If you’re not paying close attention, there is some news in our line-up today that could sneak by you without giving it much of a second thought. But I want to call your attention to it because of the potential that it represents: The Marine Retailers Association of America has created the Young Leaders Advisory Council.
Now, on the surface, this may seem like just another committee. And it would be fair to ask why this industry, which is shrinking in size by the day, needs yet another committee. But I think there’s a lot more potential to this than may first meet the eye.
Let’s be honest here, our industry’s leaders aren’t getting any younger. Many of the vocal participants of our dealer body have been the same vocal participants of our dealer body for the last 10, 15, 20-plus years. We need an injection of young minds in our dealer association, and what’s more, we need those young minds to have influence on our future as an industry.
Many of this new committee’s members echo names of some of our current leaders, the next generation of families like Hebert, Lodder, Parker, Russo, Smith and Woodard. But there is also newer influence coming into the mix through names like Boyer, Chase, Haradine, Kujawa, McKee and Poole. The organization even asked for applications from outside of the marine dealer body, to gain additional perspectives, and Boating Industry’s own Liz Walz made the cut.
No matter their family names, their backgrounds, their paths to this committee, their individual business success stories or even their aspirations for this new calling, the challenge ahead of them is this: The Young Leaders Advisory Council can go down in the history of the marine industry as just another committee that came and went, or it can truly help shape the future of this industry.
That may seem overly dramatic, but it’s true. There’s a lot about this industry that has become stale. There has been little excitement in the industry for years. And while it’s not all on the shoulders of this committee to change that, this industry should look to it to infuse a new line of thinking — at the dealer level at the very least. These people represent the next generation, and they’re already earning their stripes through numerous forward-thinking strategies they’ve brought to their own businesses.
Spreading that type of thinking throughout an industry, however, is a different ballgame. And it will be a challenge to make that happen. But the pressure shouldn’t lie on their shoulders alone. The pressure is on the MRAA to foster change through this group, to listen to their ideas rather than writing them off as “not the way we do things.” It’s on dealers throughout the industry to watch and learn as change happens, to hold the dealer association’s feet to the fire in an expectation of change, and not just turn a blind eye to the only association that furthers your interests. And it’s on us as the industry at large to hold this committee, and the dealer body in general, to an expectation of progress.
As these extremely difficult economic times draw to a close, we need new leadership to emerge for the health of our future. We need better ways of partnering for a stronger industry, and we need efforts of this kind to succeed in order for that to happen. It’s on all of us to ensure that it does.