Over-the-hill motivational speakers are a dime a dozen. It seems like anyone and everyone who has ever enjoyed any amount of success in business, sports or whatever, can find a sweet gig collecting a paycheck by telling us to keep our chin up.
All they have to do is come up with something catchy like, "Focus on the doughnut, not the hole" and we're drawn into their hour-long presentation like a woman to a half-off shoe sale. From that point they could tell us anything and we'd buy into it-hook, line and sinker.
If I tried to turn this column into some type of a motivational script for the houseboating industry there is a good chance it would come off as if Matt Foley, Chris Farley's motivational speaker character from Saturday Night Live, wrote it.while living in his van down by the river.
Instead, I'm going to address the obvious: the houseboat industry hasn't bounced back like the other segments in the boating industry. Because of the down economy we've watched as industry powerhouses crumbled and others limped along for survival over the last few years. While our tendency as a society is to focus on those builders that have closed their doors for good, the better approach is to look at those still around today.
This is more than just a Buyer's Guide for 2012. This is a celebration of the dedicated people that understand that change is inevitable, but growth is optional. As we made our calls to industry leaders while researching for this issue, we discovered a lot of manufacturers still have the heart and desire to keep our industry going. Most have shifted at least some focus on refurbishing older houseboats to help fill those gaps between new boat orders, while others have taken on other projects in other fields.
It's actually encouraging that despite some rough water, these builders have continued with a "whatever it takes" attitude instead of just sitting back and wishing the economy would return to what it was just a few years ago. But the real winners are those who are in a position to work with these manufacturers to build a custom dream boat.
Believe me, these manufacturers are ready to fight and compete for your recreational dollar and it's well worth your time to give them a chance to earn your business. The days of being on a six- to eight-month waiting list just to get started are over. Ever been discouraged because a builder didn't have the time to explore your unique ideas? It's not like that today. These manufacturers not only want to work with you, they need to work with you in order to keep moving forward as a company.
If you haven't already, start making plans to attend our 2012 National Houseboat On Water Expo at State Dock on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky. The three-day show kicks off June 8 and even if you think you're still a few years out, it's never too early to start looking. It may surprise you when you talk to these builders and hear the prices they're offering. Who knows? You may be getting that new custom houseboat sooner than you expected.
Those who we've included in this issue are standing strong and have made the right decisions to survive these trying times. If we're going to grow as an industry it's time to take that next step and these builders can help make the dream of owning a custom houseboat a reality for you.