Boating Industry

October 2014

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38 | Boating Industry | October 2014 [ 2014 Movers & Shakers ] "We both made the comment over the years that we would never get back into boating," Hancock said. "I think a lot of people when they sell a company make those kinds of statements, without really knowing what they're saying." Hancock, one of the founders of Sea Pro, and Martin, one of the founders of Key West, have been friends for more than 25 years and stayed in touch even after they sold their companies. Hancock had been looking at several op- portunities to get back into the industry when, in 2011, he talked to Martin and found out he was ready to come back, too. They agreed to get together in person to talk about the idea, and an hour into the meeting, the partnership was born. "This is all either one of us have ever done in our careers," Hancock said. "We love the indus- try and we truly missed it." The company seems to have certainly hit the market at the right time. Sportsman rolled out its first model in January 2012 at the Charleston Boat Show, a 229 center console. In 2014, the company had eight models, with more planned for 2015. Sportsman has gone from eight employees in 2012 to 107 as of July, with plans to add 150 more over the next five years. The dealer net- work has grown from two to more than 50. The company has already had to move twice to find enough room to keep up with de- mand. Sportsman is now in the planning stages for adding 117,000 square feet to its current 75,000-square-foot facility. Hancock credits a great team of employees and the fact that he and Martin were well known in the industry as the key reasons behind their rapid growth. Although they had considered buying an existing brand, Hancock found those that were available had myriad problems from old tooling to dated models. With the only value being in potential brand recognition, Hancock and Martin decided to in- vest in building their own brand. "We knew we needed to have an innovative product with features and benefits that is com- petitive with what's out there, so we would have to retool everything anyways," Hancock said. "We felt like with our history in the industry, and everything we had done in the past, it would help open some doors, so we wanted to invest that money in building a brand." WAKE SURFING INNOVATOR RICK LEE President, Fineline Industries/Centurion Boats Merced, California Talk about water sports these days, and it's pretty much a given the conversation will turn to wake surfing. It's the hot topic in the towboat category, and boat builders are focused on creating the best wake through a variety of new models. That wasn't the case just a few years ago, but Centurion founder Rick Lee has been a propo- nent of the sport for two decades, building the first boat designed for wake surfing in the 1990s. "While others scoffed, Rick remained true to his mission, knowing that wake surfing would one day be wildly popular," wrote water sports indus- try veteran Jim Emmons in his nomination of Lee. Lee's a-ha moment came in the early 1990s when he and some of his team were testing the Wave, a new wakeboarding boat on Lake Yosemite. After seeing the wake created by the boat, one of his employees (who had grown up surfing in Hawaii), thought he could surf it. As a baby boomer, Lee found the sport at- tractive. It was physically easier and less punish- ing than wakeboarding or skiing, and the lower speeds and proximity to the boat made it pos- sible to interact with the surfer. "Our pursuit of a big wake for wakeboarding yielded a big wake for surfing and it was obvi- ous to us this was going to be attractive to baby boomers and families because of the social nature of this and the low-impact nature of it," he said. Every major towboat manufacturer is now bragging about the quality of their wake, some- thing many were ignoring just a few years ago. Wake surfing is now the No. 1 pastime for new buyers of towboats, and the industry has Lee to thank for that, Emmons said. Along with the rest of the industry, Centu- rion/Fineline has reaped the benefits of that growth in wake surfing. First-quarter sales for Centurion were up more than 60 percent from 2013 to 2014, and production has more than doubled in the past two years. SALES SOLVER MATT SELLHORST Pleasure boat specialist, Hall Marine Group Lake Wylie South Carolina Before he got into the industry in 2009, Matt Sellhorst didn't know much about selling boats. In fact, he'd never sold a boat before in his life. Today, he's one of the top salespeople at Top 100 dealer Hall Marine Group, a six-location dealership in the southeast, and an in-demand speaker and consultant. It's due to a marketing and sales system centered around video marketing and a no-pressure sales guarantee. The idea was to present himself as an expert resource on boating without a heavy sales presen- tation. That started with articles and a boat buyer's guide, then really took off with the use of video. Instead of focusing on simple boat walk- throughs or similar topics, Sellhorst's videos are about him and Hall Marine – and why you should work with them. "It's as close as you can get to a face-to-face sales pitch without being face-to-face," he said. "It happens to me all the time where clients come in and recognize me, so there is less selling involved and they're ready to roll." He brings his family into the videos and talks about the boating lifestyle and how buyers should choose a boat. He points out why he is different, emphasizing his "No sales pressure guarantee." "Now I'm not a boat salesman," Sellhorst said. "I'm Matt, a guy with two little girls, my wife and a dog, and they feel like they know me." With his track record of success, Sellhorst is now expanding into work as a coach and consultant for other dealers. He recently released a book, "Marine Marketing Strategies" and offers a free video mar- keting webinar at He will be speaking at this year's Marine Dealer Confer- ence & Expo in Orlando as well.

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