Tag Archives: dealer management system

Charleston City Marina Wins International Award and Why this is Important for North America

On May 26, 2009 in Helsinki, Finland the Charleston City Marina was awarded the 2009 Jack Nichol Award for Design.  This international award is presented annually by PIANC in recognition of excellence in modern recreational marina design, and is named for the late renowned marina designer, Jack Nichol. Established in 1885, PIANC is an organization providing guidance and a forum where professionals can provide expert advice on cost effective, reliable and sustainable infrastructure, and facilitate growth of waterborne transport.

“After considerable discussion and evaluation of the applications,” states Elio Ciralli of PIANC, “the Charleston City Marina best represented the technical, functional, aesthetic and environmental award criteria.”

Robbie Freeman, Managing Partner of the Charleston City Marina adds, “With credit to Applied Technology & Management, our marina design consultant, The City Marina’s transformation has set many new standards for recreational facilities. It is truly an honor to receive this global recognition after years of ongoing improvements.”

The reason I say that this is important for North America is because the United States and Canada have a very large recreational marina community, most of which has been in use for many years.  In the large vessel and megayacht category, overseas marina projects seem to be getting a large portion of the media coverage. This is warranted because in many of these places, like the United Arab Emirates or Central America there is little marina infrastructure, so they can start fresh with the latest floating dock systems, “in-slip” high speed fuel systems and electronic pedestal devices.

In North America, there really aren’t many coastal areas where a new marina can come out of the ground. Therefore existing marinas must be re-built, thus displacing an already loyal customer base who utilizes the existing slips (berths) and marina amenities. However there are some shining examples of marina redevelopment projects that deserve attention. Two of them are just a few miles from the DockMaster offices: Old Port Cove Marina and Rybovich Shipyard and Marina.

Congratulations goes out to The Charleston City Marina for this well deserved recognition from the PIANC as a world class marina destination.

Promote A Cause You Believe In and Everyone Wins

Last week I received an e-mail from Paul Nickel, the President of Pride Marine Group in Ontario entitled “Boating for the Cure“. Most of the e-mail I receive from Pride pertains to DockMaster, so I must admit that I was intrigued. In the e-mail, Paul describes a fund raiser they are having on June 27th, 2009 to help fight breast cancer and prostate cancer. What I found refreshing was that Paul’s message did not come off as a promotional gimmick that masked a sales event inside of a fund raiser. Sure Pride Marine will benefit from the promotion they will receive by sponsoring this event. But the delivery was heartfelt and Paul openly described this in his e-mail by saying that he wants “to give back to those that are less fortunate or suffering”.

So here is my take on how promoting a cause and one that truly his meaning for you can be a win-win for everyone.

Find a cause you truly believe in and tell the story

Picking a cause to get behind simply because you think it will help sell boats or whatever it is you are marketing is a recipe for disaster. You’ve got to get behind something you are passionate about. Promote a cause that has affected you personally or someone you know. Your passion and drive will show through in not only how you promote your event or fundraiser, but your sincerity will come through during the process, stimulating creative ideas that will make the event meaningful.

Connect with people

Once you decide the cause you want to support, you’ve got to connect with your customers, friends, and the community at large; especially those effected by the affliction that you are trying to raise awareness for. In the case of Pride Marine Group, they partnered with Edgewater Boats and the Town of Gravenhurst.

Lead the Movement

To get the word out and generate excitement you’ve got to do what Paul did and make a personal commitment to the cause and the event. This goes beyond “marketing” whether you use traditional or web-based techniques, but it means that the business owner truly puts some skin in the game. In the case of Pride Marine Group, Boating for the Cure will be a one day event held on June 27th, 2009 in the format of a family boating rally around Lake Muskoka. Participants will be collecting treasure maps to guide their journey and tokens which will be turned in at the end of the day at an awards ceremony and reception. All monies raised by pledges from supporters will be donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and Prostate Cancer Research Foundation in support of cancer research. The event is being paid for by Pride Marine, with sponsorship from Edgewater and the Town of Gravenhurst.

Make a compelling offer that truly adds value to your customers, the charity and the community

On top of the fund raiser being held on June 27th, Edgewater Boats will be running two special editions of their 145cc boat – one pink, one blue, to represent the fight against cancer. For every special edition “Boating for the Cure” 145cc sold, $1000 will be donated to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (pink boats) or the Canadian Prostate Research Foundation (blue boats). I am a prostate cancer survivor. If I were in the market for a 15′ boat, you’d better believe Edgewater would be at the top of my list. This is an enduring statement on the part of Edgewater in that once June 27th, 2009 has come and gone, these themed boats will live on as a symbol of one’s desire to stamp out a tragic illness.

