This interview is part of the article The Next Generation.
Greg Knop – General Manager
Family Boating Centers, Tampa
What do you see as the industry’s biggest challenge?
While studies have indicated that participation in boating is strong, these studies do not seem to focus on boater retention and recruitment. Those who own boats are not repurchasing as often and some seem to be exiting the lifestyle altogether.
The average age of a boat owner seems to keep climbing. The industry is faced with the task of competing for the consumer’s time and money. Minority participation, age-focused marketing, and selling the lifestyle are ways we can create a more well rounded customer base. It’s great that current boaters take out friends/family and introduce them to the water, but we need to figure out how to convince that ‘guest’ to get their own boat.
What makes you optimistic about the industry?
The middle class. We work hard for our money and we like to enjoy the fruits of that labor. We are bombarded by media reports that say the middle class is vanishing, yet here we are. We will always seek ways to enjoy our lives with our friends and families. The average American feels just fine about rewarding ourselves for our hard work. The marine industry needs to further embrace the middle class and realize that it’s not just the wealthy that feed our sales.
How can we attract more young people to the industry as boaters?
Educate younger people that they CAN afford the boating lifestyle. A college-educated, 30-year-old professional is just as much a prospect as a working 24-year-old that skipped college to go straight to work. They may earn different incomes, but a boat exists that they can afford. I think that the marine industry and the recreational finance industry could collaborate to market boat ownership to the next generation of boat buyers.
What do you think the younger generation brings to the industry?
Fresh perspectives and energy. The youth of this industry knows that things need to be rethought. The world and its population are far different now than its ever been. Our motivators, social landscape and methods of communication have changed. Our industry has not changed. We’ve reacted in some ways, but we have not really changed.
How did you get involved in boating?
I was fortunate to be just old enough to remember my father and grandfather picking out the building that our dealership still operates in. My involvement is based on a lifetime of experience within the walls of a dealership. My perspective is unique because I’ve worked as a boat washer, an engine fixer, boat seller and everything in between. I appreciate the little things that make the dealership tick, and how each department contributes to customer satisfaction and retention.
Why did you join the YLAC?
I saw it as a great opportunity to educate myself while contributing to the industry. I feel that the YLAC is a catalyst for the younger generation to influence the health and success of the industry. He YLAC offers a great representation of the national marine dealer network. Where else could a Texan, Floridian and Canadian all sit at the same table and agree on things?
What can boat builders and other manufacturers do to help dealers be more successful?
First and foremost, builders need to realize everything that we do (as dealers) is to please our customers. I think most dealers would say they are more in tune with their customers than the builder is.
The manufacturers need to embrace dealer challenges because their success can only come if we are successful. Our problems are their problems. I believe that manufactures understand this to a point, but most dealers feel as if the they don’t really care about the things we are concerned about.
How has your perspective as a young leader helped you improve your company?
I love selling. The largest positive impact I make on the dealership is in the sales department. I tend to take a different approach than traditional marine salespersons. Objective information, forthright representations, and common courtesy have always been my best selling tactics. People like positive energy, and I feel that my youth is a big part of that. It feels great to be told that you are so much nicer than the “used car salesman” at the other dealership.