Monday, May 31, 2021

Growing Hamlin's Marine...The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly


Hamlin's Marine was founded in Waterville thirty-seven years ago by David and Christine Hamlin with a couple of employees.   In 2004, my wife Katie and I joined the family business.  By that time, David and Christine had created a thriving boat sales, service, and storage operation with twenty year-round employees.  

Katie and I were just married.  I'd left a brief international business career in Russia and a lucrative sales job to enter the world of small business and boating.  To me it sounded fun and maybe a little...easy.

Come on, how difficult is a job that requires selling toys and fun in the sun?

Easy was the furthest from the truth.  Keeping up with my In-Laws took everything I could muster.  No more cushy offices, lavish expenses; there was no shelter from our employees or our demanding customer base.  

Selling boats isn't the problem.  Taking candy from a baby can be harder than selling a boat right now.  Hamlin's was and is a boat sales machine.

The problem lies in servicing, repairing, cleaning, and storing the thousands of boats we've sold.

Providing exceptional service requires obtaining and retaining bright and motivated employees.  Not only that, but Hamlin's Marine has to constantly re-invest in equipment, buildings, and maintenance to keep up with the demand.

After the virus hit, we were shut down like many businesses; we feared losing it all.  As fate would have it, Hamlin's survived.  

And survive we did!  We've been red-lining boat sales for almost a year straight.  Hell, we sold a boat on New Year's Eve!

Hamlin's Marine has been hiring, training, upgrading, and spending like crazy to prepare for supersonic growth.

So, here Hamlin's stands in 2021 with over fifty full-time employees.  There are now three locations in Hampden, Waterville, and Belfast.  

The litmus test for our reputation for service is how we perform during the week before Memorial Day.  Hamlin's affectionately has coined this period Hell Week.  

This being my sixteenth Hell Week is the one I'll remember when I'm at the retirement home and too old to care.  Boy did we have our work cut out for us!  

The Waterville location broke the record for out of storage and new boat deliveries.  Over 150 boats were picked up or delivered to camps around the state in one week!

I stayed put in Hampden at the service yard.  The virus shutdown helped to create a bloodbath of turnover last year in Hampden.  2021 was the first season for the majority of our team in Hampden.  I am very proud of this team for pulling together to survive Hell Week.  Our staff in Hampden averaged fourteen hour days over the last couple weeks to attempt to meet demand.  

Unfortunately, we did disappoint a few customers.  We took some lumps on social media and saw a few bad reviews.  Katie and I take these attacks personally.  Our employees all read the comments and feel the pain as well.  Bad reviews and social media attacks provide the fuel we need to come in earlier, work harder, and grow to meet demand.

After a couple days of reflection, Hamlin's Marine will be back at it again.  We do it for the love of providing happiness and joy to our customers who get to be out on the water.  That is the only thing that  makes it all Easy!