If you are having a fund raiser that is tied to your business and would like us to promote it on www.marinemanagementtoday.com, please e-mail camsblog@dockmaster.com with more details.

Risk, Ambiguity and the Small Business Owner

Readers of this blog typically fall into two categories:

1). You are an owner/operator of a small business
2). You work for an owner/operator of a small business.

Most of these businesses happen to be in the recreational marine industry, an industry that has been hit especially hard by the current recession. What causes stress and anxiety in our professional lives? Typically, it’s “fear”. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. In a volatile economy, these fears are heightened because we can’t predict with any level of accuracy what’s around the corner. One’s ability to “predict the future” is never very accurate. However it’s not the risks inherent in our businesses that cause our blood pressure to rise, but it’s the inherent ambiguity in any entrepreneurial endeavor. One’s ability to contend with and manage ambiguity is the true test of the small business owner or entrepreneur.

The “risk” of running your own business

What keeps people from starting their own company or taking the entrepreneurial plunge? “I don’t think I can handle that much risk,” is what most people say. They are afraid to leave their “stable, comfortable” job, unaware of what awaits them when they step out of their office one last time.

In his interview with Inc., Good to Great and Built to Last author Jim Collins was asked by Bo Burlingham if entrepreneurs must inherently understand how to manage “risk”. Collins responded as follows:

“Not risk. Ambiguity. People confuse the two…. As an entrepreneur, you know what the risks are. You see them. You understand them. You manage them. If you join somebody else’s company, you may not know those risks, and not because they don’t exist.”

At a time when even giants from insurance and automotive industries are tethering on the brink of collapse, Collins couldn’t have made his point any clearer. Job security is a scarce commodity these days regardless of your industry. Ambiguity breeds opportunity.

Let’s say you were presented with two fists full of marbles. The right fist contains five red marbles and five blue marbles. The left fist also contains a total of 10 marbles, all of which are red or blue, but the number of red and the number of blue marbles is unknown. For instance there could be nine red and one blue, etc. Invariably, when given a choice of which fist to pick either a red or a blue marble out of, people chose the right fist. On the surface, making the choice that offers 50/50 odds seems obvious. In reality, one is just as likely to pick the correct-colored marble from the left fist, with an unknown mix of marbles.


This is known as the Ellsberg paradox. The right fist has a “risk” of 50/50. The left fist is “ambiguous” since you don’t know the odds. The preference to the “known” 50-50 risk is characterized as ambiguity aversion. In other words, people tend to “stick with the monster they know and avoid the monster they don’t”. The outcome is ambiguous.

What suits your personality and goals? You can choose to be your own boss or choose to support your boss. The choice is yours, but sitting on the sideline and complaining about the economy or management’s decision to make necessary (and often difficult) business changes is not an option.

Choosing to be your own boss

Taking the path of the self-employed takes guts. No doubt it’s a financial gamble. You might have to endure years earning income below what you’re used to, forcing yourself to live frugally and having to sacrifice your vacations. You would have to learn how to handle all aspects of your business, from convincing your investors to selling to your customers. But the trade off is gaining control over your company’s direction. You steer it where you want it to go. There will be problems, naturally, but you can learn to anticipate them and work out feasible solutions. You would no longer be at the mercy of superiors who call the shots. Best of all, you stand to reap the maximum reward for your efforts.

Choosing to support your boss

However, the fear of “sailing on your own” is not unwarranted. Approximately half of all new businesses are expected to close shop within five years from their establishment. And among those remaining, only a minority will turn out to be truly successful, creating a brand that caters to the needs of their target market.

Preferring to be pragmatic because you cannot afford (either financially or mentally) to be ambiguous, especially with regards to you and your family’s future, is a viable option. The best course of action at this point is to “be a light, not a critic”. Shine in the workplace. Put your heart and soul behind your endeavors. When financial times become more positive you will likely reap the benefits.

For boating enthusiasts; marinas, boatyards and boat dealerships can be thought of as a respite from the gloomy financial news or an unfulfilling career. Boaters “boat” to get away from the rat race. Your attitude and demeanor can make or break that experience for your customer. Regardless if you choose to pick your ball from the “risky” fist or the “ambiguous” fist, resilience is the virtue needed to thrive in this economy.

