May I dare say that everyone in the boat brokerage and sales business has enjoyed a couple of very successful years. The pandemic created a wave of boat buying that was unexpected but most welcome. Interest rates were low, and buyers were plentiful and anxious. Prices were high. There was one main factor keeping us from doing even better, and that was (and is) availability of inventory. We all had more qualified customers than good used boats at times. If you also sell new product, then we don’t have to tell you how frustrating it has been not to have new boats to sell when customers were ready to buy.
Why are we stating the obvious here? The pandemic is over and as a result we are starting to see changes in the marketplace, and we all had better be ready for them. We are not trying to spread pessimism, but when times get tough being overextended can be very dangerous. Human nature tends to lead one to continue to do what is working now. That is fine so long as you have plans to deal with any turn for the worse. Take advantage of what is there but keep your powder dry for any onset of harder times.
Let us assume we do have a recession or significant upset to the economy. To say we are in uncertain times is a true understatement. Are you in a good position financially to weather the storm? How is your relationship with your banker and suppliers? Pay close attention to inventory and staffing levels and expenses. We have never taken a hard look at our financials without finding some things we could do without.
What can we do to keep income flowing? We all know how tough it is to find nice used boats to sell, but a redoubled effort to stock the shelves with used inventory will go a long way to keeping your business going. You are in a competitive environment for listings, so hone your approach and work harder at it. If you have treated other brokers well, as all CPYBs are supposed to, then now is the time to reach out and touch base and keep those relationships strong. Co-brokerage will likely become more important once again if we struggle to find enough customers on either end. The relationships you have made with your peers will pay off.
While the pandemic helped us sell more boats, a troubling trend emerged in the form of more “not available for co-brokerage” listings. Not only is this practice potentially harmful to the seller, but it is also not in keeping with the terms of the YBAA Central Listing Agreement. Furthermore, it has diminished the level of cooperation between brokers that has worked so well for all of us over the years. In the long run we would do better to look at the big picture as opposed to the individual deal. If we do enter harder times, those who practice proper ethical procedures are more likely to weather the storm.
Let’s hope we don’t enter a downturn, but the time to prepare for it is now. You will feel more comfortable knowing you have a plan.