Time Out of Mind

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Being caught flat-footed by the coronavirus has, hopefully, taught us some
valuable lessons both in business and in life. Change is coming — will you be ready?

There’s a great risk in failing to look forward, Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin warns, and a sizable portion of that risk falls on a company’s leadership. Our guest columnist says the Covid-19 pandemic is a rare opportunity to right the ship: With many business and manufacturing facilities shuttered, his organization realized that it had to keep a disruptive mindset to continue to innovate and remain a market leader.

“The risk of unforeseen change is a big problem today,” Yeargin writes. “While innovation should be viewed as more than just technology … leaders no longer have time to recognize change on the way and adjust; change today is coming so fast that we need to expect it, and always be innovating.”

From 40-plus-knot foiling powerboats to the tech-heavy world of angling to a renowned trailer outfit that utilizes 3-D modeling to ensure boats fit perfectly as they’re towed hither and yon, our issue focuses on those businesses that dare to keep innovating. The aforementioned trailer company, MYCO, started out servicing lawn mowers and other small, towable miscellany, and now counts some of the most expensive trailerable vessels in the business as its clients.

The business world is littered with what Yeargin calls “sustaining innovators.” He means those companies — many of them once held in high esteem by customers and Wall Street — that, as Tom Hanks’ character says in Cast Away, allowed themselves the “sin of losing track of time.”

Along the way, those companies made business harder for their competitors, but by holding fast to their business model, they were put out of business by disruptors. Remember BlackBerry and Blockbuster? They’re in the wind now.

Seeing blue-chip businesses on the scrap heap during the Covid-19 crisis should be a lesson to all of us, particularly as boat sales remain along an unprecedented trajectory. The pandemic’s effect on the boating business was twofold: With organized events largely postponed or outright canceled, it increased interest in the activity and showed those new to the sport that social distancing is baked in.

For dealers, many of which have more sales leads and new customers than staff to handle them, the risk looms large not only of losing sales, but also turning off those new to the sport.

It’s a glaring problem when dealers fail to follow up with new customers, says Marine Retailers Association of the Americas president Matt Gruhn. The MRAA is doing its part, with “Operation: Keep Your Customers Boating,” a treasure trove of dealer resources to keep customer experience at the top of the to-do list.

In addition, the MRAA launched a Virtual Business Development Center to assist frazzled dealerships with the post-sale follow-up process. It’s worth a look, with all details at MRAA.com.

The onset of high boating season for a large portion of the country dovetailed with other types of businesses starting to reopen. And many people took advantage of the shopping opportunity: Sales of new and used boats continue to eclipse numbers from last year, with just about every segment showing double-digit growth. For many people who have pined for a bowrider, PWC, pontoon boat or trolling motor-equipped kayak, the time to buy is now, or perhaps never.

For those of us lucky enough to get out on the water right now, the goal, ironically, stands in stark contrast to what Yeargin describes for forward-looking businesses. We actually want to turn our back on the clock.

We rise before dawn to fill the coolers with sandwiches and soft drinks, ensure that rods and reels are ready to go, and pack plenty of sunblock to go around. The only time we look at our phones is to pair our playlists to the sound system.

On the water, it’s time to jettison those devices used to quantify time’s passing — watches, smartphones, (for me, the unblinking eye of the microwave’s digital clock reminding me I’m on deadline) — and enjoy the carefree, activity-filled days that the coming end of summer will bring an ending to all too soon.

Whether you’re fishing with old friends, cruising with family or enjoying your favorite, unspoiled anchorage, boating is a panacea. Even as our lives and careers keep us busier than ever, trying to stay one step ahead of changing days. It allows us, for once, to unplug and experience the pure exquisiteness of actually losing track of time. 

This article was originally published in the September 2020 issue.


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