Marine Industry Blogs

Are you running into “information overload”? Yeah me too… When I first set-up Google Reader (using www.igoogle.com), I decided to sign-up for every blog that seemed interesting. This lasted for about a week as I found my reader overloaded with blogs that had some initial appeal but didn’t remain relevant enough for me to continue.

I try to limit the number of blogs I receive as much as possible. For what it’s worth, these are the ones that appeal to me. When you go to these sites, look for a link called “Subscribe” or the RSS icon . This indicates that blog posts will be sent to your favorite reader automatically:

Business and Web Trends

Marine Industry

E-mail Newsletters

Web 2.0: Social-Networking and Your Business

Web 2.0 technologies are a disruptive force that’s changing the way that messages about products and brands are delivered and received. So what is social media and why do you need it?

Wikipedia defines social media as “the online tools and platforms people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other.” Studies by Forrester, Intelliseek, and Compete indicate that over more than 50 percent of consumers are turning to their peers and the information that they’re creating online to form their opinions. Without a doubt, the rise of social media, powered by Web 2.0, has become a dramatic change for marketing and a change you need to embrace.

Until now, we viewed Internet marketing as just another marketing channel, where, like traditional methods (print, radio, and TV), we controlled one-way messages directed at the consumer. Web 2.0, better viewed as a marketing “engine” rather than a marketing “channel,” is profoundly different because you don’t control the message — everyone can create and shape the message. Viral (word-of-mouth) in nature, Web 2.0 allows you to energize and add power to your message and pass it on to hundreds of contacts around the world in a fraction of a second!

If you’re in charge of marketing for your company or simply trying to improve communications between your company and your customers, the concept of allowing online discussions about your company’s products and services probably keeps you up at night as you ponder how to implement social media and still protect your company’s brand. The good news is the benefits outweigh your reservations. While you can’t control the message, you can improve the conversation about your brand and by actively listening you can learn what your customers care about and get smarter about designing and delivering services that your audience wants!

So where do you start? First and foremost, it is critical that your staff participate in and understand social media by learning about it first hand. Fundamentally, marketing in a Web 2.0 world requires us to think in both new and old ways at the same time. YouTube, del.icio.us, Flickr, digg, MySpace, and Technorati are examples of new engines you need to understand in order to effectively use them to reach your markets. Once you understand the vehicle you can use these easy and inexpensive strategies to kick-start your thinking about marketing in a Web 2.0 world:

1. Create a Web 2.0 marketing plan. Tap into the creativity of your staff and users to create a strategic social media marketing plan. Look at your marketing, customer service, and website for opportunities and think strategically about where and how you’re going to commit your marketing resources online. Try a photo captioner service where they (or you) can submit local photos, add captions, and then share links or send the new photo as a postcard to their friends. Flickr (mentioned above) or Photobucket are great sites for this. Invite your passionate customers users to create promotional videos about your company then post them online everywhere. We’ve seen some of our boat dealers do this quite effectively when they host “Customer Rendezvous” and other boat outings.

2. Participate! Join the conversation. Social media applications are two-way. Create a MySpace or Facebook profile and offer content and services that attract links, contacts, and friends. We created a DockMaster Facebook page with links back to www.dockmaster.com. Enable comments on blogs and allow users to contribute or add social tools and services such as Weblogs, wikis, tagging, video blogs, etc., to your web site. When you have social media in place, instead of waiting for your audience to come to you discover where your target audiences hang out online and join them, initiating conversations about your company’s products and services and brand.

3. Be remarkable. Have something interesting to offer your viewers that they can use, bookmark, and share on – or offline. Social media is a form of viral marketing. Interesting ideas and content get passed along rapidly. Make sure that adding fresh content is a priority whether it’s new products, blog articles, or a background piece on an upcoming city or organization event.

4. Help your company content travel. Encourage visitors to bookmark and tag your content with a click of a button by posting bookmark buttons on your site. Post your content on sites like Flickr and YouTube where it’s easy for users to find and share it. We posted six short DockMaster demonstrations on YouTube with links back to www.dockmaster.com. Syndicate everything you can that your audience will find useful. Slice and dice your content for dozens of specialized audiences. Spread the word about what your company has. Make newsfeeds for new materials and post them to your website. Be sure to set up newsfeeds for releases of audio and video content so your audience can opt in and be notified of new releases.

