3 Wise Men

George Bellwoar
Bellwoar, the new chairman of the board of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, has served as vice president of marketing for Perko, Inc., a Miami-based manufacturer of marine lights and hardware, for the past nine years. The 52-year-old executive first became involved with the marine industry in the late 70s.
Boating Industry: Congratulations on being selected as NMMA chairman of the board. What would you say is the No. 1 goal in your new position? Why is that goal so important to you?
Bellwoar: Without question, finishing the job of building the consensus needed to implement the Grow Boating Initiative has to be at the top of my list. After nearly 20 years of talking about this, I think we’ve finally turned the corner. We’re no longer saying “if,” we’re saying “how.”
BI: How is NMMA perceived by the industry at large? Are these perceptions fair?
GB: The NMMA has undergone dramatic, positive changes in the last few years. We are listening to our members like never before. As a result, we are building a solid reputation in the industry.
Recent successes, like creating the Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show, working with Professional Boatbuilder to build the successful IBEX show, and taking on the charge of the Grow Boating Initiative, have made a positive impact on the industry and the NMMA’s reputation.
BI: What are NMMA’s strengths and weaknesses?
GB: [NMMA President] Thom Dammrich has put together a great staff. We have an involved Board of Directors. They work closely with staff to guide programs and initiatives, ensuring that the group is serving the needs of its members.
As we sit here today, I don’t see weaknesses, only opportunities for improvement. Our Government Relations program falls in that area. The NMMA does a tremendous job representing the industry on the Hill, but member involvement is critical. More members should be playing an active role in government, whether by attending the annual American Boating Congress (May 1-3, 2005), hosting local congressional leaders at their plant, or donating money to the industry PAC.
BI: How would you evaluate the job your association has done in serving its members and why?
GB: I feel our association is doing an excellent job of serving us. I don’t know whether it was Thom’s leadership, changes in the level and intensity of board involvement, or a synergistic combination of both. But something has changed over the past five years. Our association feels different, and our industry feels different. A sense of teamwork has developed. Individual members, staff, our boards and committees, other marine trade associations and even individual companies are working together like never before.
BI: What are the three biggest challenges the industry as a whole faces today and what should be done to overcome them?
GB: Beside the Grow Boating Initiative, we have to grow the NMMA PAC. Our effectiveness as the industry advocate in Washington and state capitals depends on it. We want to double our PAC to $400,000 in the current two-year election cycle.
Boat shows are the backbone of our financial strength, not just as an association, but also as individual companies. Making boat shows more effective for exhibitors and exciting for consumers helps everyone – boat and engine builders, accessory manufacturers and consumers alike. One of our biggest challenges is to significantly increase quality boat show attendance.
From an accessory manufacturer’s perspective, we must continue to work with our aftermarket and OEM customers to streamline operations and logistics, improve the exchange of data, develop the means to better forecast needs and drive non-value added costs out of the supply chain.
I know you asked for the three biggest challenges, but there is one more of nearly equal significance that has to be on this list. That is access to water. We are in the early planning stages of a major initiative related to access.
BI: What impact do you believe the Grow Boating Initiative will have on our industry?
GB: The Grow Boating Initiative is the future of the industry. Properly executed, we feel that it can and will reverse the stagnation that we have seen in the last several years.
Remember, the Grow Boating initiative is more than just a marketing program. We have recognized that we can’t just market ourselves to prosperity without addressing the underlying issues that have challenged us for a long time. The Grow Boating Initiative is an integrated plan to improve product quality through certification and CSI, and to improve dealer sales and service quality through standards and certification, along with a marketing communications plan grounded in research.
BI: Are there any marine industry topics of discussion we haven’t covered that you would like to address?
GB: Yes. I want to encourage all of our members to get involved with their organization. There are many ways they can do that, from volunteering for committee work, contributing to our PAC, or simply making their opinions known to members of our boards.
