This interview is part of the article The Next Generation.
Chad M. Taylor – Vice President
Taylor’s South Shore Marina, Wilmington, Ohio
What do you see as the industry's biggest challenge?
I think one of the biggest challenges that our industry faces today is continued government regulation. The environmental issues are causing drastic price increases in our industry. While we understand that other industries are facing this as well, our industry does not have the volume to spread out the cost associated with the manufacturing changes. Our prices just seem to keep rising and rising.
What makes you optimistic about the industry?
I think simply the renewed energy in the industry is one giant step forward. We are seeing and hearing more positive thoughts and ideas coming from customers. Customers are actually talking about what they are doing and can do with a boat instead of talking about what they would like to do or what they "could" do if they were able to own a boat. The energy is upbeat and positive. Consumer confidence is at a five-year high I feel!
How can we attract more young people to the industry as boaters?
I think we have to find ways to make it easier and find ways that fit into the younger generations’ lifestyles. Our generation demands more customer service than ever before. Also, their buying traits are unlike any we have ever seen. Today’s younger generation is more product savvy and more "gadget" friendly. We need to have features that appeal to the younger generation yet make it family-budget friendly.
What do you think the younger generation brings to the industry?
I think we bring new ideas and innovations. I think we find a way to boat differently and ways to market our industry different. I think we bring fresh market share opportunities and certainly bring the opportunity to build lasting dealer-to-customer relationships for many years down the road.
How did you get involved in boating?
I have been involved in boating since I was born! I really didn't have a choice. My father began working at our marina in high school and never left! I used to go to work with him in the weekends and daily in the summer.
Why did you join the YLAC?
I see YLAC as a chance to be a part of the next generation of leaders and a chance to bring new ideas that might shape the future of boating. It is also a chance to surround myself with some of the best in the industry.
I know most of us are second and even third or fourth generation so for me it is a wealth of knowledge and opportunities. Coming from a smaller dealership I also think I bring ideas and processes that larger dealerships may not think of or have experience with. After all, the majority of dealers in our industry are still considered "mom and pop.” I remember my first MRAA meeting when Larry Russo mentioned on stage that whether we liked to or not this industry is made up of more "mom and pop" dealerships than anything else.
I think it is important to not forget where we came from and at the same time tie it into where we need to go. That is a true challenge that I think YLAC can embrace.
What can boat builders and other manufacturers do to help dealers be more successful?
I think we need to forge true partnerships. Too many times boat builders forget that the dealers are their customers and there are a lot of boat builders out there competing over the business.
The dealers that have weathered the proverbial storm are obviously businesses that understand the market and know how to survive. Those dealers need the ability to reach out to the marketplace with confidence that these are the dealers to which the boat builders will be committed. I think the builders need to stick with what got them through the hard times and not try to be everything to everyone.
We are already seeing boat builders venture into new segments. Hopefully they don't lose sight of what they do best. Also manufacturers need to find a way to develop boats that fit the next generation’s needs and wants, yet do so in a manner that keeps us price-competitive.
The Generation X and Y buyers are more up to date with product innovation than most engineers designing the products! This is due primarily to the technology devices we live and use daily. Boat builders should be looking at employing young, fresh designers to ensure the product is up to date with the next generation.
This will be constantly changing at a rate faster than we have ever seen. I mean how many years have we been building pontoons, and now look at just the last five years and see where the pontoons are. I see manufacturers that never change, just stay the same in product quality and design. The only thing that should ever stay the same is the philosophy that "everything changes.”
How has your perspective as a young leader helped you improve your company?
I think by surrounding ourselves with other young leaders gives us new ideas to implement in our own companies. Also, I think it strives our employees to be better. I think they see us as leaders not only in the industry, but even more so in our own companies. After all, we are leading organizations that have many people depending on us. I think we owe it to our families and our employees and their families to be the best that we can be. It will make for a better work environment.