CONTI Evolution in the Media

Building Connections Interview Series: Alan Stovell, Western Marine Company

Colby Harder - Friday, April 17, 2015


As part of our ongoing Building Connections Interview Series, I recently had the privilege to sit down and interview Alan Stovell, of Western Marine Company.   Western Marine Company is a distributor of marine parts and accessories serving wholesale customers throughout Canada. Western Marine carries an extensive inventory of over 35,000 items from more than 350 manufacturers around the world, and supply to customers in both the commercial and recreational marine sectors.



CONTI Evolution engaged with Western Marine to develop a remote conferencing solution that could better connect the company's sales team across the nation, and drive more consistent and productive sales meetings with their team.    We designed and installed a multi-display video conferencing system in the Vancouver head office, complete with Crestron digital media signal management and control automation.  We then integrated a software based video conferencing solution that connects various remote users and the corporate offices in Vancouver, and Barrie. 





Here is my recent interview with Alan Stovell, Vice President & Managing Partners at Western Marine Company. 



Q. Alan, thanks for taking the time for this interview.  Tell our readers, what is Western Marine?


A. - Western Marine is a wholesale distributor of marine equipment to the recreational and commercial businesses across Canada.



Q. How did you come to be involved with the company, and in the marine supply industry?


A. - In 1984 a company owned by another individual, that shared the same name, went bankrupt leaving a very big hole in the western Canadian supply chain. My partners and I purchased some of the assets and started a new company in March of 1985.  



Q.  Congratulations on your 30th Anniversary this year - What makes you unique in your industry?


A - We have some very important product lines that are exclusive to our company but what really sets us apart is our commitment to customer service at every level.  We live it every hour of every day and we have done for 30 years.



Q. I know you've got customers right across Canada - tell me more about your typical customers?


A - Our customers are Boat and accessory dealers, commercial marine operators, boatyards, boat builders, repair shops and commercial fishermen.



Q. Tell our readers a little more about your sales team and how they support your customers?


A. - We have an outside sales team of nine covering much of Canada and an inside sales staff of close to twenty.  Key customers receive regular visits by our outside staff.  Inside, our order desk is open during extended business hours. Our B to B website is very powerful and available 22 hours a day, every day. 


Q. What challenges do you have managing a widely dispersed and remote sale team?


A. - Effective and timely communication is of course very important but the real challenge for us is training. Keeping all our sales staff properly equipped to help and advise customers on technical products requires a lot of effort, particularly those that do not work out of our Vancouver office.



Q. How was CONTI Evolution able to help you communicate more effectively with your team?


A. - Two years ago we took the plunge and installed a top quality video conference system. This provides a high definition connection between our conference room in Vancouver and our subsidiary office/warehouse in Barrie, Ontario



Western Marine's HD Video Conference Room in Vancouver



Q. What have the results been of your conferencing strategy with your team?


A. - Our objective was not to save money on travel but rather to meet much more regularly in a high quality manner. We now hold weekly sales meetings and weekly management meetings as well as a multitude of other conference calls. The system allows for remote access so that we can include salesmen who are travelling to connect and never miss a meeting.  We are now experimenting with training seminars that can be recorded as they occur and archived for future use.



Q. What made CONTI Evolution such a good fit for your organization?


A. - I was aware of Conti and their long standing place in the Vancouver business community.  A fast response to our inquiry and a quick understanding of our needs.



Q. What trends do you see in the marine industry that will affect your customers?


A. - End users, generally our customer’s customer, are far better informed than ever before. They generally have the power of the web at hand and as a result they know a lot more about what they want.  We have to keep our customers right up to date with the knowledge and skill to make the sale.



Thank you Alan for taking the time to sit down and share more about your business. 


If you'd like more information on Western Marine Company, you can find them online at www.westernmarine.com




Colby Harder is an entrepreneur, blogger, and the President of CONTI Evolution, an audio video advisory services firm develops audio video solutions for corporate meeting spaces, spaces of learning and restaurants and retail across North America.  Their work can be found in the world's leading businesses and brands including Earls Restaurants, SilverBirch Hotels, SAP, Nordstrom, Western Marine, and hundreds of regional and local innovators.