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Boat show panelists see improvement, discuss strategies

Industry experts, speaking Thursday at the opening day of the Newport International Boat Show, say by this time next year the economy should stabilize and the marine industry should see some improvement.

"We are starting to see a slight uptick," Steve Anderson, president of J&J Marine of Somerset, Mass., said during a press conference at the show, which runs through Sunday. "Americans still want what they want and are willing to pay for it."

Anderson and others in the industry discussed methods marine businesses can use to stay afloat while waiting for that improvement.

Along with Anderson, conference panelists included Andy Tyska, president of Fleet Yacht Sales of Bristol, R.I., and Christopher W. Hood, co-founder of C.W. Hood Yachts in Marblehead, Mass. Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri was slated to attend, but was unable to because of scheduling conflicts, according to spokeswoman Amy Kempe.

"In forming my business, I surround myself with great people," said Hood. "I can work with them to build what we hope will be the next best product."

He said that in addition to having a reliable staff, keeping up solid relationships with former buyers is important for future sales.

"We never build a boat for someone, send them on their way, and then never see them again," said Hood. "That doesn't do our boat or our customer justice."

Tyska said a company should focus on discovering what it does best, rather than trying to do what everyone else is doing. Once that is established, it is the work of a good manager to get their work force engaged as a team.

"You have to get them out of the bubble and engage them to be better workers, to have a better business," he said.

Anderson said his key to good business in bad times is to "do what you say and say what you do."

Anderson said when the economic "tsunami" hit his business in August 2008, calls dropped from 120 a day to about 12. That has since picked up, because they have stuck to their philosophy of making promises they can keep, he added.

"Also, it is very important to have a good line of credit," said Anderson. "You find out the strength of your bank. You learn the first names of everyone in your corner and the willingness of the bank to work with you."

— Elizabeth Ellis

Staff Writer


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