Flexibility and focus for groups

Organisations with multiple sites are tricky beasts to manage. The general rule is that the bigger the organisation, the more remote the management team. In a highly people-centric business like marinas and harbours, this can be challenging for both head office and satellite sites. Marina people are people-people – we often get into this line of work because we like people, not because we enjoy spreadsheets.

Perversely, the way to set people free to do the good people stuff is to harness the power of IT.

Apples vs pears

Directors and senior managers need to be on top of the numbers and spotting emerging trends, able to benchmark and review sites against key performance indicators in real-time. KPIs often include activities such as occupancy, units sold, income, debtor-days, customer retention, sales leads, maintenance and repairs.

Each location or profit centre must capture and report on data in the same way, so that the information is consistent. It is too easy for silos to develop – ‘this is how we do it here’.  But the numbers are skewed if, for example, one marina includes visitors in occupancy while others don’t. You can’t compare apples with pears.

Consistency is delivered when all sites are following the same workflows – capturing the same data at the same points in the process.  If the data resides in a central database with each site’s data individually identified, real-time reporting and KPI tracking become possible.

Access to information

Some groups don’t like their marina managers to have access to data on sister marinas – they’d prefer the information to be fed downwards through formal reporting.

While this kind of command-and-control style can be useful in maintaining focus, it can also drive the creation of silo mentality and competition instead of collaboration. Informal internal benchmarking supports managers to understand how to flex their profit centres to meet KPIs.

With all levels and disciplines of management accessing the same pool of information, duplicate systems for maintenance, sales and marketing and staff training can be swept away. Reducing the number of systems in use saves time and money. Not just in the cost of subscriptions, but also by eliminating rekeying of data, reducing the admin burden of report creation and shortening information flows.

The dockmaster, maintenance manager, marina manager and CEO can all access the information they need from the same source.

Going live

The whole point of consistent information is that all staff everywhere have access to the same stuff. The same data, the same history and the same orders. This means all locations going live simultaneously.

This sounds like a huge issue, but it needn’t be. As with everything, success lies in the preparation. Identifying what data to transfer from the legacy system then carefully cleaning and de-duplicating can take weeks or months of effort, but it pays off. There’s no point in migrating duff information.

This is also the time to review processes and workflows, to make the internal changes that will improve customer experience or drive down cost.

All staff need training and time on a demo system so they’re fully familiar and confident for go-live day. This is more than simply learning which button to push, it’s about reappraising and adding value to their roles.

We get every group that chooses Harbour Assist up-and-running on all sites simultaneously – the largest so far is Aquavista with 18 locations. All 18 live on the same day.

Customer experience

Customers are one of the biggest beneficiaries when groups use true multi-site software.  With a central database accessible to all staff, customers can experience the same level of service and staff knowledge at any marina within the group. Especially useful for groups with high visitor/transient volume, or where customers transfer between sites for seasonal berthing contracts or services like boatyard and fuel.

Rather than having to provide contact details and their back story when they move from site to site (something all customers hate), as soon as the dockmaster has a boat name or customer name, the complete history is available. Email communications, disputes, contracts, unpaid invoices and future orders are all visible, along with colleague notes.

Sharing information about customers is essential for negative reasons, as well as positive. If there is a demanding or abusive customer you don’t want to serve in the future, sharing this information with all staff can be difficult, and even breach privacy laws, without a central database.

Simply changing the customer’s account type to ‘blacklist’ or ‘debt recovery’ with relevant notes, provides the background necessary to stop future orders or contract offers.

Multi-site track record

Harbour Assist users with multiple locations under management include:

  • Aquavista (ex-BWML) – 18 marinas with 2,700 berths
  • Boatfolk (merged Dean & Reddyhoff and Quay Marinas) – 11 sites with 4,100 berths
  • Castle Marinas – 10 sites with 2,300 berths
  • Cornwall Council – 7 harbours with over 2000 moorings
  • Lakeland Leisure – 5 marinas with 1,300 berths
  • Thanet Council – 700-berth marina plus 3 harbours
  • The Marine Group – 5 marinas with 1,000 berths
  • Torbay Council – 3 harbours with 500 moorings

How can we help your business?

If you’d like to talk about how Harbour Assist can help your multi-site group operate more effectively,  email Nick direct [email protected]