2005: A Test of Times

2005 will prove to be one of the most pivotal years in the history of the recreational boating industry. Two of the most important industrywide issues in recent history — the Grow Boating campaign and an intensifying focus on dealer-manufacturer relationships — hang in the balance, awaiting final verdicts on their future. All indications suggest that both will follow through with successful initiatives, but no matter if they get a yea or a nay, they will have lasting impacts on the future of our businesses.
While we’ve come a long way with the Grow Boating effort, we’re once again caught knocking on the door of a funding plan. While it appears that there’s a sound formula for funding the campaign, the dealer body is calling for a greater allotment of funds. You get the sense that we’ve been here before. And this is precisely where previous efforts have failed.
Behind-the-scenes, there’s another effort brewing to resolve the never-ending debate over manufacturer and dealer agreements. A series of meetings have taken place to begin building the framework for better working relationships where this industry needs them most. There’s a good chance that a set of standards or even a model agreement could come out of this, and the best news just might be that both sides of the debate are participating and working together for the common good.
Once again, though, we’ve been here before, and we’ve fallen in on ourselves like a circular firing squad. So the next few steps are critical to preventing history from repeating itself. Dealers are reporting that they’re cautiously optimistic it will succeed. Manufacturers — from Brunswick on down — are demonstrating a desire, even a commitment, to developing a solution.
As with most successful endeavors, the people make them happen— they are the lifeblood for successful strategies. But while we use this issue of Boating Industry to focus on best practices, these industrywide initiatives, in our opinion, deserve even greater recognition. Because they look beyond self. They look beyond the needs of their own customers and look at the bigger picture.
People like David Slikkers, the torchbearer for the dealer-manufacturer agreement taskforce, didn’t have to be the ones to step up and take charge. People like Bill Barrington or Richard Strickler, who were instrumental in establishing the progress toward a Grow Boating initiative, didn’t have to be the ones to devote their own time and energy to growing the pie, rather than their own slice. They didn’t have to. But they did.
These are the best practices that define the industry. Anyone can recognize and fulfill their own customers’ needs, but it takes people who can identify rewards in fighting for the greater good to truly make an industry great. Let’s be thankful that this great industry can inspire people to lead the fight toward such monumental decisions, especially during such an influential time.
– Matt Gruhn

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