The Next Generation: Eric Smith
March 1, 2013
Filed under Features
This interview is part of the article The Next Generation.
What do you see as the industry’s biggest challenge?
There is a price point barrier for our industry that seems to only be getting higher. With so many other alternatives for people to choose from these days, we need to find a way to demonstrate the ease and affordability of boating.
What makes you optimistic about the industry?
The industry is still very fragile, and it wouldn’t take too much to send us back into the abyss we’re trying to come out of, but the refreshing thing is that we have seen some improvements at all ends. What makes me most optimistic is the energy that has kicked into many of the organizations and dealerships. Many have embraced the needed changes and are looking forward to new ideas instead of the old adage of nothing will change because this is how we’ve always done it.
How can we attract more young people to the industry as boaters?
We need to do a better job of promoting the lifestyle. Along with that, we need to show that boating can be reliable and affordable.
What do you think the younger generation brings to the industry?
I think that we bring in a fresh, new approach and attitude. Many of us have grown up within the industry so we’ve seen it at its highest and we’ve now experienced the lows.
What I have seen from my peers in the industry is that there is a lot of passion for the lifestyle and products of our industry. This has become extremely visible with the advent of the YLAC and the work they have done for the MRAA.
How did you get involved in boating?
My father started the business 23 years ago. I went to school and pursued another career before coming back into the business eight years ago. My decision to come into the dealership was to help in the family business and to continue its success, as well as be in an industry that I was passionate about.
Why did you join the YLAC?
A few years ago after attending many shows and conventions I was growing frustrated with the industry and the “boys club” atmosphere it was fostering. I had talked with a few of my peers and started brainstorming the idea and foundation to what would become the YLAC.
About that time Nancy Smith, [co-owner of Colorado Boat Center], had been asked to become a board member for the MRAA, and they asked her if she had any ideas to improve the organization. Having access to Nancy like I do, I gave her my idea and she moved forward with it at the board level. From that point things moved very quickly and the YLAC was born. I then joined YLAC because I believed it was going to give me the opportunity to share ideas amongst peers and hopefully move towards progressing the industry.
What can boat builders and other manufacturers do to help dealers be more successful?
I think some manufacturers have to realize who their true customer is, that being the dealer. No matter what a manufacturer would like to believe, it is the dealership first that a boat buyer is buying from and the product is second.
We as dealers are their customers have chosen to work with the manufacturers who best line up for us and our business needs. I think that we have started to see it with several manufacturers that are working closely with their dealer networks and have looked at the dealers as assets to their growth.
How has your perspective as a young leader helped you improve your company?
When I first came back into the dealership I had the attitude that I was going to change the world overnight. I now don’t see our company at the small scale that I saw initially; I now take a more global approach into how I operate within our organization.