For many of us, 2009 may not seem like that long ago, but for Capt. Kerry Kline – owner and head captain of Sea Tow Central Florida Lakes – much has changed since he first took the helm ten years ago this month.
In the years since, Capt. Kerry has transformed his Central Florida franchise from a small operation serving around 240 members into the largest geographical service area of any Sea Tow franchise across the country, serving 8,000-square-miles.
“When I first took over, when we received a call, we had to write down all of the customers’ information – their name, member number, boat, coordinates – the whole nine yards,” Capt. Kerry reminisced. “Then, we had to relay that same information to the dispatched captain via phone or radio, where they would then have to take everything down manually before heading out to a call. Now, with all this new technology we have at our fingertips, all that data is sent straight to the captain’s iPad, saving valuable time and streamlining the whole operation.”
That updated, streamlined approach to handling and dispatching calls has improved wait times and overall efficiency for franchises all over the country, but it’s had an especially profound impact on Capt. Kerry’s inland operation, which serves more than 2,000 lakes, rivers and streams all throughout Central Florida.
“When you’re off-shore, there’s an extra feeling of danger there when you’re broken down and you can’t see land, but on lakes and rivers, many time boaters see a break down as more of an inconvenience, taking precious time away from family outing or a nice, relaxing day out on the water,” Capt. Kerry remarked. “That’s why response time is even more important for our captains. Efficiency is key.”
These days, Capt. Kerry has a network of nine trailered boats strategically placed throughout his service area and a group of more than a dozen captains ready to jump into action as soon as a call comes through.
“Before we started, there was no one there to service boaters all throughout Central Florida,” he added. “When someone ran out of fuel or broke down, local law enforcement were the only ones there, and that’s not really their job. These days, we can reach just about anyone on any of these local bodies of water within the hour, no matter where you are.”
So, what does Capt. Kerry do with all that saved time and manpower?
“We spend a lot of time educating our members through newsletters and events we hold, preaching the importance of boat maintenance, safety and other topics,” he said. “While we may make our business on being there when things go wrong, we want each and every boater to have the most enjoyable time possible when they’re out on the water with their friends and family.“After all,” Capt. Kerry concluded, “that’s what it’s all about.”