“Meeting the customer is important because they get to meet the person who will do the work. I tell them why they need the repair, what I will do and how it will benefit them.”
Graves emphasizes that getting to know the customer allows him to treat the boat like his own.
“It makes it easier for me to focus on the repair after putting a name with the face, adding a human side to what’s more than just mechanical,” he says. “It puts everyone at ease because by trusting me, they will be return customers and friends.”
Graves works at the Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Center at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tenn. He is a man that clearly loves his job after four decades and counting. Here are the many reasons why.
How did you get into the trade?
In 1987, I bought a boat, motor and trailer, all of it used, and rigged it myself at the auto repair shop where I worked as a mechanic in Michigan. The boat was a 1978 HydroStream designed for racing, and I spent a lot of time at the local Mercury Marine dealership buying parts. I eventually asked the dealer if they needed a mechanic and got hired that year.
How did you learn to work on outboards?
I got to know the Mercury tech rep that lived in town. He enrolled me in factory training, first for MerCruiser and then Mercury outboards. It was a two-week course and I got my certification.
After becoming certified, how have you kept up with the advancements of outboards?
Since the start, I’ve gone through training every other year. In 1995, I became a Mercury Certified Master Technician. Back in the day, that took 10 years before you were eligible for that level. I got 100% on the Mercury test and only missed three questions on the MerCruiser test. I like to learn. The training also involves choosing courses you want to expand on, advanced courses and diagnostics and keeping up with the technology used in the shop.
What’s changed the most over the years in your job?
Obviously, it’s the technology of the engines but also the diagnostics process. But what really stands out is how much research the customer does before coming into the shop. In the old days, people had to rely on the mechanic. Today, they’ve watched a YouTube video, seeing someone they don’t even know telling them what they need to have done. They come in here expecting that to happen. That is why interacting with the customer is so important to me. If I don’t need that repair on my boat, then I cannot honestly recommend the same for them. Talking to the customer gives me the chance to explain why that might not be needed at all, or what really needs to be done.
Why is it so important for you to meet the customer?
They get a good feeling about the service experience. It is important that I get to know them and earn their trust. For me, it’s more than just reading a repair ticket and making the repair. The next time they come in, I already know them and their motor.
What makes Power Pros different from other boat mechanics?
It’s our factory training. We undergo the recertification that keeps us current with the evolving technology and all the advancements in the products. What else is different is we are more full service than most dealerships. We can really do it all—install fishfinders, trolling motors, marine radios and battery chargers.
What keeps you doing this?
I really like fixing motors. I like interacting with the customers. After so many years, I have turned down offers to be a service manager. That job comes up short with me because I want to do the repairs. I’ve never wanted to do anything else.
What do you most like about your job?
I especially like it when a customer comes in after having had the motor at three different places, and I can say to them this will the last stop that motor makes. I don’t like to give up. The greatest satisfaction comes when I call the customer and tell him I found the problem.
What’s it like working the Pyramid?
(Laughs.) If you would have told me 40 years ago that I would be repairing motors anywhere else beside a mechanic shop, I’d think you were crazy. There is nothing else quite like this place. It’s a destination where people can really get a true outdoors experience before enjoying the real thing for themselves.
Located inside a massive transformed sports arena along the banks of the Mississippi River, the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid is a national travel destination. Visitors can explore an immersive cypress swamp with nearly 600,000 gallons of water features and soaring 100-foot trees. There is a wilderness-themed hotel called Big Cypress Lodge, as well as Uncle Buck’s Fishbowl & Grill—an underwater-themed bowling alley and restaurant—and the Ducks Unlimited National Waterfowling Heritage Center. The Lookout, a restaurant featuring a glass-floored cantilevering observation deck at the top of the 32-story steel Pyramid, is one of many other must-see attractions.
Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Centers are in more than 130 locations nationwide. Power Pros service is available for all brands of boats, as well as Mercury/MerCruiser motors and many ATV and UTV brands.