Sea Ray honors Bill McGill with lifetime achievement award

MarineMax runs its business with the idea that boating changes people’s lives. While the company’s goal is to change the lives of MarineMax’s customers, this idea is certainly true for the life of its CEO.

Bill McGill, CEO, chairmain and president of MarineMax, received the C.N. Ray Lifetime Achievement Award from Sea Ray at its dealer meeting in September.

The award was a huge honor for McGill, not only because of the recognition and appreciation for his work with Brunswick and Sea Ray, but because C.N. Ray had a huge influence on McGill’s career as a good friend and mentor.

“That’s probably the biggest compliment I could get: an award that bears his name,” said McGill,” “because he truly was a visionary and did a lot for our industry.”BillMcGillHeadShot

MarineMax was formed as the combination of six companies in 1998, but McGill himself has been a Sea Ray dealer since he opened his first location 41 years ago. MarineMax looks at its relationship with Sea Ray as a partnership, working on the development of new products, programs and pricing, strategies and more.

“They’re like part of the family, which is the way it’s got to be,” said McGill. “There’s no relationship that is a winning relationship if both parties aren’t winning. It can’t be one-sided.”

McGill, who originally earned his degree as a mechanical engineer and participated as a competitive water skier in Tennessee, started as a test engineer with ambitions to be an astronaut, eventually working at Langley Air Force Base for NASA. As the space program slowed in the late 1960s, he worked for Colgate-Palmolive in manufacturing.

After Colgate approached him to move to New York, McGill had to make a choice for him, his wife, his two kids and the third on the way. His uncle owned a boat business and McGill had wanted to be in his own business by age 30, which he was approaching, so he chose to join his uncle’s business instead and open a Tampa Bay location. He has been a prominent member and advocate of the marine industry ever since.

mcgill video 19.jpg“If you can work in your passion,” said McGill, “it doesn’t get much better than that.”

McGill has won other awards and recognitions over the years, but he has trouble recollecting them because his greatest recognitions come from customers who thank him for providing a recreation that unites their families and friends.

“What I’ve realized over the [past] 41 years is that boating changes people’s lives,” said McGill. “It’s a recreation that pulls people together.”

While McGill notes that boating is a challenging industry, as boats are a discretionary purchase, what it does for families is second-to-none, and that drives him and MarineMax as a whole. McGill also sees this drive in his contemporaries, even after four or five years of a tough economy. Most of the people McGill has known over the years who were passionately engaged in the industry still are, and “no matter what, you can’t take that away.”

He strongly believes the passionate people are the ones who will help a business thrive. This is key as boating participation is rising and better times are around the corner, according to McGill.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the people. If you surround yourself with good people that have that same passion and have that same vision, and understand where your company is going, you’re way ahead of the game,” said McGill.

The three previous winners of the C.N. Ray Lifetime Achievement Award retired after they received the honor, but McGill has no plans to follow in their footsteps.

“I’m not going anywhere,” said McGill, “I’m having too much fun!”

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