5. Monitor engagement and learn as you go. Evaluating social media marketing is different than just counting Web site usage or circulation numbers. You want to measure how well you’re doing at engaging the public and measure both the amount and the intensity of the engagement. Here are some examples of what you need to monitor: How many blog readers do you have? How many comments are posted by how many different visitors? How many people mention your company on their blogs, and how often? Are search engine results predominantly positive or negative? Is your content bookmarked in social bookmarking sites? How many friends and contacts do you have on your profile in social networking sites? How many comments are you receiving? How many visitors contribute content to your site (videos, photos, documents,)?

Marketing this way is fun and creative, and when it really works it can create a big bang. Social media marketing offers you the opportunity to engage your community in new ways and to turn strangers into fans. Fans are your online salespeople who promote your company and its services. If your customers and fans love you and your products and services, they’ll spread the word.

Build More Loyal Customers with Email Marketing

Experts agree and evidence shows that profitability is all about creating loyal customers and driving repeat business. And because it’s approximately ten times less expensive to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a new one, the value of customer loyalty and repeat business is just too compelling to ignore.

Communication is Paramount
The best way to get repeat business and earn customer loyalty is to grasp the dynamics and importance of building customer relationships through communication by nurturing customers over time by learning and remembering their individual preferences and interests. To do this you’ll need to acquire customer information directly from customers through personal interaction and keep in touch with customers on a regular basis ensuring your business remains “top of mind.”

Since statistics show it takes multiple contacts before you can turn a prospect into a customer, traditional marketing efforts can be expensive and time consuming. That’s where email marketing becomes a critical part of your marketing efforts.

Email Turns Prospects and Visitors into Loyal Customers
Today, email is the most widely used facet of the Internet and is part of many people’s daily routine. Email is also the primary communication medium for business around the globe since it provides a much more efficient means of communication – allowing businesses to communicate quickly (which means time-sensitive information is disseminated in minutes, not days or weeks).  In a nut shell, e-mail provides a “one to one” conversational marketing tool!

Proactively Communicate with Email Marketing
Email “marketing” is one of the most powerful marketing tools available today – it’s easy, affordable, direct, actionable and highly effective and it enables you to proactively communicate with existing customers and prospects instead of passively waiting for them to return to your website, visit your location(s) or call you on the phone. Studies show repeat customers spend, on average, 67 percent more than new customers. Through email marketing you can initiate new business and solidify existing relationships by converting prospects and one-time customers into repeat business and long-term customers.

With a response rate five times greater than direct mail and 25 times the response rate of banner ads adding email to your marketing mix means you will spend less time, money and resources than with traditional marketing vehicles while generating higher response rates, driving traffic, increasing sales, tracking behaviors, developing loyalty and providing better ROI on reduced marketing budgets.

Many companies are looking for ways to stretch their marketing budgets in an unsure and turbulent economy, the good news is the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) reported that in 2007 email marketing returned about $48 for every dollar invested, the highest of all the marketing channels out there!

Getting Permission – The First Step to Effective Email Marketing
Evidence verifies permission-based email lists deliver better results and generate fewer unsubscribes, spam complaints and blocks. Let’s review some facts: seventy-six percent of consumers will delete an unsolicited email without even reading it, compared to 2% for a permission email. Conversely, only 5% of consumers are eager or curious to read an unsolicited email as opposed to 61% with permission email. A recent study shows the majority of email recipients that open emails do so because they recognized the sender as a company they signed up with (40%) and because they recognized the sender’s name (52%).

The 2003 U.S. law regulating commercial email, popularly called CAN-SPAM, permits opt-out marketing (sending to unsolicited recipients) accompanied by the conditions that all commercial emails must have a working unsubscribe function and must include language that the message is “a promotional email” within the message. Failing to abide by CAN-SPAM rules can beget numerous complaints which in turn can lead to being blacklisted (the process by which all emails from your IP address will not be sent to any user on the ISP – Internet Service Providers such as AOL, Bellsouth, Comcast, etc.). Being blacklisted means day-to-day emails to anyone sharing the same ISP as those on your email marketing list will also never receive your communications – a process which can be time consuming to undo.

Abiding by CAN-SPAM laws alone does not equate to successful email marketing. CAN-SPAM just establishes legal criteria for email marketing, it doesn’t promote best practices.  A recent study found 79% of Americans were “somewhat annoyed” to “very annoyed” by unsolicited email, even if it included an opt-out. That annoyance transfers to your product or brand, meaning there is no better way to “turn off” your customers than to send unsolicited e-mails that are either irrelevant or still considered “spam” by the receiver. Most e-mail programs allow the recipient to mark your e-mail as spam (even if it isn’t) which means future emails from your company will never reach them.

