Where are all the dealers?

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I have always been puzzled when I’ve arrived in Las Vegas to attend the annual Marine Retailers Association of America (MRAA) Convention. It is, after all, one of the largest gatherings. So why, then, don’t more dealers attend?

Last year, more than 300 were there to learn. Oh, sure, some may have come to do more gambling than learning. But as one speaker correctly noted, ‘If you want to see real gambling, go back to your dealerships!’

Last year’s convention drew the largest attendance in many years, according to the MRAA’s President Phil Keeter. Still, I can’t get past this nagging thought that, with a reported 5,000 marine dealers out there somewhere in America (I’ve never been certain we really have an exact dealer count) there should be more attendees in Vegas.

Why does this come to mind today?

Last week, the MRAA announced its main lineup of speakers and sessions for the 2007 Convention slated for November 26-28. The speakers range from comedian Frank Miles to Sam Silverstein, author of 5 books on building business and increasing income, plus Jep Enk, Tom Stuker and others in between. That’s worth the trip to Vegas even if there was nothing else. But there is.

Two sessions are my favorites, not because I’ll have the privilege of moderating both of them, but because they promise to be packed with information and discussion.

First, there’s the return for ’07 of the “Industry Giants Panel” which was not held last year. When you get the likes of Irwin Jacobs (Genmar), Dusty McCoy (Brunswick), Jim Lane (Chaparral Boats) and other top CEO’s on the same platform discussing industry issues, the talk will be power-packed. Please note: I’m using Jacobs, McCoy and Lane as examples here – they were on the Panel in 2005. But, panelists for 2007 have not been announced, yet.

My other favorite is the “Dealer Issues Forum.” Last year, this session wasn’t nearly long enough, according to dealers. This year it’s double. What made it exciting were the variety of subjects and depth of discussion of issues by dealers from around the nation. From topics such as dealer agreements to expectations for the Discover Boating campaign at the retail level, the talk was pointed, often passionate and incisive.

Now, with all that going for it, can you see why I wonder about attendance at the convention?

Wait, perhaps I’ve finally got it! The guys who are always there in Vegas are our industry’s most successful retailers because they’re the dealers who never stop seeking knowledge to grow their business, no matter where they must go to get it. Isn’t that the group every dealer should want to be in? It reminds me of this observation I heard long ago: “If the best thing you’ve done is in your past, you’ve stopped growing.” If there was ever a time to find new ideas to “grow on” in this industry, it’s now.

Join me in Las Vegas?

And, that’s the way I see it, how about you?

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