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Course shift took New England sailor from teaching to sales

I was fortunate to grow up in a boating family. My dad loves boats. He was always happier on or around his boats.

I was fortunate to grow up in a boating family. My dad loves boats. He was always happier on or around his boats.

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I spent my youth sailing on Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts on just about everything from a Laser to a Herreshoff H12 to our family boat, a 42-foot wooden cruising sailboat. I also passed hour after hour in our 13-foot Boston Whaler, powered by a meager 6-hp Evinrude. I spent my summers feeling “salty,” and I loved it.

Through my high school and college years, I planned to pursue a career in teaching when I finished my education. I had a great high school experience and wanted to share that with others. I taught sailing in the summers, which combined my love of boating with my future career plans. That said, when I graduated from Bates College, I had the bright idea that I should get “a real job” for a year to gain “perspective” before I pursued teaching.

After one last summer working on the waterfront (this time driving the launch), autumn came and I had made no progress or even put any real effort into finding a “real job.” I fumbled around doing odd jobs at the local yacht club that fall until the manager said there was nothing left to do because the club was shutting down for the winter. The leaves were falling, and now I was feeling the panic of needing to do something.

I bumped into a friend and former workmate who was working for Imtra Corp.’s sister company, Maximum Weather Instruments. She advised me that Imtra was looking for a customer service representative. It’s funny how little things in your life happen that change your direction forever.

I applied for the job and was fortunate to get offered the position — Imtra must not have been very picky in its hiring practices at the time! As the year progressed, my thoughts of teaching moved to the back burner.

I enjoyed the Imtra work environment and, most important, the incredible group of co-workers that were fast becoming my friends. I liked the sales aspects of my job and was learning what the business side of the marine industry was like. I decided to stay put for a little longer.

In a few years, I took an interest in marketing and was allowed to start using an early desktop publishing system to generate content — ultimately developing what would become our own in-house marketing department. I learned about marketing in general and advertising in particular from the person who became my marketing mentor, Donald Brewster, our ad agent at the time and for years to come. Later, I added to my marketing responsibilities by becoming our first product manager, developing the product support structure that we still employ today.

I have been so fortunate to continue to be challenged with new roles and more responsibility. My work “friends” are now truly my family. We have an amazing work force that puts the customers first, which is the backbone of our business philosophy to this day.

I learned so much from my predecessors as CEO of Imtra, Bill Farnham and Nat Bishop. Their leadership, support and advice over my 27 years here have been crucial to my personal development and to our company’s success.

As I approach 50, I am pretty skeptical that my teaching plans will ever come to fruition. However, I am thrilled with the way things have turned out. We have great customers, many of whom I consider friends. We have an incredible team and excellent products and vendors. I couldn’t be more pleased to have made a life and career in the marine industry.

Eric Braitmayer is the president and CEO of Imtra Corp., a Massachusetts-based consumer marine product manufacturer and importer.

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