Vince Morvillo is one of the key featured presenters at the upcoming 2010 Sail America Sailing Industry Conference and Regatta. A blind yachtsman and winning skipper of both blind World and National Championships, Morvillo brings his own lifelong passion for sailing to our event, along with a truly unique and entrepreneurial perspective to business. His compelling approach and winning attitude has propelled his own success both on and off the water, as he affirms the power of believing that anything is possible.
Over his impressive career, Vince has achieved multiple milestones. He was the youngest department head at a world-class, non-profit hospital; managed the start-up of a medical staffing company; became the #1 sales producer for a large international sales organization; and developed a leading yacht sales organization, Sea Lake Yacht Sales, which became the Texas market share leader in the sailboat market for both new and used boats. A believer in giving back to industry, Sea Lake was the pre-eminent sponsor for the 2008 Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship and a major sponsor for the 2008 U.S. Special Olympics Sailing Team.
This month’s Waypoints exclusive Cover Story Q & A sets the stage for Vince’s compelling keynote, “It’s Not Just a Recession,” and subsequent break-out presentation, “Harness the Power of the Unimagined.”
WAYPOINTS: First, a few questions on the personal side. When and how were you introduced to sailing?
MORVILLO: It was a shady beginning; I stole a boat! When I was about 12-years-old, I was having some bad feelings about my blindness, as I was beginning to see that I was being excluded from my peer group. One summer day, I was walking along the beach in Rhode Island, just feeling sorry for myself when I literally tripped on a boat. Upon investigating, I learned that it was a sailboat! This wasn’t my first encounter with a sailboat, as I had an uncle who owned a boat yard and built wooden sailboats. As a child, I had played in the boat yard and had a good idea of what a sailboat was. So on this day, I busied myself putting up the little mast, and in general, putting it together. This exercise made me feel better!
Each day for several days, I would find the boat, put it together and then take it apart again. One day I pushed the little boat into the water and got in, pulled in on the sail and the boat took off! Now in just a few seconds I realized that this was not a good idea, so I turned the boat back to what I hoped was the beach. There was much relief when the dagger board hit the sand, which took all of about a minute! I felt I had gone across the world, though! I pulled the boat on to the beach and decided not to do that again. It was then that I met the man who owned the boat, who later took me sailing and taught me to sail.
WAYPOINTS: How did you first become engaged in sailboat racing and what were the biggest challenges you faced as a blind person?
MORVILLO: Growing up as a person with a disability, you hear a lot about why you can’t do things. This led me to ask myself the question, “What can I do?” and later, “How good can I be since I’m competitive by nature?” When I asked myself these questions in regards to sailing, the answer was found in racing.
The challenges were many: starting, smoothly tacking without over-rotating, close encounters at marks with other boats, just lots of things. Over time, I learned how I could do these things. This is a long and interesting story that takes a chapter in my book!
WAYPOINTS: What do you enjoy most about the sailing lifestyle and sport?
MORVILLO: I love the free feeling of taking the boat to windward ... feeling the boat and keeping her on the wind is like being lifted out of the water ... riding the shifts and seeing how long I can go without pinching ... the total peacefulness of the activity provides many moments for free thought and escape. Sailing is a challenge each time you go out, and each time you learn a new trick. I like tweaking and seeing how I can improve the performance. I just don’t think you can ever learn it all! I also love the people you meet in sailing; they all are a great group of special people.
WAYPOINTS: What are your current sailing activities?
MORVILLO: I get the opportunity to do some racing now and then. For the most part, I enjoy cruising my little race boat with my long time friend, Dick Playter. We go out a day each week and sail and talk, just enjoying simple conversation and then, of course, there is the rum after we put the boat away! Dick and I have sailed together for more than 20 years; he was a large part of helping me to learn how I could become a champion sailor; he believed in my ability to race and win. I also like sailing with our customers -- teaching them how to sail, and answering their questions.
WAYPOINTS: What lessons have you learned from sailing that you’ve successfully applied to your own business endeavors?
