A Man of Influence

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We all meet many people in the course of our business career. If we’re fortunate, there will be a few along the way that have a lasting impact on us, a real influence on our way of thinking and, yes, even contribute to whatever measure of success we might achieve. So, allow me to take a day off from talking about dealer subjects to remember just such an industry figure.

Jerry Martin died on June 15 as reported by TradeOnlyToday. His impact on the marine industry spanned more than 50 remarkable years. He and I began our industry careers at the same place -- Johnson Motors (OMC), although Jerry was there and gone by the time I started. What wasn’t gone was his reputation and influence. From the day I started work there Jerry’s name was spoken so often you’d have thought he was still in the office just down the hall.

He was, in fact, just down the road a few miles at a new retail store named The Boat Show. Yes, Jerry was Johnson’s first Sales Promotion Manager in 1955 and 9 years later (about 3 before I got hired) he’d moved over to the retail side. Maybe it was our Johnson connection, or maybe he just liked me, but I drove from Waukegan to Gurnee on many occasions during those early years to get his input on projects I was working on. His door was always open then, and it never closed to me and so many others in this industry.

Jerry received many industry honors, all deserved. He was among the founders of our national dealer organization, the MRAA. He dedicated years to its successful development. Of all the memories I have of Jerry, two stand out.

First, I recall he was a father of the P.I.E. Plan, which stood for Partners in Expansion. It was a simple idea – add a small fee to boats and motors and use the proceeds for a national campaign to promote the growth of boating! His vision didn’t “sell” to the manufacturers 15 years ago when it was proposed. Sadly, he was just ahead of the times.

Today, we finally have the national Discover Boating campaign backed by a small fee on engines. But I can’t help wondering where our industry boat sales might be today if we could have had a P.I.E. Plan working for us all these years?

Second, the thing I admired most about Jerry was his way of making you feel important and good about yourself when you were around him. He was a master at making you think you had his undivided attention. Even when I was the newest kid on the block at Johnson, Jerry made me feel like somebody whenever I’d walk into The Boat Show. You know, even in his passing Jerry gives us something we should always remember -- making people feel important IS important.

I’m so glad I had the chance to know and be influenced by Jerry. How about you?

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