At DockMaster, we recommend the best practices that are already serving as fundamental requirements at ISPs and corporate servers everywhere. The good news is that by holding yourself and your clients to a strict permission policy, you’ll also get better results for your email marketing efforts. After all, the people who truly want to receive your emails are the people most likely to respond to them. We call this permission marketing, thus our two-word permission policy: Get permission. In practice, this means:

DO send emails to people who:

  • are members of your organization
  • have a relationship with your business
  • bought something from you in the past 18 months
  • signed up to receive your emails
  • gave you an email address knowing you would use it

And DON’T:

  • buy or rent lists
  • grab email addresses off websites without people’s knowledge
  • email anyone who has ever asked you not to
  • share or rent your list to anyone

Rather than renting lists, we like to collect e-mail addresses from prospects and customers by simply asking them. For instance we give our customers the opportunity to sign-up for our newsletter from the home page of our website on www.dockmaster.com. If you click on the SUBSCRIBE button you will see a page like this:


Our subscribe form gives prospects and customers alike the ability to tell us about them via a short series of questions. Knowing a few key facts about our customers on signup allows us to retain that subscriber by delivering the news most relevant to them. For instance, by a customer telling us they are a “Marina” we can send them an email about new products for Marinas and not include them in an email announcement about a new product for Boat Builders.

Communicate More Information, More Often
Using email marketing affords you the ability to get your message to your audience affordably with relevant messages, brand appeal and the ability to measure it all. Create more communications that are valued by your customer and  make those communications support and enhance your brand in a way that substantially differentiates your company from the competition. Your communications can include newsletters, preferred customer promotions, sale notifications, new service announcements, event invitations, greetings and more.

Educate Your Customers
Information and education make your customers and prospects much more valuable because they are more likely to buy when they can make an informed decision. Why force prospects to look elsewhere for the important information? Your email communications can help lead a prospect through the sales process, provide important data and drive the prospect to your website for more details and/or a purchase. For example, an email newsletter is uniquely suited to accomplish the long-term goals of customer retention and loyalty, while it can still contain a call-to-action that provides a short-term benefit.

Foster Long-lasting Relationships
The benefits of establishing early and long lasting relationships with your prospects and customers are far reaching. When you inform and educate prospects and customers, they begin to perceive you as capable of addressing their needs. Good email marketing wins over consumers! Consider the following facts:

  • Well-executed permission email marketing campaigns can have a positive impact on consumers’ attitudes toward companies.
  • 67% of US consumers said they liked companies that, in their opinion, did a good job with permission email marketing.
  • 58% of consumers said they opened those companies’ emails, while 53% said that such emails affected their personal buying decisions.

Even better, they may look to you as an expert and gain trust which opens the door to two-way communication and allows them to share their views with you. Using the information you gain from your prospects and customers, you will be able to better serve their ongoing needs, hone your unique selling proposition and slowly close the door on your competitors. In the process, you may discover hidden sales opportunities that you may not currently be addressing.

Easily Measure and Improve Your Results

The benefits derived from most types of marketing and advertising are very difficult to measure. With email marketing, however, you can easily measure the number of emails sent, emails opened, bounce backs, unsubscribes and click-through rates. You can also tell who opened your email, which links in your email motivated the most clicks and, even more specifically, who clicked on each link. All of this useful information can help you send highly targeted campaigns to the individuals most likely to respond to your offer, thus improving results going forward.

In the next Marine Management Today article “Building a Successful Email Campaign” we’ll take you through the steps of implementing an effective email marketing communication platform including building a permission-based list of recipients, managing the list, defining relevant content in the right format, delivering the message and evaluating the results.

Marine Dealer Conference 2008

Reflections from the Marine Dealer Conference:
I have to admit something here. I was preparing for the worst. I had received some feedback from those that attended RVDA that the atmosphere was, well, depressing. The economy was front and center the reason for that. I was secretly preparing for a somber atmosphere at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo in Las Vegas last week. To my pleasant surprise the tone and mood was as upbeat as possible given the current global economic head winds we are facing. I can say with confidence that the recreational marine industry is facing what will be a challenging 2009 with both an optimistic and practical business attitude.

To be fair to our brethren in the RV industry, their conference took place at a slightly different time. The equity markets had just started their wild gyrations and the election was not over, thus creating a fair amount of political uncertainty. The financial uncertainty is still here, but at least now we know who our next president will be, and regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on most agree that 2009 is going to be tougher than 2008.

