals do you have for the business?  

Victoria: “We will keep doing what we do best by maintaining exceptional levels of professionalism and selling enjoyment, luxury and quality experiences on the water. We will keep on building long-term relationships with customers and IDS CRM will definitely help that. We’ll be able to follow-up much more effectively and streamline our internal process. We will also embrace changes and continually improve our service, processes and quality.”  

What advice do you have to dealers looking to achieve a higher level of success?  

Victoria: “Invest in people and invest in technology. As the business environment changes, the way customers obtain information changes. To have a better understanding of what our customers want, we will utilize IDS CRM to keep track of communications and transaction related to each individual customer. We also believe well-developed business processes have made us successful. It provides better internal control and higher standards. In addition, proper designed performance-based compensation structure also motivates employees and ensures goal congruence between the company and the individual.  We’ve had great result implementing such pay structures with the help of data and reports generated from IDS” 


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