By Adam Quandt
The six leaders below aren’t afraid to make bold moves to advance boating by improving technology, growing its customer base, bringing industry stakeholders together and raising the bar of professionalism and determination for the industry as a whole.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
John Adams & Shep McKenney
It isn’t very often that we recognize a duo for a Bold Move honor, but it would’ve been near impossible to talk about the accomplishments of one, without bringing up the other. John Adams and Shep McKenney, co-founders of Seakeeper, have strived to change the experience of being out on the water.
Though McKenney grew up around boats, he traveled through a few different career paths, before becoming a game changer in the marine industry. After ventures in practicing law and founding a hotel chain, McKenney dove headfirst into the marine industry by acquiring, resurrecting and completely redesigning the Hinckley Company.
Through his efforts in leading the creation of a fly-by-wire joystick to harness the unique authority of the jet power, McKenney was introduced to Seakeeper partner John Adams, who was already and
continues to be a leading authority on boat motion control.
“Through him, I learned about using control moment gyroscopes to limit boat roll,” McKenney said. “ We decided we would be good partners to launch a company to modernize and popularize that idea. We were and we did.”
McKenney describes the Seakeeper venture to be the peak experience of his professional life.
Adams said that when he met McKenney, he was ready to tackle something more challenging and the Seakeeper venture met that criteria.
“Shep has helped me stay focused on what I do best throughout the development of Seakeeper, while he kept the company focused,” Adams said. “ I continute to apply lessons learned from him every day.”
Both Adams and McKenney attribute much of their continued successes to their mindset and willingness to try new things and continue to push limits.
“It takes a willingness to always question the data and dig into the details, and change or adjust the development path if necessary,” Adams said.
Through their team-style leadership and innovation, with Seakeeper, the duo has made the on-the-water experience more enjoyable for all.
Embracing the digital era
Co-founder, Social Navigator
The digital landscape isn’t anything too new, but many believe it has yet to be fully embraced by the recreational marine industry. Cue, Social Navigator, a new organization in the marine industry here to help companies across the industry embrace social media and unlock its full potential in marketing.
At the helm of Social Navigator is Kristen Corssen, a longtime boater driven with a passion for the industry.
“I’ve always had a deep love for the water,” Corssen said. “It was really my internship with the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association that created my passing for the marine industry as a profession.”
Corssen said that persuading marine companies to join the digital era has been no easy task in an industry that isn’t always open to change.
“Many companies view social media as a millennial network,” Corssen said. “What they don’t understand is the wide demographic on the digital channel, and realize millennials are their future customers.”
Through providing companies with results and numbers, showing ROI and the ability to uncover a new customer just waiting to consume boating content, Corssen is showing the industry the ways of the digital world one by one.
Corssen and her team at Social Navigator recently brought the success of the digital world in the marine industry to the big stage at the 2020 Miami International Boat Show in the form of the Current Awards. The awards program and event honored the best of social media in the marine industry, recognizing influencers and brands making a impact through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and more.
“It’s amazing to see the power influencers hold,” Corssen said. “It’s an outlet for the audiences to learn, dream, and grow – especially for boaters. Brands and influencers are now a team when it comes to success in the current market. The work of influencers multiplies brand growth benefitting both. Together they create a strong current.”
Whether it’s a social media refresh the company is in need of, or a full dive into digital marketing all around, Corssen and the Social Navigator team are eager to bring the boating industry into the digital era full force.
Build a powerful team
Director of Marketing, MarineMax
Growing up in Iowa, many are surprised to learn that MarineMax’s Abbey Heimensen has been a life-long boater. However, from a young age, boating has been a huge part of Heimensen’s life. Now as the director of marketing for the nation’s largest boat dealer, Heimensen hopes to create a wonderful experience for every customer and share a passion for boating that she’s had forever.
Heimensen credits much of her success in the industry to a strong team working alongside her every day. In the beginning of Heimensen’s nine-year history with MarineMax, the team hit the ground running with only three members. Now, Heimensen’s team of marketing professionals is 19-strong.
“One of the greatest pleasures of my career so far has been seeing the team grow and come together,” Heimensen said. “Our current team is an incredibly talented group of people.”
Heimensen said the biggest challenge her team faces in today’s market is to simply stay relevant. “It’s all about creating a flawless experience,” she added.
In order to stay relevant and maintain exception service that customers are beginning to expect thanks to companies like Amazon and Apple, Heimensen and her team are working hard to create easy to use marketing and customer experience materials.
Most recently, Heimensen and the MarineMax team paired up with Boatyard to create the MarineMax App, allowing customers to take care of shopping, service, etc. all from an easy-to-use smartphone application.
“It’s up to us to take the stress out of boating,” Heimensen said. “The biggest competitor to our industry was time and now people have it. Now, we need to keep things easy for them to enjoy more time on the water.”
With a strong team, Heimensen believes that the industry can not only tackle, but strive through any obstacle or change that’s thrown at it.
“We build relationships through boating,” Heimensen said. “It’s all about creating experiences and sharing a passion for an activity that so many of us enjoy.”
