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Showing what we’ve learned

Tom Kaiser, Senior Editor

By Tom Kaiser
December 20, 2013
Filed under Tom Kaiser

There’s a lot of information out there for business leaders these days — and that’s especially true in the marine industry. Organizations like the NMMA, MRAA and Boating Industry, to name a few, are all dedicated to improving your business. Judging from attendance at this year’s MDCE, and a general sense from one with his ear to the ground, there’s a groundswell of marine professionals taking advantage of the helpful information and advice.

From testimonials we collect after MDCE and during interviews with industry professionals, we know people in the biz are putting this information to good use. And it’s making a difference. The question is, will you be watchful enough to make the right long-term decisions, in additional to all the smart short- and medium-term changes you’re implementing?

Everybody knows it’s very tough to spot a trend coming, and glaringly obvious once it has arrived, but that’s why we all need to keep the past in mind as we go forward into the future.

I see an interesting example of this playing out in the automotive industry right now. Back when I was a greenhorn, serving as an intern in the business section at the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, I covered the so-called incentive wars that eventually decimated the auto industry. Over-production was maintained with massive rebates and discounts that, in hindsight, appear ridiculous. Anytime you get a free car with a purchase, for example, that’s unmistakable evidence of a bubble.

Today, in the wake of the best auto sales since 2007, excess cars and trucks are once again piling up on dealer lots and in the massive storage parking lots in most major cities.

What happens next will be especially telling. Will the automakers start piling on massive discounts to boost sales and maintain market share, or will they make the painful decision to cut production levels?

The parallel with the marine industry is clear. We’ve had some healthier times and everybody is feeling more optimistic. But will we be smart enough to avoid overproducing and over-discounting if and when things moderate? That will be our big test, the chance to prove we’ve learned a lesson during that awful downturn.

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