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Wisdom of the Herd

By By Tom Kaiser

When running a business – or even a department within a business – how much do you go your own way versus taking into account the wisdom of the herd? It’s a tough decision. While many trainers in the marine industry are quick to stress that not every solution will work for every business, there is some value in seriously considering how others are meeting the challenges of running a marine operation.

A fairly recent news profile of the Sears-K-Mart illustrates this conundrum in stark terms. “At Sears, Eddie Lampert’s Warring Divisions Model Adds to the Troubles”  is a fascinating read. While Sears Holdings is a sprawling empire with many diverse divisions – retail, online, Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools, etc… - the company’s unusual CEO, Eddie Lampert, made the decision to divide the company’s 30 business units into almost completely separate operations.

According to the article, and the testimony of many current and former staffers, the six-year experiment has failed as Sears and its many components have continued to bleed money. They’ve also ended up in bitter competition with themselves, all to the detriment of the company that continues its financial hemmoraging.

In the marine industry, there are many opportunities to do things in a unique way – from how you choose to compensate your technicians, handle vacation time, what benefits to offer, how management is structured and many more.

Of course, every business is unique with its own challenges and opportunities, but there is wisdom in the herd. Our industry has weathered tough times, and the survivors are almost exclusively here due to a series of smart and difficult decisions.

If your business deviates from others in a significant way – and I’ve had many proudly proclaim this in interviews for Boating Industry, that doesn’t mean you should change your ways to fit in. What it does mean, though, is that you should strongly weigh the decision to venture out alone. Look at KPIs from other businesses, talk to other managers and owners in a similar position, and make sure that the decisions you’re making are the right ones – and not just because you came up with them.

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