Plugging the leadership gap

Liz WalzIn my last blog, I wrote about why it is particularly important that our industry’s small businesses develop strong and effective succession plans. But the industry as a whole has its own succession problems, which become more urgent as the recession continues. As the boating business shrinks, the need for a new generation of leaders to point the way to recovery and growth becomes more critical.

Many of today’s leaders are nearing retirement, and while their experience has immense value, we need to be led forward by a group with a stake in that future. A group ready to not only embrace but also shape a new reality of doing business in the marine industry.

Creating new leadership at the dealer level is the purpose of the Young Leaders Advisory Board created by the Marine Retailers Association of America and being led by Paul Nickel of Pride Marine Group. This group of 20- and 30-year-olds is expected to advise MRAA’s Board of Directors.

I applaud the founders of this advisory board for thinking beyond the health of their own businesses in these challenging times and considering the future of their association and marine retailing in general. But after speaking with Paul last week, what impresses me most about this group is that its architects plan to invite young leaders from other sectors of the industry to join them. They understand that if we’re to successfully pave a path out of this recession, the boating industry must do it together. If that means changing their association from the inside out, they’re willing to do it.

That’s my good news of the week. I wish these Young Leaders the best as they reach out to their peers across the rest of the industry. I plan to support their efforts, and I hope you will too.

This is the first of our team’s “Good News” blogs, which will be published each Monday. The industry may be down, but it’s certainly not out. There are a lot of great ideas and success stories out there, and we all could use the inspiration that comes from reading them.

That’s why we created this blog – and why we’re asking you to respond to it by submitting your own good news. We want to hear what’s working for your business and those of your peers and business partners, where you and your employees are finding inspiration and how you’re staying motivated despite economic conditions. Thanks for sharing!


  1. Liz,

    You bring up a great point and I commend Mr. Nickel for seeing the future, but this needs to happen not only at the dealership level, but at the OEM and supplier level as well.

    Many companies used to have a young executive program or something similar, but in the current economic conditions, these types of programs are the first to be cut from the budget. So, when a company does turn-a-round, current executives retire who will run these companies and take them into the next century.

    The marine industry especially needs to focus on the under 40 generation, provide them the experience and training that they need and deserve, so that there will be an industry for years to come.

    It is not an easy task to do at the dealership level, but when a second generation has a vested interest in a company, they will learn quickly and do their best to succeed, when given the chance. The same opportunities need to be available at the OEM level.

    When we do bounce back from the current economic conditions, the dealers will be stronger, as their future leaders have learned how to survive and if this type of economic conditions surface again, they will be ready. Can the same be said about the OEM’s? How many under 40 executives are currently involved in the strategic decisions being made by the manufacturers?

    The dealer and OEM relationship is a partnership and together they need to grow with new innovative leaders, which will in turn lead this great industry into the next century and for generations to come.

  2. Liz,

    Following up on sales leads is always important, but especially so during this tough economic time.

    I just wrote a blog about why it’s important to have a good response rate time ( and linked to a site that wrote about how well our client, Ocean House Marina, is at their response time ( While I applaud Ocean House Marina for their great response time, it makes me wonder how many others *aren’t* following up in a timely manner, and why so.

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