I would sum up the theme of the conference like this. “Yes” things are tough – now go out and sell something. Being a salesperson at heart, I loved this message. Many of the panel discussions centered on surviving and thriving in 2009. No punches were pulled; what we got was straight talk from industry experts from both the retail side and the manufacturing and finance side of the business.

Some of the highlights for me were as follows:

John Spader talked a lot about taking an active leadership role in our businesses and “managing enthusiasm”. He suggested that we ask the following questions:

1. Ask your team: “Do you believe that we have the right leadership team to get through these tough times?” If not ask them “why” and “what” would they change. Enlist their involvement.

2. Ask yourself “What am I doing to manage the enthusiasm of my team?” Body language is more powerful than words. Do you walk around moping and frustrated all day? If so that attitude will be reflected by your team as well.

3. “Are you filling sandbags or saving towns”? In other words, does what you do have meaning or are you just punching the clock. Get at the heart of how each and every person in your business feels about what they do. Are they empowered? Do they feel like they are making a difference?

In the “Learning to Thrive” segment: Service – both providing exemplary customer service and servicing customers’ boats profitably was a popular topic this year. Panelists from Pride Marine Group, Sail & Ski Center, Seattle Boat Works and Woodward Marine discussed best practices used in their businesses to help them not only survive but thrive in a difficulty economy. Alan Bohling from Seattle Boats told the group about his daily health reports. These are a series of reports generated from DockMaster that allow him to quickly access sales, utilization, expenses (e.g. special orders) and cash flow. We of course appreciated the mention.

The “Industry Giants” panel is always a popular discussion since it includes leaders from the industry’s primary manufacturers. Irwin Jacobs, Chairman of Genmar believes that the single biggest issue crippling the marine industry is retail financing. He stated that his firm has committed $800M to fund a financing arm of Genmar. Brunswick and Yamaha have also taken similar measures.

As a provider of technology solutions to the marine industry, there were two main takeaways for me:

1. Business management providers and internet service providers must align themselves more closely to provide a complete “end to end” solution for dealers, boatyards and marinas. Retail customers are using the internet more and more to search for products and services as well as transact business. I believe that marine businesses should be able to leverage the internet to search for boats, purchase accessories and parts, select transient slips, request services, rent boats and pay bills. To do this seamlessly and to make sure that customers are receiving relevant content from marine businesses, both internet and back-office providers will need to work more closely to cut down on duplication and double entry.

2. In this economy, business management solution providers will need to offer affordable solutions to marine operators. One way to accomplish this is to provide “web-based” access to business management software. This can be done by utilizing hosting providers who have built businesses around hosting applications for businesses of all sizes. This will keep the recurring cost of maintaining software down for everyone in the supply chain, allowing marine operators to focus on their business and not on computers and networks.

Contact: cam@dockmaster.com

Marketing Opportunities in a Challenging Economy: The Internet Channel

Written by Cam Collins / August 21, 2008

Everyday we receive headlines from various “channels” print media, television, radio and the web talking about how our financial markets are crumbling. As of this writing, it was a little over a year ago that the global credit crunch began. The mortgage business was struggling with steep losses, and the troubles were spreading throughout the credit markets.

Since then, the economy has ground almost to a halt, the housing market has become moribund, and federal officials have resorted to extraordinary means to keep the banking sector afloat.

As goes the mortgage and real estate business, so goes the recreational marine industry. At least once per week we hear news of another financial institution pulling out of the marine business. With so much debt on their books and a federal mandate (FDIC) to have a liquidity ratio of 2.5 times that of debt, banks are struggling to provide recreational marine buyers with the financing they need to indulge their habit on the water.

As the saying goes, “North Americans will find a way to recreate.” Whether it’s boating on the weekend with the family, or playing Texas Hold’em by a campfire, we Americans love our time away from work and prefer to spend it with family and friends. It is well documented in marine industry publications that boat buyers are becoming savvier and using the internet as a tool to locate the right boat at the right place. How much should a marine dealer or repair facility spend on print media, television/radio ads and internet advertising? This rhetorical question obviously depends upon the location of your business, the demographics of your buyer and the state of the economy in your geographic area.

When I ask our boat dealers, boatyard operators and marina managers “how’s business?,” the answers are as varied as the businesses themselves. Some of our customers who are focusing on a specific boat line or a particular type of customer are actually seeing growth and others are having an off year. The beauty of the internet is that business operators can reduce expense while developing a deeper and more focused relationship with their customer by using the internet and Customer Relationship Management techniques.