GM/Owner, Regal & Nautique of Orlando
Opening a boat dealership in the fall of 2008 might not have been the greatest starting point for a young entrepreneur, but Regal & Nautique of Orlando’s Jeff Husby rolled with every punch thrown at him to create a Boating Industry Top 5 dealership in North America, with recognitions from numerous organizations across the industry.
“As a little kid, I was always fascinated with boats and being on the water, so I developed a passion early on and that passion definitely helped drive me through some of the toughest times,” Husby said. “If you have passion and drive for something, then you’ll certainly enjoy what you do.”
According to Husby, success in the recreational boating industry starts at passion and drive, but continues with a lot of time and dedication, paired with goal setting and a desire to create the perfect team.
Husby carries that passion in his constant monitoring of trends of the industry, both nationwide and in his local market, along with staying in tune with his team.
“It’s endlessly important to be very in touch with your employees,” Husby said. “They are the ones closest to your customer. I like to listen to what they have to say in how we can make things better.”
Most recently, Husby continued his forward momentum in the marine industry and further extended his team through taking on the role of partner, president and CEO of WaterSports Central, a six-location retail business with stores across Georgia and South Carolina.
“I don’t like to sit idle on things,” Husby said. “Becoming complacent is when the industry becomes stagnant. I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Just keep driving forward.”
Husby strives to continue passing his passion for boating to not only his customers, but also his team.
“Though today’s boats and the technology in them is vastly different, the basis of boating hasn’t changed,” Husby said. “The common denominator is creating those memories and passing those traditions of being out on the water together.”
Share the good news
President & Founder, Digital Era Media Inc.
As the producer of sites such MyDealers.ca and BoatDealers.ca, the premier sites to buy and sell boats across Canada, Digital Era Media and it’s founder and president Chris Perera seek to bring the boat business to an easy-to-use online platform for potential buyers in Canada.
BoatDealers.ca alone receives over 1.6 million unique visitors a year. Launched in 2001, the website has been focused on providing the top visited and most effective online platform for buyers and sellers of new and used boats across Canada.
Presently there are over 100 virtual boat tours featured on BoatDealers.ca. These tours can be viewed directly on BoatDealers.ca or integrated directly into a manufacturer or dealer site by simply clicking the embed button on the bottom right of each tour.
“We recognized the need for boat buyers to see the layout of boats online in an interactive way.” said Chris Perera. “The real estate industry has been doing 360-degree virtual tours for some time, but it seems to have been overlooked in the boating industry. Our team has developed tools for dealers, and manufactures to create virtual tours with minimal effort.”
With the ongoing success of the buying and selling websites, Perera and his team recently launched a complementary site in May called BoatBlurb.com. The site offers a destination for news, information, tips and reviews for boaters and boating enthusiasts alike. Content on the site includes everything from boating culture to latest trends, industry happenings and much more.
“Being avid boaters ourselves we recognized the need for a digital publication of vetted news and information for the boating community,” Perera said. “We wanted to do something innovative where it wasn’t just our staff publishing content but also enabling everyday boaters to share their knowledge and experience. At the same time our editor ensures all published posts are reviewed for quality. We believe that access to valuable digital content will inspire new to experienced boaters, but also encourage non-boaters to take a look at what the boating lifestyle is all about.”
Make things happen
Owner, Electric Marina
Cecilia “Ceal” Potts is taking this eco-conscious business to a higher level and of course along with advancements, there are challenges. However, Potts is going beyond the barriers to achieve success. She is a true entrepreneur and is continually researching and updating her product lines as electric propulsion technology advances.
After spending years as a sailor, Potts grew tired of the diesel side of sailing and began looking for something different. After several years of cruising, Potts rejoined the workforce with Solar Stik, an electric and solar power solutions manufacturer.
During this time, Potts took on a project boat that required as she puts it “a lot of love.”
“The thing took a lot of work, especially on the diesel engine side,” Potts said. “I got it running, but it was messy and I thought to myself ‘I’m over this.’”
As she began researching electric motors more, Potts came across the Electric Marina, owned at the time by Nancy Feretti.
“She [Feretti] was just so vivacious and so fired up about electric, you just couldn’t rain on her parade and that energy was definitely contagious,” Potts said. “I purchased an electric motor for my Catalina, but I also realized this is where I needed to be.”
Potts stayed in contact with Feretti almost every day following her install and learned more how she wanted to take electric to the next level, but just didn’t feel she could get it done as a dealer and moved onto a new opportunity. It was at this time Potts saw her opportunity to continue her own passion for electric propulsion and power and purchased the Electric Marina from Feretti.
“It’s definitely been a learning curve, but I really enjoy owning the business and I have so many plans for it,” Potts said. “There’s just a lot of excitement around the segment right now and that’s exciting to me.”
Potts was quick to point out that she isn’t “anti-combustion” as she puts it, by any means. She simply believes that there’s a big place for electric in the right applications.
Potts understands that electric power and propulsion has some big hurdles to get over yet, but fully believes the segment is moving leaps and bounds further continuously. “I love seeing all of the new tech coming out and only hope more makes it into this playing field, showing people the art of the possible,” she added.
One thing is for sure, Potts isn’t going to let anything hold her back in her mission to spread the word and work of the Electric Marina and electric power and propulsion as a whole. “Come hell or high water, I’m going to make things happen,” Potts said.