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Entries in 2016 (3)



This article, by Carl Wolf, was published in Marina Dock Age –  May/June 2016

The first impression your marina makes will set the tone for a possible future relationship for a new customer. When a potential customer stops by your marina, you’ve already achieved a significant marketing victory.  A first impression can be what a person views as their car pulls in to the marina’s parking lot or as they enter your marina by boat.  But it can include a lot more. Everything that a person sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes, could possibly be creating that first impression, which can be a lasting impression.  Put yourself in the position of a first time customer visiting your marina.  What do you expect when you arrive?

Take a Marina Tour

You, as the customer, enter the marina parking area and you notice the property is inviting with professional signage; landscaping that is being maintained, and lawns and flower beds that are edged and weed free; the property has been policed for litter, and the trash cans are not overflowing. The parking lot, curbs and sidewalks are swept, litter free and maintained.

As a customer visiting the marina by boat, you observe that the marina’s exterior and signage are welcoming, and the entrance is well marked and maintained. Inside the marina, you can feel the calm waters, compared to the wave action outside the marina.  The fuel dock is inviting, clean, well-maintained and staffed with courteous uniformed employees. The waters within the marina are free of litter. The docks are tidy with coiled lines, washed down decks, cleaned and maintained power pedestals, and wood (decking, uprights and fender boards) that is solid, and hose bibbs that are drip-free.   

As you enter the marina building to visit the dockmaster’s office, you notice that the building is well maintained, was recently painted, and the grounds are free from trash. The windows are clean, the floor has been recently waxed, and the brochure rack is organized and clutter free. Walking through the store aisles, the displays are clean, professionally organized, dusted and stocked with new inventory.  The counter is open, with minimal obstructions and arranged in an orderly fashion. The uniformed marina employee is courteous, informative and responsive to your inquiries. When offered, you accept a fresh cup of coffee from a separate counter that is clean, with milk that hasn’t expired. 

While the employee summons the dockmaster, another employee is competently replying to a boater’s inquiry over the marine radio. Listening to the marine radio, it’s quite apparent that this employee is aware that her voice is being publicly broadcasted over many miles and heard by many boaters. Her voice is one of confidence and professionalism.

After being contacted by the counter employee, the dockmaster greets you with a firm hand shake and escorts you into her office. The dockmaster’s office is professional in appearance, has a relaxing atmosphere, distraction free, comfortable chairs and organized with no loose stacks of paper.

After discussing what the marina has to offer, the dockmaster takes you on a tour of the marina. The restroom and shower facility is clearly maintained on a regular basis, and the facility is clean, has no out-of-order signs on any of the fixtures, clean lavatories/sinks/urinals and showers with no hair plugs on the floor drain or soap melting in the soap dish. The air has great circulation, minimal humidity and smells fresh. The floors are spotless, dry and have no stains under the urinals or lavatories.

As you walk the docks, the decks are firm, lines are neatly coiled, electrical cords are not hanging in the water, and the wood is splinter free. The docks and piers are clutter free of unused boat gear, batteries, bicycles, grills and old dock parts. The floating docks are stable, while the fixed docks are solid and in good repair.

As your tour takes you through the boatyard, you notice the boats are neatly stored and organized on boat stands and cradles. Unused cradles, trailers and boat stands have been removed from the property and stored elsewhere.  The service/parts department reception area is fresh, organized and free of obsolete magazines and newspapers. 

While observing the hoist hauling out a yacht from the water, you notice that the equipment has been recently painted, has new cables, and is quiet and free from oil stains and rust. The technicians and equipment operators are wearing clean, stain-free uniforms, proudly representing their marina. The marina’s vehicles have been recently washed, are free of dents and scratches and parked in assigned parking spaces. The marina’s work boat is free of water and trash in the bilge area, and is waxed and has new lines.

Creating Relationships

You need to invest time and effort into creating an inviting first impression culture. Your marina needs to define, train, test and continually reinforce your staff of the importance of a positive first impression. Create a continued dialogue between management and employees on ways to improve the first impression. It is your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customers. You must view and act accordingly as though each and every impression made to a customer visiting your marina will be their first impression. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.






Preparing for Every Marina Emergency

This article, by Carl Wolf, was published in Marina Dock Age –  March 2016

Since 1976, when I started my career on the waterfront, I’ve encountered numerous emergency events, either first-hand or at the expense of another marina.  The outcome of various marina emergencies depends upon how well the marina was prepared for the emergency.  I’m a firm believer that marinas should be prepared for any type of emergency that may occur within their facilities.

In the 1980’s, at a marina I was managing, an incident happened that opened my eyes to the unusual types of emergencies that can and will happen.  Since we had an appropriate plan in place, the event had a positive outcome.  But it could have ended differently.  On a cold October night, off of the waters of Lake Erie, three individuals had broken into the marina; the night watchman had called the local police and then me.  Two of the individuals were caught, but one was still missing and was presumed to be in the water.  After carefully listening to the night watchman’s general idea of where the person was last seen, and knowing the general construction of the floating docks, I had an idea of where to look.  Using a flashlight, I started walking down the floating pier.  After walking about 50 feet and looking through the cracks between the deck boards, I saw fingers.  The person was still in the water and shaking uncontrollably because of the cold water temperatures.  After alerting the first responders at the marina, we were able to pull the person out of the water.  Had the night watchman not called the police department and myself, the outcome could have been so different, and the individual pulled from the water was a minor.

Why is it important to have an emergency preparedness plan?  Two primary reasons.  First, you want to maximize the safety for your customers, employees, visitors, the marina and the environment. Second, an emergency plan can help minimize the disruption to the marina’s business.  To form a plan, your marina needs to evaluate the potential emergencies it may face, based upon historical events, the geographical location of the marina, and the physical and the makeup of the marina.