As of December 2007, there were 238M internet users in North America. The Pew Internet and American Life Project classified the following activities for these users as follows:


This is Part 1 in a series of posts called The Internet Channel. In future posts I will explore ways that our customers and companies outside of the marine industry have been able to cultivate customer relationships using the internet in conjunction with more traditional tools.

Since “e-mail” reigns supreme as the most used communication medium for everyday activity, my second post in this series will be entitled Part 2: Using E-mail to Communicate with Customers and will be published in October.

Megayacht Marinas Not Hit by Economic Rough Spots

By Arlene Satchell
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
June 14, 2008

South Florida megayacht marina expansion and redevelopment projects are staying on course despite the tough economic times.

While the entry-level boat sector has been hit hard by the ailing economy, all signs are pointing to continued growth in the high-end category.

Boatyards and marinas are injecting millions to renovate and expand to better accommodate luxury boats 80 feet or more in length.

In 2006, 1,500 megayachts visited South Florida, up from 800 in 1997, according to a 2007 report commissioned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida and industry partners. And more of these luxury vessels are expected during the next winter boating season.

Lauderdale Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale is expecting to open its new megayacht dockage and repair facility within 60 days, general manager Mark Pratt said.

The centerpiece of an 18-acre, $40 million expansion, the area has covered work space for yachts up to 185 feet and heavier lifts to pull them ashore for maintenance and repairs.

“Boatyards are our core business and are important to the future of the industry,” said Frank Herhold, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

In 2006, megayacht repair and maintenance work in the area had an estimated economic impact of $219.8 million. The big boat visits also generated $152.6 million in brokerage and charter commissions.

West Palm Beach’s Rybovich Marina is undergoing a $15 million upgrade that’ll add 7,000 linear feet of new floating and fixed docks for yachts up to 300 feet long.

A recreational area with fitness center, pool, basketball court and lounge will give customers a resort feel, Rybovich Vice President George Whitehouse said.

Last year, Rybovich completed the first part of the renovation, which included a new 40,000-square-foot repair center and service slips for yachts up to 275 feet.

The upgrades at this service marina will help put Palm Beach County on the map for megayachts, Whitehouse said.

Work will begin this summer on the new Pier 17 Marina & Yacht Club in Fort Lauderdale, following approval of the site plan in May, project manager Brad Tate said.

Pier 17 is being built on the grounds of the old Summerfield Boat Works, which closed two years ago.

The private marina will feature 22 covered and four uncovered wet slips for yachts 80 feet to 155 feet long, and a clubhouse, captain and crew lounge, swimming pool and fitness center.

Boat slips featuring garages and storage areas are priced at $15,000 and $24,000 per linear foot, depending on yacht size.

Ten slips already have been sold, but sales have slowed in the past eight months as the economy worsened, director of sales Steve Fill said.

In North Palm Beach, Old Port Cove Marina’s South Basin is getting a $15 million facelift that includes hardwood floating docks and larger slips to better accommodate yachts 80 feet to 250 feet in length.

“There just hasn’t been a place for them [megayachts] this far north,” marina spokeswoman Sue Morgan said.

As megayacht construction grows, South Florida marinas are shoring up their competitive edge.

In 2007, 770 yachts from 75 feet to more than 136 feet were built worldwide, compared with 223 in 1997, the marine association’s report said.

Aqua Marine Partners of Hollywood is awaiting city approval of the Vertical Yacht Club Marina Mile megayacht complex in Fort Lauderdale. Work is expected to begin there in January.

The dry storage marina will house 46 boats up to 85 feet long in individual climate-controlled suites.

Marinas with indoor boat slips are becoming commonplace as new waterfront dock space is increasingly harder to find.

“We’re excited to get it moving as we’ve already had a few pre-opening leases signed,” spokesman John Ross said.

One marina project, however, has hit a snag.

Naples-based BoatClubsAmerica had planned to transform Jackson Marine into the new Fort Lauderdale BoatClub offering megayacht and small boat slips for sale and clubhouse amenities, including deli, gym, resort-style pool and tiki bar.

Construction is on hold, but the marine continues operating with seven tenants.

Permits for the $50 million renovation were finalized in December just as “the economy jumped into a paralyzing new chapter,” spokeswoman Kelly Ruff said.

Building in Quality: An Implementation of the Agile Software Development Process

Software as a tangible asset is misunderstood by many. Unlike a car or a toaster that people can touch, hear, smell and feel; software is a component in a rather complex system. Although one might look at a car, toaster or any other fixed asset as something that gets stamped out of a factory. There are many similarities in the traditional manufacturing process; and the software development and release process. Let’s use cars as an example. Like software, cars evolve. Look at the evolution of the Ford Mustang for instance.

