A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Trick or treat: Isn’t that the marine industry in an automotive industry costume?

Seems that everywhere I go these days I run into former automotive people filling positions in the marine industry.

I’m sure that some automotive people find their way into the marine industry by way of seeking new employment and changing the direction of ones career path. I firmly believe that much can be gained by sharing knowledge and technology from industry to industry.

Also, I have taken the time to get to know many of these former automotive people personally and I really like them. So what’s the big deal, right?

Recently while visiting a manufacturer, I was introduced to a new manager hailing from the automotive industry. This person took the time to tell me exactly how screwed up and backwards the marine industry is. He also informed me of his higher intellect and insight than his counter parts within his company. This fellow had been with the company about one year, so I asked him several basic questions about the boats his company produced, he said he didn’t know the answers. I further pressed him on his preference of boating life style. He confided that he didn’t enjoy boating; bikes were his thing……

While attending a recent industry awards breakfast, the keynote speaker was an automotive industry finance guy. While his speech was great (I’m not picking on him), but is the industry itself as well as the NMMA so caught up in this movement that they are not capable of presenting a respected marine industry speaker to lead and inspire? These are only two examples, I could go on, but you get my drift.

* What exactly is the love affair that certain industry leaders have with automotive people filling key positions within the marine industry? Are those that fill these positions within the industry, marine industry people or transplants?

* If the automotive industry was so good, why are these people fleeing?

* Why do many automotive people come to the industry feeling somewhat superior?

Take a moment and reflect on key appointments within the marine industry that have been filled over the years by automotive people. Were they successful? How long were they in their position(s) before they moved on? Why did they move on? Did they move on to fill other key positions or depart the industry? What really was their legacy to this industry? 

I’m not suggesting that we keep all outsiders out. However, I suggest that if you find your way into the marine industry, especially if your position is one of management. You have a responsibility to embrace boating, boat building, the marine industry and offer respect to your subordinates (that’s if you desire to be taken seriously).

David Wollard
Vice President – Marine Sales


12 comments on “Trick or treat: Isn’t that the marine industry in an automotive industry costume?

  1. Susan Wendt

    It sounds akin to foreigners coming to this country to live, work and enjoy the benefits, and yet not making the effort to speak English.

  2. Roger Field

    The marine industry needs strong leadership especially right now. Does it really matter what industry that leadership comes from? Do management and leadership principles change from one industry to the next? I don’t think so.

  3. PF Leonard

    His last paragraph says it all. Positive approach and embracing one’s industry are the only way mangement can move forward.

  4. John Warnik

    I can speak to why an automotive finance guy was the keynote. He’s the chairman of STAR, a non-profit automotive IT standards body. NMMA’s MATES affiliate is a STAR member. The marine, powersports and heavy truck industries are all leveraging non-proprietary data standards born out of automotive for use in our respective industries. Automotive has had a head start here. To a certain degree, a parts order is a parts order and a claim is a claim. We can learn from each other, especially when trying to master complex IT challenges that transcend industries.

  5. Noel Osborne

    As a former succesful marine dealer and now an industry trainer engaged in helping dealers improve their bottom-line and customer service, I can tell you that the lack of qualified people is this industries biggest single problem. If we are unable to develop strong management talent within our industry then we have to look outside the industry for them. The basic talents required to manage in our industry are those that are required in a host of other industries. It is simply a matter of adapting those basic management skills to our products and services. I say come on over and help us to improve an industry that has basically been experiencing zero growth for decades.

