Between seeing his almost-daily Facebook posts congratulating clients who recently financed their new or used performance boat, fishing boat, pontoon boat, wake/ski boat, RV or aircraft through Hamilton Marine Finance and my recent conversations with him about his personal project boat, a Formula Boats 353 FAS3Tech that last week he informed me he no longer owns, and my own new build (more on that in the future), Georgia native Jody Hamilton has been insanely busy. So busy, in fact, that he’s recently taken on a full-time assistant to help with follow up, writing new deals, marketing and more for his Buford, Ga.-based company.
Hamilton Marine Finance helps boaters get the funds needed to purchase boats ranging from Cigarette Racing Team luxury performance center consoles to more-affordable pontoon-, fishing- and wakeboard-style boats. Photo courtesy Cigarette Racing Team
On top of the grind of a business that is up three-fold from just a couple of years ago, Hamilton and his fiancé, Georgia, have four boys at home between them—ages 9 through 14. If that doesn’t sound busy, I don’t know what is.
But back to the business at hand. Last week, I caught up with Hamilton and his friend—and now colleague—Ian Layton, who is originally from Utah, to find out how 2021 has been treating them so far.
“We’ve been very fortunate over the past year,” said Hamilton, who added that it’s nice to see such growth after pouring his blood, sweat and tears into building the business for the past 12 years. He also thanked Georgia for her continued support. “I don’t want this to sound bad because I know not everyone has been as fortunate as we have been during the pandemic, but COVID and the social distancing it prompted led everyone to start buying boats. That’s driven the business to where it is now. We funded 70 loans through mid-March this year. In 2018 we funded 72 loans; last year we closed 179.”
Hamilton, who offers financing through Diverse Offerings Finance, is proud to have developed relationships with an extensive group of manufacturer representatives over the years. Whether that’s Randy and Cherell Scism who own MTI, Skater Powerboats national sales manager Tony Cutsuries, Eliminator Boats president Jake Fraleigh or Tony Chiaramonte, one of the owners of DCB Performance Boats, Hamilton considers them all friends. He said he’s cultivated those connections—and many others—by providing the best, most-direct customer service possible for clients looking to secure finance for big-ticket items.
Jody Hamilton, left, is happy to have his new associate Ian Layton on board as part of the Hamilton Marine Finance team.
“During an average week, we get at least 25 applications, but there have been days where we’ve had 20 to 25 applications come through,” said Hamilton, who also specializes in tax situation options, which can be very helpful particularly for those purchasing their first bigger-ticket recreational vehicle. “Our goal is to get financing wrapped up in three to five days. Not everything goes through, but we know if something is way off the mark. I’d estimate less than 5 percent of the deals we write are not accepted. We don’t do any pre-qualifications—everything is collateral driven. It’s not like we can submit a blind application.
“I’m excited about where this business is headed, especially now that I have Ian on board,” he continued. “I’ve known him for more than six years and asked him to walk away from his service writer job at an automotive shop to join me because I knew how customer-oriented and professional he is. And so far so good. He’s being trained to be a closing coordinator and he’s really helped me bridge the gap as business has increased.”
Along with getting a better grasp of the business, Layton, who has a graphic design degree, is working with Bryan Wills and the team at One Inch Punch on a new website, which is expected to be live by the end of April. He said it will include company information, necessary application submission details and rate updates, plus a customer boat showcase, a news section and more.
“Our goal is to provide as much useful information on there as we can,” said Layton, who plans to have a page letting people know where they can meet up with the Hamilton Marine Finance team at a boat show or a poker run. “We want to make sure people know to call Hamilton for their financing needs. By making ourselves available at any time and attending events across the country, we’re keeping our clients happy and continuing to get the name out there. I love the boating culture and this whole environment. The industry is so interesting—I’ve already met a lot of cool people.”
Early next month, Layton and Hamilton are going to be spending a few weeks in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., as they’re planning to attend the Lake Havasu Boat Show (April 9-11) and be on hand for Super Cat Fest West and the Desert Storm Poker Run over the following two weeks. So if you happen to run into Hamilton, ask him how his Bayliner project boat is coming along.
Hamilton said he has several more events on his tentative calendar, including the Pirates of Lanier Poker Run on his home lake, the Lake Murray Charity Run in South Carolina, the Emerald Coast Powerboat Poker Run in Florida, the LEOPA Thunderfest in Ohio and the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Missouri.
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