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Are We Having Fun Yet?

Deciding to Sell Your Business

I feel that those involved with the marine industry are among the most fortunate individuals in our country today. Two main factors come to mind in making such a statement. First, many of you are entrepreneurs, members of an elite group of people. There is much being written in the weekly news magazines about being an entrepreneur, and the many people leaving their corporate jobs to attempt a career at owning their own business.

Secondly, in choosing the marine industry, you work in a trade that is looked upon with a great deal of respect and admiration. Surely, you have heard many people state they would want to change jobs with you just so they could be near the water.

Perhaps one of the attractions of this business to others is the ability of the business to take on a personality that is reflective of its owner. As owners, you usually hire team members (employees) that you like and enjoy working with. You also merchandise your business or tailor your services, to a certain degree, to reflect your own special interests.

There are few people that sell sailing ships that think sailing is a waste of time, and would prefer to be in a powerboat. You can see the businesses of the adventurous owner, as he has branched out into the nontraditional areas such as clothing or providing schools for the novice.

When many of you got into the marine business, you expected to financially maintain your family, as well as have fun at providing necessary products and services for your community.

Unfortunately, this is not the same marine business today that it was 10 years ago. So many of the products and services of today did not exist back then. And the competition has come climbing out of the water it seems. But, it is the marine industry of today, and it will continue to change whether or not you are a part of it.

If you make a habit of visiting with those attending IMTEC and other marine industry events, there are always individuals expressing various levels of exhaustion and burnout with the business. Several of these people have sold their business, others have businesses whose appearance reflects their exhaustion, while some have been able to renew the self-drive that makes the marine business fun.

Unfortunately, most have experienced times when you have felt "burnt out" with the marine business or any other business that you have been a part of. It is not an experience that is exclusive to the owners and managers of the business.

Long-time, valuable employees can also experience this. And in today's growing market with diminishing availability of qualified help, it can be potentially devastating to your business. Motivation, and the loss of motivation, are crucial to the success of your business, no matter what part of the marine industry you participate in. And when the loss of motivation occurs, it is important to be able to identify it and to react. Short-term burnout seems to begin with minor situations such as an irate customer, losing a valued employee or perhaps experiencing a major foul up by an employee. String together a few of these types of events, and your disappointment begins to grow to the point where it becomes evident to your staff and customers.

One successful business in this industry deals with these situations by looking at a list of projects, both short and long term, which is kept posted on the office wall. Completion of one of the easier projects can often lift one out of the doldrums. The projects list has items that are for employees as well as items that specifically require the attention of the owner or manager. In isolating oneself and beginning to address one of these tasks, the solitude and accomplishment of the project can often provide the necessary morale boost.

For yourself, or perhaps for one of your key employees, taking a short trip to a nearby town for a weekend seems to do wonders for clearing the mind. This idea may seem to be expensive, but a survey showed that it could cost a business the same as one third of a year's salary to replace an employee. Put into that perspective, you will probably agree that a weekend getaway is comparatively inexpensive. In speaking to those that have resorted to this "therapy", they have stated these weekend trips often include finding a marine business that is similar to the one they own.

Observing another operation causes the thought process to begin rolling, and you can get several new ideas to take home to try in your business. If you are purchasing inventory through a wholesaler, they often provide management or merchandising seminars that you can attend. Having the chance to visit with others within the industry will show it is not always knowing the answers, but knowing where to get them.

Unfortunately, there also exists a more severe level of burnout. This is often caused by repeated occurrences of the problems already discussed, and/or having experienced many months of declining sales, continued severe employee problems, or the arrival of competition that has greatly cut into your share of the market.

Maybe someone is just tired of the marine industry, or has found another type of business to be more interesting. Then perhaps it is time to ask yourself, "Are we having fun, yet?"

If the answer is no, then possibly it is time to make arrangements to sell your business. As for employees with what appears to be a severe problem, there is a fine line of which you should be aware. There are questions that might be asked in your efforts to determine if there is an outside problem that you can assist with, or a problem that is beyond your expertise and ability to resolve.

If termination of employment is necessary, you do not want to be in the position of having improperly questioned your employee. Hopefully, this home remedy will be of value to you. Our industry, like any other industry that has retail customers, needs folks that are aggressive and happy to be a part of it.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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