  6. CarlM

    David you ask the question “Why do many automotive people come to the industry feeling somewhat superior?”
    Here’s the answer. They went through all the SPC, six sigma, targets of excelence, Deming, six sigma, Lean six sigma, X bar & Y charts, etc. starting in the early 1980’s. I came into this industry (not from the car biz but I did sell some products & services to the auto industry) 12 years ago and was amazed how old school this industry was and remains to today. (See I didn’t say it was inferior) It’s 2007 almost 2008 so let’s be PC about the marine business or industry (my self I’m not convinced it is an industry), Let’s say were Old School not to ruffle anyone.
    Yes I’m being a bit tongue in check but you have to admit it takes alot more sofisticated organization to run a high volume industry than a fractured seasonal, niche industry that produces luxury (at all market levels-Even a jon boat or canoe is a luxury for those buying it.) than a required mod of transportation.
    We loose high tech personel to better paying more securely founded & funded industries every day. We can learn from folks that come from bigger companies & industries.
    Business is business all over the world.

  7. Ed

    There are multiple issues here, that ultimately come down to individuals. One is skillset, closely tied to experience. There are enough similarities between the automotive and marine inustries that the skillset and experience of automotive folks might seem compelling. It’s not suprising that as that industry sheds employees, that they would look at the marine industry. People look for work wherever their skills are percieved to be valuable.

    A hard-learned lesson for me in hiring over the course of my career was to consider attidude OVER skillset and experience. Over the years, I found that people with passion for the job/industr/company mission outperformed people with “seasoned” experience that came to teach us, more times than not.

    Someone that has no passion for the marine industry can be expected look for work here, because a job appears to leverages their skills, and it appears that they could add a great deal of value on the surface. They are not driven here by the passion for the boating industry, rather by the lack of work in their comfort zone.

    It’s up to the hiring executive, manager, or committee to look past the resume and understand the importance of interest and passion in every hire they make.

    Maybe the real question here is “why do boat companies want to be like car companies?”

    One could start a whole new blog to explore the answer to tha one!


  8. David Wollard

    In response to Tony Paigo: To answer your question, S&S had many people whose background included automotive, as they built military vehicles……..

    Not sure if that what you are referring to? Your response sounds like you have a chip on your shoulder or a point to drive home. However if your comment is meant to case doubt on my performance @ S&S or otherwise degrade me in one way or the orther to exhult yourself, I will be happy to compare notes (your performance/my performance), financial reports, sales history-etc. with you at any time you choose. In fact, I’ll buy lunch! The business I ran while at S&S is now a shadow of what was developed by S&S. How can that be? I could go on to name, names, publicly expose otherwise embarrassing information in light of what you have said….Fact is, I’m more professional than to stoop to your level to drag your junk through the mud….. Hey-if that is what helps you feel like a bigger guy, knock yourself out champ.

    Now, do you have any intelligent contribution to the subject of this blog or are you here to insult those who took the time to add intelligent thought based comments?

    David Wollard

    PS If you don’t have my contact information, ask one of your employees…..

  9. David Wollard

    To the visitors and posters on this Blog:

    A “certain somebody” has used my blog as an opportunity to take a shot at me personally. For those of you who don’t have a basis for what would drive Mr. Paigo to make such a comment allow me to address it:

    Posting this blog’s message wasn’t to disrespect anybody. In fact, I did my best to establish that in the body of my writing. I did want to deliver a message that suggest that if one finds their way to the marine industry from the automotive industry, to please embrace the marine industry while you’re here.

    I wish to thank all of you who genuinely shared your thoughts on the subject. We all know the marine industry needs help and most certainly is not perfect. For me, I accept the industry for what it is. I grew up in the industry, my father owned a marina and built boats as did his father before him. I’m passionate about living a boating life style and I am proud to tell you that one of my three sons has decided to follow in his family’s love of the marine industry by choosing to pursue a marine industry career. Nothing makes my soul more at peace than to be on the water. At times I’m not on the water often enough, but when I am it simply sooths my soul.

    Whatever has driven “Tony Paigo” to fire a shot across my bow really had no place on this thread. For this I apologize to the good people of this blog, his comments are inappropriate and don’t apply to the blog topic. Further, I fully intend to protect my otherwise good name!