Some potential emergencies that could face your marina are: fires; first aid/medical; persons in the water/drownings; boat sinking; spills; hurricanes/storm surges; tornadoes/wind storms; moving ice/heavy snow; flooding/droughts; earthquakes; and terrorism.  While some emergencies may be spontaneous, such as fires, spills, or persons in the water, others may evolve over a period of time, whether days or weeks, like a hurricane.  The key question to ask of yourself, is your marina prepared?

There are three stages in preparing your marina for potential emergencies.  The planning stage, writing of the plan and training the staff.

Planning Stage

This is where you try to understand the potential impact that an emergency may have on your marina. The impact could affect your customers/employees, the docks, buildings, boats/equipment, and interrupt the operations of the marina.  You need to identify the resources to assist in creating an emergency response plan, such as employees; existing plans; online resources; governmental agencies; and outside commercial help.

It is important to assemble your team for potential emergencies.  The team may vary from one type of emergency to another.  Members of your team could include managers/supervisors; employees; governmental agencies; or external business support.

You need a plan for each and every type of potential emergency that you have identified.  Some of these plans may be redundant in structure, and others will vary greatly.  Parts of your plan can include identifying the team and any preparations that are needed.  Safety issues should be outlined, and the plans for the initial response and the equipment needed, including important contact information and communications.  The plan should have an appropriate follow up response and might address security issues, hazmat and waste handling; employee training, paperwork and filing issues.  Overall, the plan should be designed to minimize business interruption.   


The training for an emergency is the most critical part of your emergency response plan.  The training needs to be continuous for all marina employees and cover each type of event.  Training should include local first responders and other members you have identified in your team.

Parts of the training can involve making sure the necessary equipment is operational and in good running order, such as safety gear; fire equipment; pumps and hoses; lines and tools; generators; vehicles; company boats; boat equipment; the appropriate employee protection and safety gear; first aid supplies; and environmental response supplies.

Your marina has a plan for the various potential emergencies and your employees should be trained for them.  If an event occurs at your marina, be smart and stay calm.  Everyone will be watching, listening and waiting for you.

After the emergency as safety permits, your goal is to start the operations of the marina.  It is your responsibility, your duty, to your employees, your customers, your employer and to the business to be as prepared as you can possibly be.





Capitalizing on Branding for Your Marina

This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dock Age –  January/February 2016

At the recent University of Wisconsin Docks and Marinas Conference held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida I had the opportunity to give a presentation on branding, what it means and how to achieve it.  I chose that topic because it can have either a positive or negative impact on your business.  Let me explain; a brand is simply an identifying label directed towards the public for how you conduct your business.  The purpose for creating a brand is to Increase the public's awareness of your marina’s name and its logo.  How that brand is perceived by the public can change over time and once identified as negative it is difficult and sometimes impossible to change.  To make your business successful, you need to build a strong company "essence" that inspires loyalty and trust in your current customers and provides a level of familiarity and comfort to draw in potential customers.

Your brand is something intangible and is often referred to as the "good will" portion of your business.  Because your brand is nothing physical that you can see or touch we often lose sight of its value but in reality it is the most valuable asset you have when it comes to putting a value on your business especially when it comes to selling your marina or just getting a loan on the business.  Your brand refers to the reputation behind your company's name and logo.  To build that reputation you need more than a logo keeping in mind you operate as part of the service industry.  You need customer service. You should only employ people who can get on board with your brand, and make sure that each person understands his or her part in building it. Once a customer is ignored or treated poorly either in person or over the phone, you've lost not only that person but everyone else that hears about the unfortunate experience. Remember that word-of-mouth can help, but it can also hurt.  This may sound harsh but get rid of employees who won't cooperate--even if they're related to you.

With that said let’s look at some well recognized brands and their logos and how they are perceived by the public keeping in mind a logo is nothing more than the subtle recognition of a symbol, slogan or combination of both identifying your business.

There are a number of brands where a symbol alone identifies who it is.  When you see one of the symbols for Apple or Nike, you know immediately what the corporate names are and their reputation.  All I have to do is show my two year old great grandson the golden arches of McDonald’s and he knows exactly what it represents.  To me these are some of the most well recognized logos out there used to market their products and services.

You may be thinking to yourself these are major corporations with lots of resources and you have very limited resources and need to spend your money wisely.  That is exactly my point.  You are not competing for a global market.  You have a defined target market and using a logo to brand your marina is no different from what these global corporations are attempting to capture.

The question is; how can you go about creating a recognizable logo for your business and get it out to the public when you have limited resources?  There a number of steps to take into consideration when developing a logo for promoting your business, including:

-The most recognizable logos are simple and that can be easily recognized without having to think about who it represents.

-When first introducing a logo to increase awareness of your business it needs to be in conjunction with your name recognition.  McDonald’s is a prime example of using this concept.  The McDonald’s logo was first introduced as the “M” in McDonalds. Now the logo stands on its own.

-A logo should be a single shape, although the size and color may vary based on the application.

-The more a logo is used the more recognizable it becomes.  It should be used on every piece and form of collateral material.

-When designing a logo for your marina, do not be afraid to ask for input from others familiar with your business model.  Often times the best logo designs comes from a blending of ideas as how others perceive you marina.

The most important form of promoting your business today is having a presence on the web. Even if you're target market is local right now, your customers are on the web, and they'll want to see you there.  Having a consistent look and theme will make your logo more recognizable in all other forms of media advertising as well.

You must be vigilant at all times to protect the reputation of your marina. Every contact with the public will either serve to build your brand or dismantle it, and administering damage control can seem like herding cats when something happens to threaten the public's perception of your marina.  Remember what happened to BP after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the recent Takata air bag recall.  Don’t let something like this happen to your brand.