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A changing industry

By Bill Yeargin

The boating industry is on the edge of dramatic change. In fact, in the next 10 to 15 years our industry will experience more change than at any other time in its history. Some trends that will transform our industry include:

  • New leadership – the boating industry has enjoyed consistent leadership for decades but we are now on the edge of generational change like none our industry has ever experienced. For proof of this, look around at any event that includes the industry’s key leaders and influencers. Many of the industry’s key leaders tell me they are planning for the end of their careers and I am frequently approached by industry business owners who are looking for a path to sell their company. The millennials will soon be running our industry.
  • Workers – Our industry (and the U.S.) will experience a severe shortage of workers. At a meeting last October that included about 20 of our industry’s leading CEOs we each shared our biggest challenge and nearly every one of the leaders said it was finding good people. With baby boomers retiring at the rate of 10,000 per day this problem is only going to get worse. Our industry needs to both develop future workers and introduce students to marine manufacturing. And on a national level, we need a good immigration policy that allows workers to come into our country.
  • Global trade – The world economy is exploding and almost all of the growth is outside the U.S. Power is shifting to Asia where over 50 percent of the world’s people live. I have had the opportunity to visit over 100 countries and can vouch for the fact that there is a tremendous amount of wealth being generated around the world. Many in the U.S. don’t like the idea of globalization because to them it means a decrease in U.S. influence; however, globalization is not a zero sum game. 95 percent of consumers are outside the U.S. so the rise of other countries expands the economic pie which benefits everyone. Globalization is inevitable and fear of it will cause us to take defensive actions that actually hurt us. Instead we need to position ourselves to benefit from this growing economic pie by developing a global mindset.
  • Global competition – Globalization will provide opportunities but it will also provide more competition. Much (not all) of the boating industry primarily competes against other U.S. companies but that is going to change. I visited one Asian country where its leaders told me directly that their country was investing to develop its recreational boating industry. Their first products may not meet our standards but the global competitors will eventually figure out how to compete and be a force.
  • Photovoltaic energy – The upcoming change in energy technology is also going to dramatically change our world and industry. I remember being a kid when Jimmy Carter got us all thinking about alternative energy and it seemed like a dream. However, we are now on the verge of dramatic transformational energy changes. Photovoltaic (solar) is going to alter our world in a big way.
  • Technological innovation – We will see more technological change in the next 15 years than we have for all of history up to now. Artificial intelligence, biometrics, nanotechnology, robotics, 3D printing, and the internet of things are going to transform our world in unimaginable ways. These developments will produce lots of good but it will also be hugely disruptive. It will change everything we do and inevitably will cause some well-known companies in our industry, who are unable to react, to go out of business. Other new companies we cannot now predict will become important industry players
  • A new face on our country – Today’s birthrates foreshadow a significant change in the future demographics of our country. Hispanics will one day become the majority people group and millennials will soon be moving into a high percentage of political and business leadership roles. We are not currently a diverse industry but that needs to change, and fast. We need to demonstrate that boating is fun for everyone; it is a great way to spend time with friends and family which provides both experiences and improved relationships that are priceless. The country is changing and unless our industry is willing to look ahead and prepare for a different tomorrow we will pay a big price.

This week in Chicago many of our industry’s leaders will be meeting to discuss how we can grow our industry. I look forward to our discussions and hope over time we can also prepare for significant transformational changes coming our way. The world and our industry may be changing but those changes can provide us an opportunity to ensure our best days are still ahead.

As my youngest daughter would say “Let’s not allow our memories to be bigger than our dreams!”

Bill Yeargin is the president and CEO of Correct Craft.

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