Our association welcomes involvement, participation and a diversity of opinions more than ever before. But to move forward on anything, we need consensus. Consensus doesn’t mean that we all agree on everything. Rather, it means that we can all live with and support the group decision. More often than not, it involves intelligent compromises that we are now more willing to make.

Glenn Mazzella
Mazzella, the new chairman of the board of the Marine Retailers Association of America, has worked in the marine industry since 1985. The 42-year-old executive currently owns and operates Glenn Marine Family Boating Centers in Long Island, N.Y., holds 50-percent ownership in Windy Yachts distributor World Wide Yacht Corp. and owns a wholesale manufacturer’s rep firm that sells Campion boats to dealers on the East Coast.
BI: Congratulations on being selected as MRAA chairman. What would you say is the No. 1 goal in your new position? Why is that goal so important to you?
GM: My goal is to not lose momentum as we strengthen the MRAA through membership and benefits for our dealers. As your readers know, the MRAA has never played a more significant role with reference to the landscape for future business. The Grow Boating Initiative, relationships between builders and dealers, and long-range planning for MRAA are chief among the subtopics that I will structure around this goal.
BI: How is MRAA perceived by the industry at large? Are these perceptions fair?
GM: For dealers who are already MRAA members, I believe the perception is very good. Unfortunately, too many dealers are uninvolved, or don’t even know that we are their association. I think the problem is not perception but awareness.
BI: What are MRAA’s strengths and weaknesses?
GM: Our greatest strength is credibility. When dealers need advice, direction and education, they can come to us. Our weakness lies in the numbers. We need more members. As I write this, I am pleased that our recent convention in Las Vegas saw a huge increase in membership and attendance.
BI: What are the three biggest challenges the industry as a whole faces today and what should be done to overcome them?
GM: Not losing momentum on the Grow Boating Initiative. We must see this to fruition as we are practically the only pleasure industry left without a primetime national awareness campaign. Much has already been written, by myself and others, to explain the steps necessary so the initiative does not fail. Everyone must take action.
Relationships between builders and dealers still have a long way to go. This industry will never operate in a functional manner while there are companies doing millions of dollars in business without written agreements that serve both parties.
The customer experience has got to be rectified. Builders should stop doing business with dealers that do not provide adequate service and dealers should constantly strive to find manufacturers that pay retail for warranty work.
BI: Is dealer certification integral to the success of the Grow Boating Initiative and ultimately the industry at large? Should it even be part of the initiative? Why or why not?
GM: Dealer certification is absolutely integral, and we must be sure to direct the appropriate funds to training. If we are going to get millions of new consumers, we had better give them an experience that is different and improved from what they get now.
BI: Putting yourself in the shoes of a consumer, what do you think are the three best things and three worst things about being a boater today?
GM: The three best things about being a boater are freedom, affordability and the ability to increase family time. The three worst things are poor back-end service, a short season (for much of the country) and poor quality. There are still too many boats being built with sub-par quality.
BI: What companies or organizations outside our industry are setting the best examples for how we should be doing business?
GM: My answer, like everyone else’s, is the automobile industry. I know we cannot duplicate everything they do because the numbers are not there.
If your readers agree, however, that there are far too many boats being sold with inferior quality, then let’s examine the least expensive car on the market and comment on its quality. It is 100-percent better than our lowest priced boats.
We must charge more to get the quality up and increase the margin enough to support the customers. If this is true, then what are we afraid of? Why do we think that a customer won’t pay $30,000 for a $28,000 boat when they gladly pay $30,000, $40,000 and $50,000 for their automobile?
BI:Are there any marine industry topics of discussion we haven’t covered that you would like to address?
GM: I am looking forward to my tenure as chairman of MRAA and am openly inviting all dealers to join us so we can raise the bar a few more notches.

Gregg Kenney
Kenney, the new chairman of the board of the newly named Association of Marina Industries, is president of Flagship Marinas, LLC, which has 10 marinas and 7,000 slip customers. The 54-year-old executive became involved in the marina industry in 1993 after 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy.
BI: How would you describe the role of your association in the industry at large?
