IBEX 2019: Frank Hugelmeyer: ‘I know I’m going to love this job.’

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Three days into his first International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference, newly minted NMMA president Frank Hugelmeyer looked tired but happy to be at the show. “I couldn’t be more excited to be part of the community,” Hugelmeyer told Trade Only Today on the final morning of IBEX. “I’m hearing good things on the hall. Everyone seems to be happy.”

Hugelmeyer is coming into the boating industry after four years as president of the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. He spent several months last summer on a “listening tour” around the country, meeting with NMMA members and visiting production facilities. “Both industries share the same concerns about international trade and tariffs, how the economy is going, and dealer networks keeping pace with changes in the consumer,” he said. “They are also concerned about market growth and advocacy.”

The differences?

“Obviously, you have one that is land-based, and the other is water-based, so the boating industry is concerned about conservation and getting its products to market,” Hugelmeyer said. “We’re very focused on water policy and sport fishing because so much activity is coming from that sector. Honestly, one of the reasons I was attracted to NMMA is because I knew the industry is not only on the business side, but also the conservation side.”

Hugelmeyer said living in Washington, D.C., will give the NMMA a “much stronger presence at the higher levels” in government circles. “Now that I’m based there, I’ll have the opportunity to work with Nicole Vasilaros and the advocacy team. One of our primary goals is to be more proactive with our advocacy efforts.”

Hugelmeyer also plans outreach efforts around the country. “I really want to understand the burning issues that are facing members,” he says. “For the next six months, I plan to spend a lot of time on the road, going to dealer meetings, boat shows and discussing how NMMA can create more value for the industry. I think we can learn a lot about what the RV industry has done well to grow its market.”

Discover Boating may be more closely aligned with the association’s boat shows, Hugelmeyer said. “At first blush, I think there are opportunities to leverage both boat shows and Discover Boating in an integrated way,” he said. “We’re spending $6 million per year on boat shows. When you get them working together, you could virtually double funding. We’re building this into our next three-year strategic plan, so we immediately raise the profile of the program.”

The new president is happy to be at the helm of the association. “It feels like I’m coming home to an industry I love,” he said. “And it always helps to have someone who is passion about the lifestyle. If you’re doing what you love, you’ll love what you do and do well at it. It has always served me well.”

He added: “I loved being outdoors, so I loved my job at the Outdoor Industry Association. And I loved camping, so my job at Go RVing was fun. But I really love boating, so I know I’m going to love this job. I don’t know if it gives me a competitive advantage, but it certainly makes me motivated.”

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