The Next Generation: Ryan Hebert
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?
Our industry is always facing many challenges from year to year. Issues such as model year releases, boater’s safety and education, federal and state regulations, etc. The most important thing is that the entire industry is unified to meet these and other challenges over the next 25 to 50 years and beyond.
It will be crucial for dealers, manufacturers, and vendors/providers to come together to meet these challenges. Due to the shear number of dealers and manufacturers who have been in the marketplace, this industry has been slow to coordinate resources and ideas. This has been changing for the better over the past decade, but there is still a lot of work needed to be done to bring all parties together for the common good.
What makes you optimistic about the industry?
During my relatively short tenure in the industry, I have seen companies and individuals overcome great obstacles. The entire industry on average has begun to pull out of a slump in revenues and profit due to the worst national economic climate in the past 10 to 20 years.
I have seen all industry segments successfully weather this storm by adapting to the changes, working together, and most importantly, focusing on the boaters and customers that are the lifeblood of our industry. Witnessing our industry pull out of this recession stronger than ever is a strong indicator that we can overcome any obstacle.
How can we attract more young people to the industry as boaters?
This is simple: GET THE WORD OUT. We find so many young individuals in our marketplace – many of whom have grown up in the outdoors lifestyle – that are so eager to come work in this industry.
The problem is that many of them did not know how to get involved or did not know how to track down various job openings. We have learned that simply advertising our dealership as a great place for employment brings so much interest from the younger generation. Targeting that advertising towards schools, clubs, and associations is a great way to spread the word.
What do you think the younger generation brings to the industry?
Just like in almost every other industry, it is important to build excitement, energy and to always be looking for a new perspective. That is exactly what our generation brings with us. It’s absolutely important for businesses in this industry to posses experience, wisdom and devotion, but that is only half of the equation.
I recently heard an expert in generational selling say that members of the younger generations are “always on.” They are constantly learning, constantly working, constantly looking for new ideas and new ways of doing things, and they do these things with a relentless energy and level of excitement.
In an industry experiencing so much change, this is a perfect time to bring aboard those from the next generation who can help make that change.
How did you get involved in boating?
Raised in a family business, I grew up on the water and in the dealership. I was raised in an area that is surrounded by all types of water. Within a radius of 60 miles, we have saltwater and freshwater lakes, rivers, bay systems, marshes and the Gulf of Mexico. At an early age, I was exposed to all kinds of outdoor activities and many types of boats and water sports.
Why did you join the YLAC?
Having grown up in the dealership, I always figured there were many other people in the industry just like me – people of the same age group, experience level and passion – that are looking for others to connect with.
I was also exposed at an early age to the greater industry as a whole, but I wanted to find a way to get involved on a broader level and find ways to connect with others nationwide and beyond that to help our industry and get involved. I knew that the MRAA played an integral role in our industry, representing thousands of dealers just like me and my family, so when I heard that there was a council made up of similar-minded individuals, I really wanted to be a part of that.
What can boat builders and other manufacturers do to help dealers be more successful?
Manufacturers understand that the entire industry is striving for the same goal: To help people realize there dreams of spending time on the water with family and friends and to help the industry grow so that it can effectively support those people. Dealers are where the hull meets the water in this industry.
As dealers, we know our marketplaces best, and we work hard to build brand awareness in our marketplaces. We all look forward to solid, long-term and equitable relationships with our manufacturers to help better serve the public. I have always told our customers that they will get the same level of service that our manufacturers give to us. That is why we choose to partner only with manufacturers and providers who realize that, through the dealer, they are taking direct care of the customer.
How has your perspective as a young leader helped you improve your company?
I have always felt that, as a young leader in this industry, the challenge is to combine the numerous years of experience and wisdom of my peers with my energy and desire to find new and innovative ways of doing business.
They say a worker is only as good as his tools, and my generation has the advantage of growing up with an instant knowledge of how to best utilize today’s tools. Our generation’s way of thinking is free from the burden of past failures and errors. With some guidance from those who have matured along with the industry over the years, I have been able to convince many others in our business to implement successful changes that they otherwise would have never considered.