I offended a dealer in one of my last magazine columns. This dealer, or former dealer as it may be, recounted the unprecedented conditions of the economy and, more specifically, the marine industry when he outlined how his business has succumbed to external pressures. He noted the drought boaters and businesses face in his home state of Georgia; $4-a-gallon gas; the housing bubble that burst; banks that won't lend (and severe interest rate hikes by those who remain), and the ever-present doom and gloom found throughout politics and media as a culmination of forces that his business could not withstand. This, despite focus his business on providing value and customer service and reinvesting more than $1 million into his business in recent years.
His note was far less a complaint over my written words -- "Today, many of those weaker, unprofessional dealers have closed their doors." -- than it was an acknowledgment of his reality: "there has never been a time like this that I can recall in my 38 years in the marine business."
But his message back to my response hit home. He said simply that we should pose this question to our readership: "If you could start a new business today, would you open a boat dealership?"
I'd like to take that even a step further: "...and if so, what would your business plan look like today vs. what it may have been five years ago?" We'd love to hear your thoughts on that.