When I’m wrong, I’m wrong


I’ll admit that I’ve had serious doubts that the Recreational Boating Leadership Council would deliver much to the industry’s future growth. And I haven’t been the only one thinking that way. But I’ve got to admit I’ve been wrong.

An outgrowth of the Boating Growth Summit first held in 2011, I read the statements that came out of it about the goals for growing boating. I understood the concept behind the six task force groups that were set up in 2012-13. But reports and evidence that things were actually happening within those groups was tough to find.

“We haven’t done an adequate job of letting the industry know what’s actually happening and people have rightfully called us on it,” says Matt Gruhn, president of the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and chairman of the leadership council. “That won’t happen again. There is a lot happening and we intend to do a much better job of letting everyone know about it.”

It’s not just Gruhn’s promise of better communications that has turned me around, albeit I know him well enough to know he does what he says. But I’m becoming more aware of the many things that are being researched, assembled and prepared for industry use ahead. Yes, Virginia, there is action out there.

Soundings Trade Only managing editor Rich Armstrong, who sits on the council, will present an in-depth look at what’s happening in the February issue of Soundings TradeOnly due out in about two weeks. I encourage you to read it when it comes in. The report is bigger and deserves more than a blog and I think you’ll be pleased. In the meanwhile, here’s just one example:

The Youth Task Force, under the leadership of Northwest Marine Trade Association president George Harris and Sea Scouts national director Keith Christopher, is nearing completion of a national database of boating programs aimed at young people throughout the nation. It’s groundbreaking work — it’s never been done before, so the cataloging has been an extensive process. Still, the task force expects to launch a website and online searchable database this spring.

For marine dealers in particular, the access to such a youth program database will prove valuable in several ways. First, while some dealers might already know and even support a youth boating program or two in their local community, it’s likely many dealers don’t know if such programs even exist near them. The opportunity to be involved in an ongoing program could open new doors for the dealership. The chance to find partners to start one where none exists would be a genuine investment in the future.

Second, all dealers should strive to be the No. 1 source of boating information to prospects and customers. If there is a nearby youth boating program, being able to share that information with boating families can help build relationships.

Overall, what the council is achieving in a variety of areas will have a significant impact going forward. I suppose, like you, I want things to move at light speed. I get impatient when I don’t see things happening. I want it yesterday. But breaking new ground and creating valuable tools does take time, as I now realize will be evidenced by the leadership council in the months ahead.


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