    I spent nine great years at Stewart & Stevenson. It was a sad time for me to learn that the management of the company intended to sell off business units as well as downsize in an effort to sell the company. This process took a few years. Stewart & Stevenson was a publicly traded company that at one time reported about a billion dollars in sales with approx. 5000 employees. For most of its one hundred plus years it was managed and run by Stewart & Stevenson family members. They were great businessmen and sought to employ and empower people who could get the job done. They understood that for a manager to gain the respect of its employees, that manager needed to treat them with honest respect. One other unique management quality was that they sought to hire people who had entrepreneur spirits. I felt that they made every employee feel as if they were family. What a great company!

    Whatever was the undoing of Stewart & Stevenson (the publicly traded company) was much larger than me or any other one employee. My last assignment at Stewart & Stevenson (2001-early 2004) was to establish and operate a business unit that sold and distributed products for a major engine company. With only about three months of preparation, we staffed four points of distribution with full warehouse operations servicing 31 states. I was involved from the start. I participated in the initial contract negotiations and once a contract was signed I was responsible for operations. During this three plus years we experienced tremendous growth. Our engine supplier several times recognized our accomplishments by sending letters of gratitude to the management of Stewart & Stevenson. At one point, we were informed that we had become the engines manufacturer’s third largest customer of the products we sold. I was generously rewarded by my employer for exceeded budgets and business plans. Further, I received several letters of appreciation from the company president. The time to which most of this occurred there were many changes in the management of S&S and soon for the first time in over one hundred years, no Stewarts or Stevensons were involved in the management of company that holds their family name(s). Three years into a five year contract, I was sent to our supplier to negotiate a contract extension. S&S wanted to shore up it’s assets for selling off business units. After many months, the engine supplier made their intentions known that they did not intend to extend S&S’s contract, but rather the business would shift one of it’s sister companies already in the parts business. With this response, S&S announced it would depart the business early, I worked on behalf of S&S throughout the transition. While I was most certainly “a casualty of the train wreak of big business done badly”, I am confident I didn’t fail in my assignment and can prove it.. I have nothing but gratitude to S&S for the many great opportunities they entrusted to me. Even as I was leaving the company, they treated me more than fairly and with respect, for this I’m thankful.

    Now comes Mr. Paigo who works for the company that inherited my former business unit. It appears he wants/intends to publicly cause me a damaged reputation….. Interesting!

  10. Alan Bowers

    I realize this thread is a little old, but I stumbled across it today while perusing my Trade Only e-newsletter, and couldn’t resist commenting.
    I have been in the marine industry for 20 years, and have been able to observe practically every management style you could imagine. Some of these individuals were from the marine sector, and others were not. I do agree that there seems to be certain fields where the mindset appears to be one of superiority, whether in processes, procedures, intellect, or all of the above.
    I have been subjected to 5S, 8D, Lean, Continuous Improvement, and a few more I can’t remember (or choose to forget), and I do feel they all have their merits in small doses. Where the mistake comes in is believing that simply initiating the latest management trend (no matter how well you THINK it worked at your last job) as your only means of improving the process and product will only get you unemployed. The reason the vast majority of production boatbuilding seems “backwards” to someone from another (perhaps more automated?) industry is that we still rely very heavily on the human factor, because it is still the most cost-effective method for most of us. The new method has to be modified to meet the old madness, instead of trying to have the madness accept and conform to the method. The very few I have seen succeed at changing over to the marine industry have realized this, and made a sincere effort to learn all they could about their new field before making any attempts at change. The ones that did not succeed almost invariably returned to the industry (or similar) from whence they came, shaking their heads at the poor, ignorant boatbuilders they leave behind, undoubtedly doomed to failure because they went ahead and added two screws to the fitting, instead of taking two months to develop a team to study the fitting, hold meetings to analyze the inside of our eyelids, produce a small librarys’ worth of spreadsheets, flowcharts, pie graphs, etc. to show why the screws were needed, submit change requests, do cost analyses (they were 3 cents each), ad infinitum.

    You get the idea.

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