Cooler Heads

For David Slikkers, it was a personal thing.

Sure, his effort to standardize dealer-manufacturer agreements was intended to repel legislative — or litigative — action. But the CEO of S2 Yachts, Inc. also had a need to strengthen relationships.

Back in May, Slikkers and Glenn Mazzella, chairman of the Marine Retailers Association of America, introduced contract guidelines. Since that time, dozens of boat builders have adopted the model agreement, and it appears that the age-old debate over fair contracts may be nearing an end.

But Slikkers did more than just chair the National Marine Manufacturers Association task force that set out to create this document. He prompted the task force’s creation nearly two years ago, presenting the concept to NMMA’s board members.

“We’ve always tried to look at the intent of the (dealer-manufacturer) relationship and what we’re trying to accomplish,” he explained, “and when I was privy to a lot of industry issues, I thought we could find a better solution.

“I felt that if you could put a group of dealers, and a group of manufacturers in a room and have a common mission to find that common ground, that cooler heads would prevail.”

He was right.

It’s difficult to remember a time before the task force’s creation that manufacturers and dealers have worked so closely together for the betterment of the industry. In fact, some boat builders haven’t worked so closely with their own dealers.

Slikkers admits that even his own dealer agreements weren’t ideal. Sure, S2 Yachts offered multi-year contracts to a few select dealers — but none of them met the performance standards required and therefore, every multi-year contract fell apart before the second year.

“But we’re willing to try them again,” he says. “It puts more responsibility on us, mutually. Dealers have more responsibility. We have more responsibility. But it gives them greater confidence with reference to expanding and wanting to invest in their businesses, and if we can do that, and it makes them more eager to invest in the future of their business and ours, we’re all for it.”

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