The industry’s future, in good hands

Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor

By Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor
October 11, 2013
Filed under Tom Kaiser

As the leaves fall down during autumn’s peak, your business has likely rolled over to a new fiscal year. This fresh start is the time to evaluate the season’s performance for how it compared to your plans and, once again, make predictions for the coming 12 months.

Most businesspeople, especially corner office types, love to prognosticate about the economy. You can’t blame them for trying, given that a big part of their job involves reading the economic, supply chain, industry and political tea leaves that will impact their operations. Prediction is an inseparable part of business leadership. Some love it, while some loathe being forced to wear the forecaster’s hat.

I love doing interviews. The opportunity to talk to smart, creative people never gets old, and there are a lot of very smart people within our industry. Aside from the usual greetings and topical discussion during an interview, I like to ask business leaders for their feelings about the economy and where they think it’s headed.

It’s always interesting when somebody launches into a monologue about what he or she is seeing in the world, and how it could affect their business in the coming months. It could be material prices, labor market conditions or the weather, but some people relish the chance to think ahead and share their two cents.

Others show a strong disdain for the question. Without naming names, I’ve had a few leadership-types clam up and say that projecting the future is a fool’s errand that’s nearly impossible for the most seasoned economists. They certainly have a point.

However, from my experience, the most engaging, charismatic leaders aren’t afraid to go out on a limb, and are voracious consumers of everything they can get their hands on: news, global currency shifts, trends in technology and design, demographics, etc. Predictions are inherently questionable, but I think it’s a leader’s jobs to give it a shot.

I will never fault somebody for hesitating to predict the future; it’s often a losing game. That said, I’m often most inspired by those who have the ambitions to seek out as much information as they can and the courage to say what they feel.

So what’s the consensus these days? Uncertainty has increased, but most marine and powersports experts are telling me they expect a continuation of the current trend — slow and steady growth barring unforeseen crisis or crazy weather. Looking at the last few years, history is on their side.

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