Create a sense of urgency

By Ann Medford, director of corporate communications, Sea Tow

One of the biggest issues I think we, as executives within the boating industry, face is the speed in which decisions are made.

I came to this industry fresh out of the financial PR world, where nearly every deadline was on or before the 4:00 closing bell and where deals or transactions were completed in days, rather than months – or even years – which is what I’ve seen happen, repeatedly, in this industry.

While my colleagues often tease me about being a T-1 line in a dial-up world, the one aspect of my “prior life” that I’m most proud of being able to instill in my team is a sense of urgency. Whether we’re responding to reporters’ requests, negotiating contracts, meeting ad deadlines or brokering new business alliances, we run our team as if every (possible) deadline is at the closing bell. When an opportunity comes across the desk (or should I say deck?), our team is trained to ask the compelling questions up front to identify whether or not it seems to fit our strategic goals. Then we make a top line assessment of how the relationship with the potential alliance will affect our own work environment and identify the ease in which the opportunity would fit into our current business structure.

This may sound over-simplified to some but, let’s face it, most of us know within a 20 minute conversation whether a deal is feasible, do-able and attractive. We also know whether it will positively affect our bottom line and result in a strong (and enjoyable) working relationship. If it doesn’t feel right at the onset, there’s no real need to string conversations along, which many of us (present company included) are guilty of from time to time; be it out of politeness or, as is more the case for me, lack of time to think through, and process, the mechanics of how the transaction, relationship or alliance would work.

Our team works very hard not to waste time, be it our own, or the time of those who are courting us for potential deals or relationships. I suppose, if I remember correctly, it’s not dissimilar to the dating days. You pretty much know after the first date if the relationship has any potential. If it does, run with it. Life’s too short not to work with people you like – and this industry, perhaps more than any other industry I’ve worked with, is chock full of very likeable people.

We schedule every possible deliverable ahead of when it’s due, so we make a habit of surprising on the upside. In the off-chance we can’t meet the deadlines, we continuously inform the person(s) on the requesting end of our progress, so they know their needs are our own. We also train our staff to go out of their way to help whoever comes to us. If it’s a reporter who would be better served by speaking with someone other than us, even if it’s a competitor, it’s more important for us to give our contact what they need than to try to convince them we have what they want. It’s a practice that has paid off for us in spades, because now we are viewed as the “go-to girls”, and that certainly makes it easier for us when we have to phone a friend for help ourselves.

For what it’s worth, I’ve always been predisposed to hiring people who have (successfully) waited tables at some point in their life. They have a tendency to be multi-taskers, able to handle stress and volume, and appreciate, themselves, the value of good service.

This contribution is one in a series of solutions to the industry’s challenges as offered by female boating business professionals for the March 2008 issue of Boating Industry magazine. To view the article, Leading the way, including links to the entire list of solutions, click here.

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