MORVILLO: I think there is an inter-play between sailing and business; I have taken lessons from business to sailing, and lessons from sailing to business. I know from my sailing that you can do what you choose to do if you are committed and focused. To win, sometimes you have to trash the traditional way and build a new model. You have to see what is possible to reach a goal, or to see your way through challenges.
Business, like sailing, requires a team effort. The lessons I have learned from both business and sailing have taught me how to build a team. The 2004 championship was a team win. Those are the best kind.
WAYPOINTS: What core message do you plan to bring to those attending the Sailing Industry Conference in June … and what do you expect participants can take away and apply to their businesses?
MORVILLO: I want participants to see change and challenges as a gift. Challenges, if embraced and managed properly, can bring opportunities to reposition businesses, allowing owners or managers to revitalize their offerings and to bring new energy. The gift is to take a look at their business model and to see if the assumptions they were originally based upon are still valid.
I want participants to stop looking at the ‘what can’t,’ and start to see what is possible. I want them to remember the spirit that developed their business in the first place, and for them to get back in touch with it. This is the time for a new beginning!
WAYPOINTS: Your topic presentation for the Sailing Industry Conference claims it’s not an economic recession. Please explain!
MORVILLO: What is in recession is our spirit and our visions. In essence, we need to reconnect to see what is possible and win, rather than seeing the downside and losing!
WAYPOINTS: What has been your observation of the sailing industry over the past 18+ months?
MORVILLO: The marine industry has been harder hit than most other industries. There has been less outside help for this industry than there has been for others. The manufacturers have worked hard to help dealers move inventory and to find new sources for floor plan financing. The dealers have worked hard to make sales happen and to meet the needs of their customers. The industry as we have known it has changed, as have the needs of our customers. The traditional business model for this industry needs to be looked at, and a fresh approach established. I would like to see a ‘coming together’ of the suppliers, the manufacturers, the dealers and the financing sources to work together in order to develop a new business model for the industry that meets the challenges and needs of all.
We are a team that is tied together; we all must win for this industry to win.
WAYPOINTS: Within your presentation, you address the “entrepreneurial spirit.” What does this entail or embody and why is it so important for business owners, leaders or managers to keep it burning within their organizations?
MORVILLO: The entrepreneurial spirit is the basis that drives any business forward. That spirit to overcome any obstacle, to invent new solutions and to always see what is possible cannot be allowed to go into recession. When we all went into businesses, the obstacles were many, but we were tough and we knew we could conquer anything; we wouldn’t let anything hold us back. We can’t lose sight of that spirit! We must always have the vision of what is possible.
The goal is to have our teams embrace change and manage it. Learning how and being willing to find the innovative and ground breaking solutions must be our quest. Furthermore, we have to be willing to change. Applying the process that will accomplish this has to be used to keep our business model fresh and consistent with the ever-changing needs of our market. Seeing change as a gift can be energizing to our teams and our business.
WAYPOINTS: What are the major obstacles and stumbling blocks that may prevent industry businesses from sailing forward and out of the recent economic set backs that many have experienced?
MORVILLO: Three come to mind: not seeing what is possible; failing to develop new business models to meet the changing times; and replacement of dealer operating capital, and reasonable floor plan rates.
WAYPOINTS: For those in the sailing industry who have felt the impact, what do you believe are the key components required to rebuild?
MORVILLO: Operating capital, cost controls, new incentive programs not aimed at price but value, and positive energy.
WAYPOINTS: Another strategy you promote is how to ‘harness the power of the unimagined.’ What is this about and why is it important?
MORVILLO: This is a three-step process that was developed by the DuPont Center for Creative Thinking. The process guides thinking to innovative and creative solutions. For most people the old term, “Think outside the box” has no meaning, as it does not show you how to do that. This process will get you there.
Come to the conference to learn about it, and much more!
Click Here to register to attend the Sailing Industry Conference
Wanda Kenton Smith is editor of Waypoints, president of Marine Marketers of America, national marketing columnist for Soundings Trade Only since 1997, and owner/president of Kenton Smith Marketing, www.kentonsmithmarketing.com For more information or to comment on this story, e-mail email@example.com