No fewer than three keynote speakers emphasized the importance of leadership at the 13th annual International Marina & Boatyard Conference, which was held Jan. 28-30 in Tampa, Fla.
“Everything rises and falls on the tides of leadership,” Jim Hunter said during a Jan. 29 address. “The world is tired of bad leaders. I challenge you to inspire your people to pursue excellence.”
Attendance was up 15 percent from last year, making this the largest IMBC in the history of the event. About 830 people attended the conference, anchored by marina tours and marina design training on Jan. 28, two keynote speakers and a dozen seminars and workshops on Jan. 29 and an additional keynote speaker, along with more seminars and workshops, on Jan. 30.
Produced by the Association of Marina Industries, the conference is geared to marina and boatyard owners, operators and managers, as well as dockmasters, harbormasters, and boatbuilders and industry consultants.
Hank Whitley, manager of Southport Marina in Southport, N.C., says he attends each year for the training opportunities and the networking. “We see the same people and reconnect,” he says.
Southport was honored as ValvTect’s marina of the year by ValvTect president Jerry Nessenson during the conference.
The IMBC had 130 exhibitor booths — a handful more than last year, according to AMI director Mark Amaral. Exhibitors included marina builders such as Bellingham Marine, piling and flotation system suppliers such as Sullivan Flotation, marine insurance companies, marina management software companies, such as newcomer Molo, and several industry media companies, including Soundings Trade Only, the IMBC media sponsor.
Marina Safety Awareness Training and AERE FireAde held live product and training demonstrations.
AMI had its annual member meeting on the first night of the conference. “We are excited about this year’s growth,” says Jeff Rose, senior vice president of Marinas International and chairman of AMI. “It’s clear to me the economy is continuing to rebound and that IMBC is the place for continuing education, meeting with industry suppliers and networking with other marina professionals.”
IMBC is organized into four tracks, allowing conferees to select the workshops, lectures and seminars most suited to their interests. Three of the tracks — coastal, inland and boatyard/service — have been part of the IMBC since it began. A marina design and engineering track was added in 2013, offering full-day courses presented by members of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Events on Jan. 28 included the IMBC field trip — a four-hour tour of three Tampa Bay properties. The tour introduces participants to ideas they can take back to their own businesses. Amaral says the tour drew 125 participants — the most ever.
The seminars on Jan. 29 were filled to capacity, including a timely session on ice damage led by Greg Weykamp of St. Joseph, Mich.-based Edgewater Resources. Other seminars included trends in dry storage marinas; boatyard business basics; resilience on inland waterways — dealing with the effects of high and low water on a facility; marina design; the latest in southwest Florida boatyards; planning for a successful dredging project; marine facilities underwriters loss-control surveys; and marina trends survey results.
There were more hands-on sessions on Jan. 30, and they included programs about the reduction of business income tax and the search engine optimization of a business. Other workshops that day focused on the Clean Marina program, human resources management and improvements to business websites.
Two keynote speakers addressed conferees on the morning of Jan. 29 and there was a third speaker on Jan. 30. All spoke about leadership. Jim Hunter’s Jan. 29 lecture, “The Power of Servant Leadership,” offered examples from Southwest Airlines and other American corporations.
Hunter says the marina and boatyard business is essentially a people business because marinas deal with people all day every day. He spoke about the qualities needed for leadership and how to identify and meet the needs of employees.
“It is a deep human need to be appreciated,” he says. “Deposit respect and appreciation in that account. Identify the needs of your employees, meet those needs and encourage them to own [their work and their successes]. Set the bar high, be ready with hugs and be ready to spank.”
Hunter is the author of two bestselling books, “The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership” and “The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader.” The books are used in many MBA and other higher-education curricula, have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold more than 4.5 million copies.
Hunter speaks about leadership to audiences around the world and helps organizations build leaders and high-performing teams.
The second speaker on Jan. 29, author David McNair, spoke about how to distinguish a business and make a lasting impression. McNair’s presentation, “Unleash the Unexpected,” provided data from research about standing out in a crowded field. Hunter and McNair held follow-up, small-group seminars on leadership skills on Jan. 29 after their keynote addresses. Both were filled to capacity.
“We did not plan on the emphasis on leadership, but with three excellent keynote speakers speaking on leadership, it played out that way,” AMI marketing and communications coordinator Katelyn McSherry says. “The feedback and testimonials we received after the conference were very positive. Attendants loved the leadership theme.”
McSherry says that in the past the emphasis at IMBC had been on finance and “everything to do with marina numbers” and this year’s leadership emphasis was well received. “They can take what they’ve learned, this information and this knowledge, and put it toward all aspects of running a marina, and apply [new leadership skills] to all aspects of life. It’s not just about boating and marinas.”
In a “Lessons in Leadership” presentation, the Jan. 30 keynote speaker, Bill Yeargin, told his audience that small differences can create huge results. Yeargin is the president and chief executive of Correct Craft, an 89-year-old marine industry holding company with global operations. Correct Craft’s subsidiaries include Nautique Boats and Aktion Parks.
McSherry says another subtle change at this year’s conference was added technology. A seminar titled “The Nerd School: Streamlining, Simplifying and Capitalizing on Technology” was filled to capacity and had a waiting list. The seminar, which emphasized the use of social media for marketing, is something conferees have been asking for, she says.
Facebook might not be the first thing marina managers think of when marketing a marina, McSherry says, but participants continue to ask for seminars about how to better use social media to drive business. They also have asked for information about how to incorporate more technology into marina operations, she says.
A Jan. 30 contest asked conferees for the three best ideas for creating new profit in a marina or boatyard. Audience members chose Serena Saunders’ presentation about the use of search engine optimization and maintaining a marina’s online reputation as the top idea. Saunders works for Captain John’s Fawn Harbor and Marina in Big Bear, Calif.
AMI conducted a membership drive during the conference — a first for IMBC. “It is great to see IMBC attendance grow,” Amaral says. “This year we had over 80 [certified marina managers and certified marina operators] attend their annual dinner, which we believe is the largest gathering of that group in any one place ever.”
Amaral says a thorough debriefing and review of the 2015 conference will help AMI make decisions about next year’s event. “We will take those lessons and make the necessary adjustments and innovations for 2016,” he says.
The IMBC will shift to Fort Lauderdale next year, running Jan. 27-29 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center.
This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue.