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A Man of Influence

We all meet many people in the course of our business career. If we’re fortunate, there will be a few along the way that have a lasting impact on us, a real influence on our way of thinking and, yes, even contribute to whatever measure of success we might achieve. So, allow me to take a day off from talking about dealer subjects to remember just such an industry figure.

Jerry Martin died on June 15 as reported by TradeOnlyToday. His impact on the marine industry spanned more than 50 remarkable years. He and I began our industry careers at the same place — Johnson Motors (OMC), although Jerry was there and gone by the time I started. What wasn’t gone was his reputation and influence. From the day I started work there Jerry’s name was spoken so often you’d have thought he was still in the office just down the hall.

He was, in fact, just down the road a few miles at a new retail store named The Boat Show. Yes, Jerry was Johnson’s first Sales Promotion Manager in 1955 and 9 years later (about 3 before I got hired) he’d moved over to the retail side. Maybe it was our Johnson connection, or maybe he just liked me, but I drove from Waukegan to Gurnee on many occasions during those early years to get his input on projects I was working on. His door was always open then, and it never closed to me and so many others in this industry.

Jerry received many industry honors, all deserved. He was among the founders of our national dealer organization, the MRAA. He dedicated years to its successful development. Of all the memories I have of Jerry, two stand out.

First, I recall he was a father of the P.I.E. Plan, which stood for Partners in Expansion. It was a simple idea – add a small fee to boats and motors and use the proceeds for a national campaign to promote the growth of boating! His vision didn’t “sell” to the manufacturers 15 years ago when it was proposed. Sadly, he was just ahead of the times.

Today, we finally have the national Discover Boating campaign backed by a small fee on engines. But I can’t help wondering where our industry boat sales might be today if we could have had a P.I.E.  Plan working for us all these years?

Second, the thing I admired most about Jerry was his way of making you feel important and good about yourself when you were around him. He was a master at making you think you had his undivided attention. Even when I was the newest kid on the block at Johnson, Jerry made me feel like somebody whenever I’d walk into The Boat Show. You know, even in his passing Jerry gives us something we should always remember — making people feel important IS important.

I’m so glad I had the chance to know and be influenced by Jerry. How about you?

Comments

6 comments on “A Man of Influence

  1. Laura Martin

    What a wonderful tribute from Norm Shultz to my dad!

    Norm’s comment about Dad always listening to him is one I have heard over & over again from people in all parts and levels of this industry he loved so much. Just like The Boat Show & Camping Center, the establishment of MRAA, the P.I.E. Plan, Marine Profit Builders (his F&I company) and so many other ventures over the years, many of his ideas WERE ahead of their times & he didn’t make much money from them, but it was really “the good of the industry” that drove him on, anyway.

    I have been so fortunate in my life & career to have a mentor like Jerry Martin to help me in understanding this marine industry world, and I’m delighted to share that feeling with so many others. But more than that, I had the supreme blessing of getting to know my dad as an adult human being. I know how much I will miss him. It seems I’m not that alone. . . .

    Thanks for all your dedication & thoughtfulness over the years, Norm. I think my Dad would really love to see you standing up with your “dealer” hat on these days!!!

    Laura Martin
    Martin Flory Group
    Gurnee, IL
    847 662 9070

  2. Mike Walker

    Great praise on Jerry Martin, Norm. Thanks for sharing. It is a continual amazement to me how many of the marine industry’s PR people came through Johnson Outboards and Jerry was one of the best. I found him to be always a pro, pleasant and every ready to lend a hand.

    The marine industry was built largely by entrepreneurs and Jerry certainly fits that description to a T. All of us who knew him miss him.

  3. Jim Ramsey

    Laura and Norm,
    Your thoughts and comments are well said. Jerry was a fine man and he was an inspiration to all of us.
    He will be missed.

    Jim Ramsey
    JC Ramsey & Company
    Charleston, SC

  4. JACK DOLAN

    JERRY MARTIN WAS A GREAT IDEA MAN AND WOULD SHARE ON A MOMENTS NOTICE. I USED THE PIE AD PLAN AT ITS INCEPTION.IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE CO-OP PROGRAMS FOR ME. I BUILT MY SALES TO 1000 UNITS IN 1988 USING THE CO-OP METHODS SUGGESTED BY JERRY.I FEEL HE KEPT THE MRAA ALIVE IN THE EARLY DAYS, BACK WHEN PHIL KEETER WAS STILL A BOAT DEALER. WE ATTENDED THE BOARD MEETINGS IN CHICAGO AND PLANNED FOR THE DAY WHEN DEALERS AND MANUFACTURES COULD TRULY BE PARTNERS, RATHER THAN THE LORDSHIP-SERF RELATIONSHIP THAT STILL EXISTS TODAY. JERRY WAS ALWAYS A GENTLEMAN,ALWAYS WILLING TO HELP,A GREAT QUIET LEADER BY EXAMPLE. JACK DOLAN, RETIRED.

  5. Tom Weslager

    Re; Norm Schultz’s comments on the late Jerry Martin.

    Norm:

    You were directly on target about Jerry. I ran Jerry’s PR business for several years in Gurnee and worked closely with him on a daily basis. I considered him a friend first, and the owner second.

    Warren Buffett once said an entrepreneur is someone who is trying to market something that hasn’t been invented yet. That was Jerry. The MRAA, the P.I.E. Plan, his International Marine Distribution Association (IMDA) and others were all ideas that were ahead of their time. Of course, Jerry had others projects that didn’t make the grade, but it never deterred him. He was the quinticential optimist. “One door closes and another one opens,” he said many times.

    One day when we were returning from lunch, Jerry suddenly swung his car into the parking lot of a carpeting store in Gurnee, which was the site of his original “The Boat Show.” Jerry dragged me inside, said a quick hello to the salesman and then took me a tour of the entire building–pointing out where the old F&I office was, his repair shop, etc. After that, there was never any doubt in my mind that Jerry would always be a dealer at heart.

    Yes, Jerry could be demanding and tough, but he was a good and honest man with an incredible wit. The industry has lost one its best.

    Tom Weslager
    marinenews@wi.rr.com

  6. Pete Loftin

    RITE-ON, NORM! Over the many years of our association, Jerry was certainly a true friend and a wonderful associate. I well remember my first years when I became associated with Jerry in the formative years of MRAA. As the years progressed, I was fortunate to have been in the chair when we had the first Congress, the first regional meetings, the first convention in Las Vegas- with Jerry the workhorse and instigator- and well remember the trip Jerry and I took to New York to visit the high echelon of CBS, as well as the fight with Carter on no weekend boating. Yes, Jerry Martin was a great part of my marine industry life, even to the point we all were OMC people (I started with the “assembly line” at Evinrude in 1946 and moved back south as area representative in 1949 for some years before becoming a marine dealer). There are many catalyses in the struggle and embryo years of MRAA but I believe all of ol’ geezers” will admit that without the total dedication and support of Jerry Martin, it would have been most difficult to achieve the goals sought. As Jerry and I both are not physically “big people”, we had a lot of fun kidding each other and laughing together! I certainly agree- Jerry was a man of forethought, integrity, generosity– and, most all, A FRIEND! True, blessing come in many ways and Jerry was a blessing!
    Pete Loftin

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