I’ve only spoken to Bing Fishman once. It was January 2003, and I was at the New York Boat Show, interviewing show organizers and exhibitors about the event. While I knew what to do and how to do it by that point in my career, it still gave me butterflies to walk up to an exhibitor I had never met before and start a conversation.
By the afternoon, I had a handful of interviews under my belt, but my cheeks continued to burn from the two sales guys who had given me a hard time while I was waiting for their boss to finish up with a customer.
It was a relief, then, when I walked into what would be my last booth of the day only to be greeted with a smile by a gentleman who introduced himself as Bing Fishman. Not only did Bing answer all my questions, but he also took the time to give me an education about boat show strategy and the Grady-White brand.
While I haven’t seen or spoken to Bing in the almost seven years since, I still have his business card and I still remember the kindness and respect with which he treated me. I’ve had several opportunities to leave the boating business over the course of my career, but at the end of the day, what keeps me in this industry are people like Bing, people with a passion for boating who want nothing more than to share it with others.
So, when Don MacKenzie of Boats Inc. mentioned to me that Bing was retiring and told me the story of his long association with the Grady-White manufacturer’s rep, I wanted to share it. In my estimation, we can all learn something from Bing’s career – and many of us probably have. Here is Don’s tribute to Bing Fishman’s career at Grady-White.
“On May 28, 2009, Microsoft officially announced at the D7 conference in California that Bing would be unveiled as the company’s new search engine. Microsoft said it had designed Bing as a ‘decision engine’ to help people search the Web more intelligently, obtaining relevant results and to simplify everyday tasks faster.
For those of us in the industry, especially the Grady-White dealer network, Bing has already been there doing much more than that since 1967 and with over 40 continuous years with only one company, this past August Bing Fishman announced his retirement as the senior manufacturer’s rep from Grady-White boats.
After college, Bing joined Grady-White in 1967, one year prior to Eddie Smith’s arrival. Although heavily courted by another major boat manufacturer from the Boston region, Mr. Smith shared with Bing that in time, Grady-White would be where he wanted to hang his hat. Eddie convinced Bing to stay with the little company manufacturing boats out of a converted tobacco barn in Greenville, North Carolina, and the rest is history.
Mr. Smith knew Bing was the right person to develop a strong dealer network in New England, and from the results, Smith’s hunch was a good one. As Bing put his trust in Mr. Smith, Bing knew he had to get the same trust from his dealer network and today Grady-White has undoubtedly one of the finest dealer networks in any industry.
Quotes Fishman, ‘It’s not about the sale, it’s about trust and customer service. It’s about the relationship established with the dealer and their customers, they were indeed family. The sales would come once they saw the commitment from everyone involved.’
I have had the pleasure of knowing Bing Fishman for over 20 years and when we think of Grady-White, it’s hard not to think of Bing. There are those manufacturer’s reps that are many times just departing from representing one brand that are quickly scooped up to handle another brand in an unfamiliar territory. They learn the product they are about to represent sitting in the middle seat of a USAir flight flipping through the company brochure on their way to their new assigned territory. Probably an exaggeration, but we all know the type I am talking about.
Then, there are those reps … correct that. Then, there is Bing Fishman. I am pretty sure if you ask throughout the industry, whether it be a manufacturer, a dealer, or more importantly, our customers whom they felt was the consummate manufacturer’s rep, the answer has to be Bing.
During my tenure, Bing has never missed a show, an owner’s forum, a tournament or an Open House. At the shows, he was our best salesperson. He was our best customer service rep. He was our most knowledgeable staff member. More importantly, those coming into the booth knew who he was and were thrilled to spend a few minutes with the guy from the factory. With every contract signing, he would take the time to chat with the customers and would always present his card and say, ‘My dealer will take wonderful care of you, but if you ever need anything at all, please call me.’ On several occasions, the customers have needed to dial his number, and over the years, he was Grady-White. Never a year has gone by when a customer hasn’t called and said, ‘I was speaking to the Grady White man at the show and he told me …’
Bing loves his family, his dealers and his company as they seldom let him down because he seldom let us down. Although he is way overdue to enjoy sometime to himself, his calls, visits, jokes and friendship will be missed by all of his dealers and customers.’”