Skip to main content

Survival of fittest? No. In this arena, you toss a lifeline

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

We tend to forget during these tough times that many of us got into this business because of our love of boats and the water. And we remain in this topsy-turvy corner of the world in large part for the same reason. Lord knows it's not to get rich.

sisson_bill

Yes, recreational boating is our livelihood, but the industry has always represented more than just a paycheck, at least to the fortunate ones. One common denominator has been our enduring proclivity for messing about in boats. One part affliction, two parts affection; 30 years later you look around, and you're still up to your elbows in boats. Where did the time go?

You hear people say they have salt water in their veins. Don't laugh. There's something to it. A passion for boats and the water is a lifeblood that runs not only through our customers but also through a good many of us who make our living designing, building, selling, fixing and writing about boats.

Boating breeds both self-reliance and the knowledge that we're all dependent upon one another when we leave the dock. After all, you just can't pull over on the shoulder when something goes wrong and walk home.

Most experienced boaters know the good Samaritan rule: You will come to the aid of a fellow mariner in distress - no ifs, ands or buts. This sense that we're all in this together - that we're somehow part of a larger fraternity of sailors, anglers, cruisers, and so on - carries over in varying degrees to our business practices.

To many of us, this is an extended family of sorts, with longstanding friendships, even among competitors. Yes, we compete hard, but there's also a time when you put out your hand to help your partners and customers get back on terra firma. And that, I am certain, is one of those things that makes this industry unique.

This sense of camaraderie and fraternity built around a common pastime does not exist in most other business sectors. At least not to the level it does in this one. Remember, this industry was started by people who sailed, or built the iron breeze, or were born with a fishing rod instead of a rattle. That was the DNA from which all that we have today sprang. Our pioneers had either salt water or sweet water in their veins.

A number of comments in our Page 1 story on vendors and the supply chain reminded me of this. "The marine industry has never, in my opinion, been a place where you're going to go to strike gold," Will Keene, president of Edson International, told us. "You do it because you love the industry, the vocation of boating, and being on the water."

I've chased striped bass with Will around the Elizabeth Islands off Massachusetts, so I can attest to the fact that these are not empty platitudes. Will Keene loves his business, loves boats and loves catching fish. He also believes that during these difficult times, you throw your customers a lifeline when possible so that they - and you - have a better chance of surviving.

It's in everyone's best interest right now to work with partners rather than to leverage them out of business. And there are plenty of examples of vendors working with manufacturers and vice versa, but I'd be naïve if I said things were perfect - or even close to it.

Not everyone is following the Marquess of Queensberry rules. There's boxing, and then there's street fighting. Better to keep it clean - no hitting below the belt, no kidney punches. The economy has delivered enough sucker punches without us inflicting them on one another. Tough times don't mean you just throw your code of ethics over the side.

These days require all the wisdom, intuition and fortitude you can muster, along with the host of strategies we've been talking about for the last year. Plus one more thing: Where possible, extend the proverbial helping hand, in some form, to someone you do business with who really needs it. It's no different than what you'd do on the water. And it will come back to you in ways you can't imagine.

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.

Related

1_PULSE1

Inflation Stymies Boat Sales

Inventories of new and used boats are improving at the retail level but are still considered comparatively lean, according to the results of the monthly Pulse Report survey.

Norm

Ho, Ho, Ho, You Better Watch Out

It may be too early to decorate the showroom, but it’s not too early to hatch a marketing plan to profit from the holiday selling season.

IBEX

Industry reacts to IBEX cancelation

With Ian expected to hit Florida’s west coast as a major hurricane, the consensus among those who spoke with Trade Only Today say it was the correct decision.

1_ABYCELECTRIFICATION

Ready for a Revolution

Electrification has been an increasingly common buzzword in the marine industry, especially in the past four to five years.

1_MARINEMAX.BOD

MarineMax Makes Appointment to its Board

Mercedes Romero has expertise in global procurement and strategic planning, working with such companies as Procter & Gamble and Starbucks.

1_ PULSE.PING.1

DEALERS: Are Interest Rates Impacting Demand?

This month’s Pulse Report survey asks dealers whether interest rate increases are causing a downturn in boat sales. Take the survey here.

1_SPOTZERO

Spot Zero Announces Expansion

The Fort Lauderdale-based reverse osmosis systems manufacturer is adding a 20,000-square-foot production facility.

1_Seakeeper Ride 450_2023 Sportsman Open 232 Center Console

Seakeeper’s New System Targets Pitch

Seakeepeer, whose gyroscopic stabilizers set the marine industry standard for eliminating as much as 95 percent of a boat’s roll, is now turning its attention to eliminating pitch with their Seakeeper Ride system.

7_IMG_0254

Propeller Precision

Yamaha’s new $20 million foundry produces about 100,000 propellers a year