At some point, we’ve got to start looking forward.
The last few years, and particularly the last 12 months or so, have been brutal on our businesses. Powerboat sales have been on the decline for pretty much the entirety of this decade. In fact, there has been only one year in the 2000s — 2004, with a 4-percent increase — when new powerboat unit sales actually increased year-over-year.
The downturn has brought to light many weaknesses in our industry, and it has given birth to many bad habits. What’s worse is that it’s also given rise to a whole lot of finger pointing. It seems that everywhere we look someone is trying to assign blame to someone or some group in the industry for getting us into our current situation.
Some point to the boat builders for what they perceive as forcing too much inventory on the dealers. Others point to the dealers for not better managing their businesses. And the latest group to find themselves at the end of the pointer is the lenders. They’re blamed for bailing on the industry, raising their rates, or generally not lending dealers or consumers the money they need to buy more boats. Heck, we here at the magazine have even taken some of the blame for “spreading the doom and gloom.”
The fact is, we could sit around and debate this pointless conversation for years to come, but if we, as business leaders and as an industry, are not focused on making our businesses healthier and stronger for the future, we’ll all be worse off for it.
It’s healthy for us to review the hurdles we have faced, if it’s founded in an effort to get better. We need to shift away from strategies that haven’t worked for us in the past if we’re going to make it to the future. It’s necessary for our own recovery, and it’s mandatory if we’re truly going to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
What does that future look like? Frankly, no one really knows. But the one thing everyone does know is that it will be much different than today.
The economic landscape has changed, and it will provide us with new guidelines for running our businesses. Consumer spending will be lower than we have been accustomed to. Our industry’s consumer demographics will transition from the baby boomers to Gen X and Y. Consumer desires and expectations will rise with the customer service, product innovations, technological developments and immediate gratification available throughout society. The real question here is: Will you meet them there?
If you have yet to begin thinking about your business of tomorrow, now is the time to turn the page — both literally and figuratively. It’s time to begin focusing on how to transition your business to meet the needs, desires and expectations of the new boating consumer.
While none of us know when the recession will end or what exactly will result, the important thing for us all is that we stop pointing fingers and start learning from the past to plan for the future.