At the start of Dealer Week 2019 — otherwise known as the first Dealer Week ever — I stood on stage and walked through a list of new things we had planned for the event. Some of the changes were small, some were fairly large, but all of them were things we hadn't done at any of our previous conferences. And in their own way, they were all risks.
The MRAA has hosted conferences for decades, and to be honest what we had been doing was not broken. The events we hosted in recent years were successful. The reviews afterward were strong. We could have easily kept doing what we had been doing indefinitely.
The thing is, we thought we could do better. When we looked at our mission — to fuel the success of dealers — we thought there were ways to increase our impact. So we decided to take a leap of faith and change things up.
We built a new brand, and the Charlie flag in its logo symbolizes a "change of course." If you followed any of the articles we wrote before the event, or if you were present at Dealer Week, you know about the many changes we implemented. We moved to Tampa. We switched up the schedule. We added a Field Trip. We created the role of "Education Host." We invented things like "10x10s" and "Education Pathways" that no one had heard of. We planned a party and hoped people would show up.
We were messing with things people loved, and we were straying from a proven formula. And now that we're done we've received a loud and clear response: It worked.
Thank you to everyone who supported the experiment called Dealer Week. Our Certification Program preaches the importance of “continuous improvement,” and for us that means we aren’t done taking risks. As we look ahead to Dealer Week 2020 in Austin, Texas, we aren’t satisfied yet. Expect more new initiatives, more departures from the formula, more change. And also, we hope, the most impactful event for marine dealers yet.
Director of Education