Debbie Meigs, senior customer service representative for Cobalt Boats, was named the 27th recipient of the Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year award at the 2012 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, held November 11-14 in Orlando, Fla.
Meigs is in her 38th year at Cobalt Boats, a tenure that began after she answered a newspaper ad by Cobalt calling for a secretary. At the time, Meigs was a recent high school graduate with no history in the marine industry.
Today, Meigs is a customer service veteran with Cobalt, a role she has honed in her years with the fiberglass boat manufacturer that included time as a regional sales manager and sales coordinator.
Below are her words on her career and the boating business she has grown to love.
First hired on as a secretary to founder Pack St. Clair, what was your first introduction to the customer service side of the business?
Meigs: I moved to the newly formed customer service department in 1976, and from there I learned everything. Not being a boater in my childhood, I learned a lot from processing warranty claims, processing part orders and from the customer service manager at the time.
Why do you think customer service was a good fit for you within the marine industry?
Meigs: Building my career and personal growth was very important to me, so I wanted to get involved and learn more about something I truly enjoyed doing, which at the top of the list, was customer satisfaction. And you quickly learn the importance of what we do every day because, without providing good customer service in this industry, we won’t be able to keep that family of boaters on the water.
How do you feel the marine industry has evolved for women over your career?
Meigs: I think women are a lot more active in the marine industry now; their voice is being heard. And it is not necessarily due to more women owning businesses or more are in higher positions, it is the respect we are given due to the job and role we play in the industry that challenges us to be more involved.
I really noticed it recently at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, there were a lot of women serving on boards and carrying a large voice in what happens in the marine industry, and that makes me feel proud. There are more women making a difference today than there were even 10 years ago.
What contributions do you feel you were able to make in your advancement of women in the marine industry?
Meigs: I do not think there was any one contribution. The best part of my involvement is the networking. I have mentored and developed relationships with some wonderful women over the years – we have learned from each other, which promotes growth in all of us.
What changes would you like to see in the future for women in the marine industry?
Meigs: There are so many more opportunities for women now than there were 30-plus years ago, but I would like to see the full potential of women recognized in leadership roles in more areas of the boating industry. Women are buying boats, owners of marine businesses, and managing boating manufacturing companies – this list could be endless.