The Ontario Marine Operators Association's (OMOA) Boating Ontario Conference and Trade Show – Survive and Thrive, held at the Ambassador Conference Resort in Kingston, ON last week, reported approximately 260 attendees.
“The conference was very well attended, especially considering it was quite a distance for many to travel,” says Jason Crate of Crate's Lake Country Boats and Past Chair of the Boating Ontario Dealer (BOD) Board of Directors. “The level of member participation at the shirtsleeve session was excellent. Dealers and brokers spoke freely about the challenges and victories of the past year and gave us great feedback on what we need to accomplish in 2010.”
“The atmosphere was a little more upbeat than we anticipated,” says Al Donaldson, Executive Director of the OMOA. “I think we had a good cross section of speakers this year. When we asked the audience about sales for next year, the majority of people said their sales would be up by 10 percent. I hope it's true!”
It was at the Shirtsleeve Session that Richard Straka, Relationship Manager for GE, shared his thoughts in response to a question about where GE sees financing for next year. “We realize the Canadian market has seen the bottom last summer and is starting to move nicely forward,” shared Straka. “We're expecting growth between 10 to 15 percent. The inventory has come down significantly, in Canada and in the US. Our book of business is down by about 50 percent from last year. We're hoping the right inventory level now is somewhere between where it is now and 2008.”
“Dealers have to change their way of ordering,” predicts Donaldson on what 2010 will bring. “The customers are going to have to be used to working with a smaller inventory because it isn't there and the boat manufacturers don't have it. Therefore, there is likely going to be a slowness in the turnover of inventory. My guess is if we can keep sales at the same level in 2010, we'll be doing well, notwithstanding that our dealers think we'll be doing even better. I hope they're right and I'm wrong.”
During the Marinas Brainstorming Session, moderated by OMOA Past President Jeff Stovold, a crowded room of operators from privately owned marinas offered each other numerous helpful money saving tips and discussed commonly held concerns. The two-hour session covered tips dealing with subjects ranging from Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA) standards affecting marina fuel tanks and underground piping to the skills shortages issues facing marinas beyond the shortage of marine engine mechanics.
Sunday's lineup of speakers included the much-anticipated insight of Regal Boats President Duane Kuck, who answered questions from delegates. Kuck offered an optimistic outlook for the coming year. “Dealers and boat manufacturers haven't had the greatest relationships at times,” said Kuck. “That's changing. The way we're we work together is improving greatly. And that gives me a lot of hope.”
Following Kuck's presentation, Tom Deans' eye-opening presentation on Every Family's Business left many listeners seeking his insight after his conclusion. Deans' skillfully raised the sensitive issue of a family business having a proper succession plan for when its owners retire or pass away. “There is a reason why succession planning is mostly ignored,” explained Deans. “Family business owners are confounded by how they will pass on their business. Often, that conversation never occurs. What gives family businesses their great competitive strength, are the same qualities that can destroy the wealth in record speed. It's an excruciating experience process to part ways with a business that you've poured yourself into. Not selling your business either to your children, a competitor or to a financial buyer, and waiting too long and destroying all of your retained earnings is a whole lot worse.”
The President's Award went to two recipients this year. Both Jack Pady of Jack Pady Marine, Penetanguishene, ON and Warren Howes, recently retired from Georgian College were recognized with the award for their contributions to the marine industry. Meanwhile, Dave Barnier President of Erieau Marina, Erieau, ON and a former chair of Discovery Boating board received the W.J. Robertson Award in recognition of his support for the OMOA. The Gord Blake Visionary Award was not presented this year.