What I learned at #IBEX13

What’s an #IBEX13 you ask? Well, that’s the hashtag that was used on the IBEX twitter feed that had a reach of over 1.2 million sets of eyeballs as of yesterday afternoon, and there’s still a day to go. IBEX isn’t a bird – that might be an Ibis, native to the state where Sleepy BoaterRated Central resides and the mascot of a certain University that recently and unexpectedly beat another famous University in a football game. No, IBEX is the International Boatbuilders Exposition, one of the largest marine industry trade-only shows, put on by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Professional Boatbuilder Magazine for those in the trade who work extremely hard to make boaters’ lives more pleasurable and worth their investment of time and dollars. Not all the latest greatest boating technology is in San Francisco this week, the innovation on display here in Louisville is amazing. As a reflection on the industry as a whole, attendance this year is up, exhibitor space (over 500 exhibitors!) is up, and things point to a rebound in the industry that many have moaned was way too long in coming.

We were invited by my friend Josh Chiles, CEO and founder of our corporate friend Engaged! to assist with the care and maintenance of the Social Media Lounge, one of the largest spaces (other than food courts) on the entire floor. This is our second year here with him, and we have a great time doing it and being in the mix.

But this is about what I learned, not the demographics of the show, those will be reported at Trade Only and Boating Industry, two media sponsors of the event, among other places. The best place to start is probably with the Industry Breakfast held on the morning of the first day. After an update to the audience on the Take Me Fishing initiative, Thom Dammrich addressed the gathering with a great “State of the NMMA/Industry” speech that got the crowd fired up. Things are on the upswing indeed – the NMMA compiles tons of statistics and studies that confirm this. And plans are afoot for efforts going forward that will help improve the boating experience for the old salts and the newbies alike. Optimism in an industry trade group President is to be expected, but I was inspired to hear the results of the remarkable perseverance and dedication involved to help the boating business thru its recent difficulties with the limited resources available from a wounded constituency, the open-minded thinking of the NMMA team for the industry going forward, and all with a gentlemanly grace.

Then came a bunch of awards (Josh presented three) for excellence in various aspects of the industry. One of the most prestigious awards is the Mel Barr Award, given to recognize an individual who has contributed to the improvement of the marine industry through personal involvement. The recipient this year was Ted Hood, and you don’t need me to recount what the late, great, master contributed to the game. But we all use something that came from his head (or shop!) nearly every time we go out there. His daughter was most gracious in her acceptance on behalf of her dad. Ahhh, family!

The final award was induction into the NMMA Hall of Fame to 95 year old Ralph Meloon, who’s been working for his family’s Correct Craft boatbuilding business since age 7. A rocky road at times, to be sure, Ralph recalled his travels with his faith and family, which, he was quick to acknowledge, extended to the entire Correct Craft crew. Part of his journey included a trip through the bankruptcy process, and for the 20 years following the company’s emergence from its troubles, Ralph and family sought out and repaid the debts from which the company was legally discharged. Every penny was paid back to the creditors or heirs. This showed me the high quality of people who work at the business of making the use of leisure time most enjoyable on the water.

The final event of the morning was the Keynote address by Rick Pitino. He works quite near the site of the show, so it was an easy commute for him! He has a new book coming out called One Day Contract where he relates his experiences as a basketball coach at the highest levels and how his attitudes have developed with his ongoing successes. The essence of his talk was that each day is a unique opportunity to do something great, and it’s ultimately up to you to do so to have your “contract” renewed the next day. This approach can apply to any part of one’s life, whether for a job, family, or leisure. This being a trade show, the aim was at how each of us might meet the opportunities presented in our professional lives on a daily basis. Let’s take it a step further and consider how it may apply to leisure time, which is after all the focus of most of us at the show. I like sailboat racing, I’ve done a bit and managed a few. Every time I go out I ask myself what I learned that day. I don’t stop until I have an answer. I like to go fishing (I’d like to do more catching, but that’s another story!) and when I get back in I try to learn what I could do better next time. It was good for me to have this attitude validated by a basketball Hall of Fame member, and it reinforced my dad’s credo that Every Day is indeed a Blessing.

And it’s only 9:30 am on the first day of the show. Time to get to the Social Media Lounge and talk to more of these folks! I’ve learned much so far, and since the show’s not even over as I write this I’m sure there’s more. I love living on a vertical learning curve! Make the most of your day, whatever you do.


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