GK: To promote the general welfare of the boating facilities industry, and to promote communications among owners and operators of marinas for the purposes of sharing information, promotion of understanding, finding acceptable solutions or resolutions of problems faced by the marina industry, and obtaining the best means of providing services to users of marinas.
BI: How is your association perceived by the industry at large? Are these perceptions fair?
GK: Well, AMI is brand new, but the feedback we are already getting is very positive. This is evidenced by the recent IMC conference held in San Diego, which was immensely successful and had the highest attendance ever for a marina conference.
BI: What are the three biggest challenges the industry as a whole faces today and what should be done to overcome them?
GK: One of the biggest challenges facing the industry today is a lack of growth. There are a number of factors contributing to this that need to be addressed to correct the situation.
First, we aren’t attracting new customers as fast as we’re losing them to other recreational interests or worse yet, other life priorities. We need to expand the net that we’re casting to attract younger people and, in some cases, older, retired folks, and we need to look beyond the traditional stereotypes to include more minorities, women and less traditional audiences.
Second, we need to do a better job retaining the customers that we have attracted by improving our products and services. Boats need to be of the highest quality that we can afford. Services from all segments of the industry must be improved, and we need to increase professionalism through training and education both in technical skills and management. The need for quality educational programming in our industry is becoming increasingly important.
Finally, we’re losing access to America’s waters. Waterfront is finite, and we’re losing boating facilities to other developments and to pressures from environmentalist that would preserve waterfronts by precluding their use by the public. We need a comprehensive plan to encourage the development of boating facilities and the preservation and upgrading of existing facilities.
BI: What are the three biggest opportunities the industry has to improve itself in the future and what should be done to take advantage of them?
GK: Increasing professionalism and profitability will improve our products and services overall. Baby boomers present a terrific opportunity for growing boating if we market correctly to them and then support them in their boating experiences.
The turmoil overseas also presents the best opportunity to keep folks close to home and to make boating a priority choice for those wishing to enjoy family and recreation close to home.
A strengthening economy also presents opportunity for the boating industry. So long as interest rates remain comparatively low and consumer confidence is on the rise, we have an excellent chance to attract folks to boating.
BI: What impact do you believe the Grow Boating Initiative will have on our industry?
GK: It should have a very positive impact. It will likely start slowly and take some time to really be felt, but getting boating into the mainstream advertising should impact not only sales of boats but use of existing boats as well.
Bringing boating to a “top-of-mind” awareness should positively impact all facets of waterfront recreation. If we get people thinking about being on the water, then actually getting there should be a greater priority, and with any luck the manifestation of that change in priority will be a new or re-energized boater.
BI: What main ingredients are required to ensure the success of the Grow Boating Initiative?
GK: Commitment from every segment of the industry and from every business in the industry. To be successful, we’ll have to agree that we’re making an investment for the long haul, and we’ll have to hang together for an extended period of time to make this program work.
Trust and the realization that pulling together will enhance each individual operator and all segments of the industry.
Faith and confidence in those that have taken on the leadership of the initiative and asked for support in that endeavor.
BI: How do you feel about Brunswick’s acquisition strategy? Do you feel it is healthy for the industry? Why or why not?
GK: Brunswick has the resources to improve the industry overall, and if they invest them wisely, we can all benefit. Although competition is important and fundamental in the development and improvement of our products, it frequently takes deep pockets to create long-term improvements and growth.
Brunswick appears to be taking a macro look at ways to grow, improve and preserve its industry share by growing the whole industry. Let’s hope for some real leadership from the management at Brunswick.
BI: Putting yourself in the shoes of a consumer, what do you think are the three best things and three worst things about being a boater today?
GK: The three best things: you can still get out on the water and away from it all with family and friends; you can still afford the boating experience from most economical levels; and products and services are improving in the boating industry.
The three worst: access points are disappearing; some places one waits too long to get into the water; increasing regulation is driving up the cost for services; and boaters are still waiting too long for repairs and services to get them back out on the water to enjoy the already limited time they have available to boat.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button