GE Capital Solutions and Sail America “Growth Through Innovation” Sailing Industry Conference in Newport, RI Applauded as Great Success by Industry Members
Expectations were exceeded at the widely praised inaugural “Growth Through Innovation” conference presented by GE Capital Solutions and Sail America on June 11-12 in Newport, RI. Industry members were enthusiastic about the high-quality presentations, workshops and networking events that focused on achieving business growth in today’s challenging marketplace.
Over 150 sailing industry professionals from throughout the country gathered at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI, for the conference that featured practical, take-home advice from leading minds in business and in the sailing industry.
Will Keene, president of Edson Corp. in New Bedford, MA, said the conference “was one of the better education conferences I’ve been to. Period. The information was well-presented; it was pertinent and it was just enough—it wasn’t information overload and it was varied enough. I’m using some of it today in my marketing meeting.”
Highlights included a keynote presentation and workshops by best-selling business author Dan Coughlin, and speeches by Wachovia Senior Economic Analyst Mark Vitner and US Olympic Sailing Committee Chairman Dean M. Brenner.
Eric Hall, president of Hall Spars & Rigging, said he gave the entire conference, “very, very high marks,” saying he was impressed with keynote speaker Coughlin’s presentation and leadership workshop.
“I was really inspired by Dan Coughlin,” said Hall, “He was just excellent and I have a lot of takeaway stuff that is definitely learning material. I learned a lot about myself, and a lot about managing (people). He gave us a lot of stuff that is very simple to remember and apply in the future.”
Keynote speaker Dan Coughlin, management consultant to Fortune 500 companies, provided practical processes and on-target ideas to fuel innovation in the sailing industry. Coughlin, author of Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum, has observed and worked with executives and managers in more than 20 industries and blue-chip companies such as Coca Cola®, Toyota™, Marriott®, and McDonald’s®.
"The sailing industry is in the aspirational product business,” said Coughlin. “People aspire to own a sailboat and even ride on a sailboat. I rode with the owners of a beautiful sailboat yesterday, and they told me that they dreamed about it for five years. Who else is in the aspirational business? Ralph Lauren. What did he do? He democratized aspiration. He made it possible for people at every price point to buy a Ralph Lauren product and feel as though they are moving on up in life. How can the sailing industry democratize aspiration?"
Wachovia Senior Economist and Managing Director Mark Vitner forecast that the economy will narrowly avoid a recession in 2008. While significant risks remain in place, he said he believed the U.S. has already seen the worst of the credit crisis and that Americans will see much more solid gains in 2009.
In his speech, United States Olympic Sailing Program Chairman Dean Brenner discussed the tactics and strategies he employs as president of his communications coaching firm, The Latimer Group, to help his Fortune 500 clients communicate more persuasively.
To explain great organizational communication, Brenner used the metaphor of a three-legged stool – the communication skills of the company leadership; the communication skills of the team members; and the collective team dynamic that both the leadership and the employee base create. If any of the three legs are out of line, organizational communication problems will begin to appear.
He said, “Companies are nothing more than a collection of people. And when the organizational communication skills are in order, the group can easily exceed the sum of their parts. When they are not, problems will arise.”
Brenner also said he’s very excited about the prospects for hard-working, young U.S. Olympic sailing team headed to China this summer.
“We have a young team with many first-timers representing the USA,” he noted. “But this is also an experienced team that has been performing well internationally for the last few years. International competition is fierce, so firm predictions on results are hard to do. But I feel great about the athletes who will represent the USA this summer in China.”
Conference Welcome Reception and Gala Dinner Highlights:
The conference began June 11 with a Welcome Reception at the Newport Yachting Center that included a special presentation by PUMA Racing Skipper Ken Read about the Volvo Ocean Race sponsored by SAIL Magazine and the Newport International Boat Show. Read noted that PUMA’s involvement in the Volvo Ocean Race would stimulate strong media coverage in the mainstream, non-marine media, a good move for sailing. While the world of the Volvo Ocean Race may seem far removed from the day-to-day life of many industry members, Read said he believes that the breakthrough technologies developed for the Volvo Ocean Race will trickle down to benefit the entire sailing industry.
The day-long conference June 12 concluded with a Gala Dinner at the International Yacht Restoration School and an after-dinner speech by Tom Ehman, America’s Cup veteran and head of External Affairs for BMW Oracle Racing, presented by The Sailing Company, publishers of Cruising World and Sailing World magazines. Ehman put in perspective the current legal controversy surrounding America’s Cup 33, his tenth straight campaign. Echoing Read’s remarks, he also challenged the industry to reach out beyond itself to broaden sailing’s appeal by persuading more high-profile companies to become involved with sailing initiatives.
Sail America’s inaugural Industry Conference was sponsored by leading industry companies including: Title Sponsor: GE Capital Solutions; Presenting Conference Sponsors: Gill® North America; Composites One®, Marsh Insurance and Yanmar®; Gala Dinner Sponsor: The Sailing Company; Speaker Sponsors: The Moorings, Blue Water Sailing and Harken®; Breakfast Sponsor: Sunsail; Lunch Sponsor: Hunter® Marine; Welcome Reception Sponsors; SAIL Magazine and the Newport Boat Show. Photography Sponsors: Billy Black and Sabre Yachts; Official Web Provider: Caffeine, Inc. and Official Marketing Partner: Kenton Smith Advertising & Public Relations. In addition to West Marine, the Industry Regatta was supported by North Sails, US SAILING and Gill® North America.
Visit http://www.sailamerica.com/conference/index.asp for more follow-up information and photos on the Industry Conference and Regatta. Alternatively, please contact Kimberly Tuchon or Jonathan Banks at 401-841-0900.