‘Move Toward the Problem’

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STO IBEX leadership summit

When challenges arise, the worst thing a leader can do is freeze. That’s according to Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin, who joined a panel discussion on leadership, moderated by Soundings Trade Only editor-in-chief Jeff Moser, as part of this week’s virtual International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference.

Yeargin joined Volvo Penta of the Americas president Martin Bjuve, Brunswick Corp. business acceleration president Brenna Preisser, and MarineMax marketing director Abbey Heimensen for a discussion titled, “Coming Out Ahead: Leading During Uncertain Times.”

“We try to move toward the problem,” Yeargin said during the Thursday session.

Yeargin spoke about a friend of his, now a retired spy, who told him she learned from her CIA training that even though it’s tempting to to freeze when trouble is imminent, it makes you a target. “Get off the X,” Yeargin said, quoting his friend.

Every eight to 10 years, some catalytic event occurs, he said. “We try to … be prepared for the unexpected. We have a risk matrix, and I’ll confess, we did not have pandemic on the risk matrix. But the good thing about that kind of planning is it carries over. An economic collapse was on the risk radar. We’re going to constantly have surprises of some sort in our business, so being prepared for those and using those devices is an opportunity to reset our business.”

Communication and transparency are critical during times of crisis, Bjuve said.

“What has surprised me is how quickly everyone has adapted” to working remotely, Preisser said.

One critical element to keeping customers, particularly those new to boating, engaged and happy is to keep focusing on “the why,” Heimensen said. “That’s especially important after the sale,” said Heimensen, who, like the other panelists, believes the coronavirus has sparked a positive turning point for the industry.

“How we commit to them and how we engage with them … it’s key now,” Bjuve said.

Brunswick plans to take forward some of the elements that have been favorable for employees during this period — such as more schedule flexibility, Preisser said. At the same time, it will be important to keep them engaged, she added.

“We need to also have a strong cultural footing, so the key is going to be finding that balance,” Preisser said.

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