Inaugural sailing industry conference deemed a success

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – Expectations were exceeded at the inaugural “Growth Through Innovation” conference that GE Capital Solutions and Sail America put on June 11-12 in Newport, R.I., organizers said in a press release yesterday. The conference’s presentations, workshops and networking events focused on achieving business growth in today’s challenging marketplace.

More than 150 sailing industry professionals from throughout the country gathered at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport for the conference, which included insights and relevant, take-home advice from leading minds in business and in the sailing industry. Highlights included a keynote presentation and workshops from business author Dan Coughlin, and speeches by Mark Vitner, Wachovia senior economic analyst, and Dean Brenner, U.S. Olympic sailing program chairman.

“The information was well-presented; it was pertinent and it was just enough—it wasn’t information overload and it was varied,” said Will Keene, Edson Corp. president. “I’m using some of it today in my marketing meeting.”

Coughlin, a management consultant to Fortune 500 companies, provided practical processes and ideas to fuel innovation in the sailing industry. Author of “Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum,” Coughlin has observed and worked with executives and managers in more than 20 industries. He defined business innovation as “the creation of additional value that customers are willing to pay for at a profitable margin to the business.” Coughlin also provided advice on uncovering revenue growth opportunities, finding organizations with comparable definitions to reveal insights for the sailing industry, and staying logical in the midst of the media storm about the economy.

“The sailing industry is in the aspirational product business,” Coughlin said. “People aspire to own a sailboat and even ride on a sailboat. I rode with the owners of a beautiful sailboat yesterday, and they told me that they dreamed about it for five years. Who else is in the aspirational business? Ralph Lauren. What did he do? He democratized aspiration. He made it possible for people at every price point to buy a Ralph Lauren product and feel as though they are moving on up in life. How can the sailing industry democratize aspiration?”

Vitner forecast that the economy will narrowly avoid a recession in 2008. While significant risks remain in place, he said he believed the United States has already seen the worst of the credit crisis and that Americans will see much more solid gains in 2009.

In his speech, Brenner discussed the tactics and strategies he employs as president of his communications-coaching firm, The Latimer Group, to help his Fortune 500 clients communicate more persuasively.

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