Grow Boating

A few years ago at a press conference after-party, I sat at a table with a dozen other boating journalists and was shocked to find that most of us, despite a passion for boating, were not boat owners.
Despite this experience, however, I was surprised again in September when I attended the Genmar Evinrude Backwater Fishing School with a group of female boating industry executives and discovered most of them didn’t know how to fish. Of the few of us who did have fishing skills, most had last used them as a kid.
To me, this sends a message – the boating industry needs to take a look at its own backyard. With NMMA predicting a possible recovery in 2004, industry companies can start the year right by targeting a new market – their own employees. Not only is this as good a source as any for sales growth, it seems likely to improve morale and make your employees better at their jobs, giving them a sense of appreciation for your company’s products, allowing them to better understand your customers, and providing a greater feeling of community with their fellow workers.
For those who have been boating in the past, it may remind them of why they once enjoyed being out on the water and for those who haven’t, it may give them a whole new understanding of your company and its role. In either case, it also may provide employees with new ideas on how to better serve your customers.
I’m not suggesting you provide a boat in each employee’s stocking this holiday season. In fact, it doesn’t have to be expensive at all. Perhaps the next time you arrange a corporate retreat or a company party, it could take place on the water instead of a local restaurant or involve boating or fishing classes or competitions rather than party games.
Instead of, or in addition to, a company softball team, you could create fishing tournaments, waterskiing competitions or an annual poker run and picnic during the summer. Maybe your firm has a company boat that employees’ families can rent out on the weekends or can reward outstanding efforts with gift certificates for boating safety classes, outdoor clothing stores, or boating and fishing retailers.
Another idea is to occasionally raffle off a fishing or boating experience or vacation, whether it’s a half-day tall ship cruise, an afternoon fishing local waters with a guide, or an educational program, such as “Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing” and the Genmar Evinrude Backwater Fishing School.
Lastly, your company could arrange an annual event at which employees from all divisions of the company, from human resources to sales staff, get a chance to try out the products you make or sell in real-life scenarios. Not only will this be educational for the staff and a break from their daily routine, it may provide the company with valuable feedback.
No matter how you do it, helping your employees appreciate boating and fishing can only strengthen the image and vitality of your company and the industry.

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