The “Pony Car” as it was later coined was something that nearly everyone felt attracted to. The Mustang was advertised as “the car to be designed by you”. Given this premise, the Mustang was bound to evolve. As demographics change and the car buying tastes of Fors’s customers evolve, the Mustang was designed from the beginning to evolve as well.

From its beginning in the latter half of 1964 up to today, the Ford Mustang has evolved as has the 60 million or so baby boomers that have grown up right along with it. The 1964 was available in only two models: the coupe and convertible. These were the glory years, with the introduction of the Fastback and GT models in 1965, the Shelby GT-350 and Mach 1 in 1966, and the GT/CS California Special in 1968. In 1969 the Mustang became bigger and heavier.

Ensuing generations of Mustangs have either added to the legend or diminished it. The bad years are considered to be from 1974 until the early 1980s whereby Mustang’s sporty image fell victim to the fuel crisis of late 1973 and increased safety standards. The Mustang made a come back in the 1990s when it began to go back to its sporty and horsepower packed roots. The evolution continued in 2005 when Ford re-invented the classic Pony Car styling with a Mustang that harkened back to their late 1960’s success.

The development of software is an evolutionary process. What starts off as an interesting software idea or web-application can morph into something that takes on a life of its own. There are countless examples in the enterprise software world of products that have grown so large that the cost of maintaining these systems often times outweighs the benefits of using them.

Large enterprise class software systems also evolve as technology improves and customers’ needs change. Like a manufacturing company, software companies must manage growth as well as demographic, economic and geopolitical changes through a defined development process.

Since the beginning of 2007, Exuma has undergone a transition away from Software as an Art to Software as a Discipline. What I mean by this is that we searched for and have adopted a software development process that will allow us to be flexible enough to meet customer needs, but be rigid enough to improve quality. These standards are collectively known as the Agile Software Process.

Fundamentally, Agile affords us the ability to build and test in quality by focusing on a finite number of enhancements and bug fixes in short cycles. These cycles, known as sprints allow software development teams to prioritize bug fixes and enhancements; collectively known as “backlog” into a manageable list that can be developed, tested and deployed in a short period of time. Sprints can be broken up into 1 to 4 week segments, whereby the team will focus on a manageable number of backlog items without interruption from other department. Figure 1 (click here) outlines the basic Sprint cycle.

A team of developers and QA personnel are assigned to a sprint cycle. One of the team members is designated as the sprint leader. The rest of the development and QA staff provide support for the rest of the company including, Support Services, Client (Training) Services, etc.

The non-sprint team members are the only ones permitted to contact the sprint team lead. This keeps the level of distractions coming into development at a minimum. Developers outside of the sprint team will provide “support” for the rest of the company on programming issues.

Once the sprint team completes its changes and tests its individual components the software gets “built”, meaning the entire product suite, including various interfaces, get compiled into a machine readable language that can be used by an end user. Builds are typically done at least once per week and as often as once every 24 hours.

Once the software is built the quality assurance (QA) team begins their series of tests. Programmers typically test their code on a functional level within the module that they are working in. QA does what is called System and Regression Testing.

System testing is a process whereby a series of functions are performed to test their effect on the entire system. To use a DockMaster, rather than just testing if the decimal time function works correctly in time clock entry, a system test may include creating a work order, entering time from time clock, entering time from time card, entering time at the WO and then billing the work order. Once billed the system tester may look at the accounting or journal transactions to make sure they are accurate.

Regression Testing is when test results from the latest release are compared to the results of a previous release. Using our example below, the QA person may run the exact same test on a previous release and then compare the time entries and journal information. These tests are typically automated using test scripts.

A sprint cycles does not necessarily correlate to a release cycle. For instance, there may be 2 or more sprint cycles before a release is produced. For instance, if a sprint is broken down into a one week cycle, a software company may have the following builds:

4.2.62C – Release candidate
4.2.63D – Release candidate

Although there were four builds in 4.2.63, only 4.2.63D was a release candidate and pushed to system testing, then general release once it passes.

By getting the entire company to adhere to this new development methodology we have realized the following benefits:

1. Higher quality which leads to fewer bugs and support calls
2. Better documentation which reduces ambiguity in the product
3. Quicker time to market for new features and enhancements

For further reading on the subject check out:
Controlled-Chaos Software Development
DSDM Consortium
Introduction to Best Software Writing