Part 3 – Industry Updates

Frank Farrell Distinguished Service Award

Warren Kelly receiving the Frank Farrell award at the Business of Boating (BOB) Conference 2024Frank Farrell dedicated himself to both the visibility and growth of recreational boating. And the marine industry in Massachusetts. He was a co-creator of the New England Boat Show in 1957. He was instrumental in the formation of the MMTA in 1964 and the first full-time executive director in 1975 where he spent the next 25 years guiding the organization.

This year’s Frank Farrell Distinguished Service Award recipient went to Warren Kelly. Kelly has been in the industry since 1973 meeting and exceeding criteria for long and devoted service.

“I simply cannot express how grateful I am to have been a part of the Marine Industry for the past 50 years,” says Kelly. “Being presented with this coveted award from the Massachusetts Marine Trade Association is simply an unexpected honor for which I cannot express my gratitude. I’m honored to say that Frank Farrell was a close friend and Frank’s contributions to our industry set the standard for this recognition which makes this moment so very special on a personal level.”


Kate Fox, MA Office of Travel and Tourism talked about combining travel and boating together at the Business of Boating (BOB) conference 2024Kate Fox, MA Office of Travel and Tourism talked about combining travel and boating together. The local boat MA program is entering its 16th year and this year’s focus is to get boaters to travel around the state, spend money at local communities on shopping, dining, etc.

Mass kids boating and fishing week is June 1st to June 9th, 2024. If you’re able to host an event this year, the focus is trying to get more kids involved in fishing and boating.

Industry Update

Matt Gruhn, President, Marine Retailers Association of Americas (MRAA) finished out the day with two sessions. The first one was an industry update regarding sales, inventory, and future outlook.

Matt Gruhn, President of MRAA spoke on industry updates at the Business of Boating (BOB) conference 2024According to Gruhn, 2024 has been like the most feared year of any year in a long time. He doesn’t think it’s going to be that tough. But believes whatever happens in 2024 is going to come down to one’s mindset. “Your mindset is going to make all the difference with how you find success in this year,” says Gruhn. “And in the months ahead.” Now is the time to refocus back to the basics. Or the fundamentals of running your business. That’s what boating businesses did in 2008, 2009, and 2010. And that’s what will take you through 2024.

Five things that you should think about or know, for the year ahead. This list came from dealers and manufacturers. It’s their perspective of what’s happening.

  1. The fairy tale is over. No one is seeing the business they had in the past few years. Marketing costs are up. Interest rates are up. Supply and demand are as real as gravity.
  2. It’s the other guy’s problem. Not true.
  3. This time it’s different. Not really.
  4. It’s time to get creative. Take a look at what you can control. Help your customers get rid of their boats, even at a loss.
  5. MRAA is your guide. They provide articles and courses such as inventory management. For silver and gold members there is an AI Marine Industry Education called AIMIE who writes blog posts, etc.

The second session was “Improving Employee Engagement to Increase Retention Levels for All Industry Employees.”

Throughout this session, Gruhn suggested several books to read to become a better manager. I’ll list these at the end and why he recommended them.

The first thing Gruhn says is to hire right. This is where employee retention begins. Next you want to onboard effectively. And last, develop your employees intentionally.

Books –

  • Good to Great – James C. Collins. If you’re a manager and you want to know how to knock it out of the park, this book is for you.
  • First, Break all the Rules – From Gallup. This talks about what the world’s greatest managers do differently.
  • Top Grading – Branford D. Smart. Marine Max case study is in here and in the back they outline the interview questions.
  • The Ideal Team Player – Patrick Lencioni. Most organizations don’t have an onboarding process.
  • The Power of Moments – Chris and Dan Heath. This book talks about the three types of employees. The engaged, nonengaged, and actively disengaged.
  • Employee Handbook – MRAA. They have a guide to interviewing and how to staff your sales department. And a sample employee handbook. AIMIE can help with writing job descriptions and training curriculums.

Last but not least, Gruhn mentioned a new partnership with ABYC to create a service management credentialing program. This is great for an aspiring service manager or someone who wants to learn how to efficiently run a service department. It comes with a workbook and study guide.

Now it’s time to rock the boat and sail through every storm!

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