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At the Helm: What’s your bold move?

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Jonathan Sweet, Editor-in-Chief
October 1, 2012
Filed under Columns

In this issue, we recognize 11 industry leaders for their willingness to take risks and challenge conventional thinking.

As I interviewed most of them for the profiles that start on page 18 with our Mover & Shaker of the Year, Rob Parmentier of Sea Ray, a clear trend emerged: They were universally optimistic about the future of boating.

Sure, they were taking risks in remaking their companies in the Great Recession, but they also believe there are better times ahead for the industry. So they are making the smart decisions to position themselves before the recovery is in full swing.

It’s the right attitude to take. After all, there is a long history of successful companies that have started during a recession or depression, such as General Electric, IBM, Microsoft and Disney. In fact, more than half of the Fortune 500 was started during an economic downturn, according to research by the Kaufmann Foundation.

Recessions are also a great chance to reinvent a company. The Apple that we all know now was really born in the early-2000s recession when founder Steve Jobs returned and launched the revolution that would lead to the iPod, the iPhone and eventually the iPad.

For our Movers & Shakers and others we recognize in this issue, their big moves varied. But the important thing was they weren’t afraid to rethink the way they do business. Are you doing the same?

Take a look at those we recognized this year. There are ideas you can emulate from making your operations more lean to getting involved in local government for the betterment of the industry.

What can you change? Is it to rethink the way you structure your service department? One of our Top 100 applicants did that this year and doubled their GPM for that department.

How about opening kiosks or even a small showroom in a local mall? Or searching Craigslist for people looking for boats – then reaching out to them? Launching a marketing campaign promoting the affordability of boating? Partnering with local real estate agents if you’re in cabin country?

Those are just a few real-life examples from dealers across the country that have moved the needle for their businesses. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to be difficult. Some of the leaders we recognized didn’t spend a lot of money to revitalize their businesses, but they did take a long look at what needed to be changed.

Maybe your change can be relatively simple. Look at improving communication between departments in your dealership – associate editor Brent Renneke talked to several people for this issue about how that has had a big payoff for them. His article starts on page 34.

Or you can get creative with your floor plan financing. With the industry starting to come back, more players are returning to lending and that can give your dealership some important flexibility when making your borrowing decisions. Senior editor Mike Davin writes about that this month as well.

So take a good look at your business and ask yourself: What’s your bold move?

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