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The drive to continuously grow and improve is at the heart of the MRAA, our members and our staff. That’s why we’re launching this blog: to share what we’re learning in our work and in our lives with you – and in hopes you’ll share what you’re learning too.


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Member Spotlight: Christi Romero

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Christi Romero is one tough and determined lady. She’s spent nearly the last three decades at The Sportsman in San Benito, Texas, working her way up from secretary to general manager. And she’s done it with a style and grace all her own; one that inspires her co-workers and her boss. Christi takes a few minutes out of her super-busy day to talk about what it takes to get ahead in the boating biz, the importance of life-long learning, and how to have fun at work.

Q: What is your current role with The Sportsman?

Romero: General Manager. I’ve been with The Sportsman for 27 years! Say that, T-W-E-N-T-Y -S-E-V-E-N  Y-E-A-R-S! All joking aside, it really doesn’t seem like that long.

Q: How did you get started in the industry?

Romero: I started in 1988 as a secretary to the president, Rob Youker. He actually interviewed and hired me. I think he felt bad for me because I waited around for an interview for 4 hours. He was probably testing me.  

I was a secretary at the dealership for 14 years, until 2002, when I was promoted to office manager, and then promoted to general manager in 2009. I have worked in each department here at The Sportsman — from maintenance to sales. I like to know what each of my staff members do and experience through on a daily basis so I can better understand the importance of their position in our organization.   

Q: Have you had any challenges along the way? If so, what were some of the biggest/hardest you faced?

Romero: The biggest challenge originally was trying to convince my co-workers that I was now their “manager.” To this day, I’m still told that I’ve changed since I became the general manager. Wellllllll, yeahhhhh! We have a longevity, so a lot of the same people I worked with as a secretary are still here. We’re all very close, which could be good and bad, but for the most part, it works!

The second biggest challenge was being female in a predominantly male industry. Our customers, vendors, co-workers, manufacturer reps, business owners, etc. are generally all male; wait, no… they ARE all male! Except for my assistant, Sandra. I had to hire a bodyguard to protect me, and she fits the job nicely.
For some time now, Rob had wanted me to attend his Spader Dealer meetings, and I remember being hesitant because most members were older, white, well-educated men who had been in the industry for years, and I felt intimidated. I finally gave in and have now attended several. Instead of feeling intimidated now, I look at these meetings as a learning place; I can and have learned so much from these old guys and maybe, just maybe, one day I can teach them something!

Q: What are some of your talents/traits that you believe have helped you become a successful female in the marine industry?

Romero: I’ve worked down and dirty with my parts and service guys and learned a lot in those departments. The knowledge I gained allows me talk intelligently to customers. I’ve gained a lot of respect from our customers, since I’m very knowledgeable. I am not afraid to work in the trenches with my team; I will throw out my own trash, drive the forklift, and sell a boat when needed. I’ve always loved math and I’m a people person, so I believe that all of that combined has helped me become successful. Of course, I can’t forget my mentor, Rob Youker. He has been there for me on every leg of my journey and made me see things about myself that were hard for me to see on my own. I owe a lot to Rob; not only is he my mentor and my boss, but one of my best friends! He is a wealth of knowledge and is constantly passing on what he knows. I am truly blessed!   

Q: What advice would you give to someone entering the marine industry today? 

Romero: Don’t do it… just kidding! My advice would be to treat everyone, (customers, teammates, vendors, etc.) exactly how you would like to be treated. I think the same goes for any career. Make sure you enjoy what you do; that’s key as well! Always be open to new ways of doing things and to constructive criticism. Reach out to those who have been in the business both a short time and a long time — they both have their own way of thinking/methods, and you can gain from both. Take professional training courses from Spader and attend dealer conferences like MDCE and any courses offered by your product manufacturers.

Q: How would you define “successful” in terms of a marine industry career?

Romero: You have to enjoy what you’re doing and you have to put your time and energy in. Make sure you are open to learning something new every day (even after 27 years), and you can’t let yourself get intimidated. Everyone started in this industry not knowing a single thing; you are there now, but you won’t be for long. You have to be positive and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Make sure you pay it forward; pass your knowledge to others. You will need them to help you stay successful.

Q: How do you overcome industry challenges?

Romero: First of all, don’t be afraid to take the challenge on. Be positive and confident that you will overcome challenges. And If you fail at first, don’t let it keep you down; get back up and try again. You have to believe in yourself, even when you think no one else will! Rely on your teammates to help you as well. You’re not in this alone.

Q: What are some tips you can offer women in the marine industry?

Romero: Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Learn as much as you can about the position you’re in, and then learn as much as you can about everyone else’s position around you — which means below and above. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop learning. Did I happen to mention that you need to keep learning? Have confidence in yourself and keep moving forward, even if they are baby steps. Don’t forget you’re part of a team. You have to be confident in yourself as a person, not just as a woman. Try not to make emotional decisions, because even though men make them, women are usually the ones criticized for it.

Q: Give us “Five Fast Facts” about yourself.


  1. I didn’t graduate from high school or go to college.  
  2. I only obtained my GED in 2014.
  3. I intend to go back to college soon, if only to take my basics. I’ve stressed education to my daughter since she could talk. I have to walk the walk as well.
  4. I love to fish. I know this is strange, since I work in this industry, but I only started fishing a few years ago.
  5. I haven’t always know how to speak Spanish, and I still have problems speaking correctly. I am Hispanic and live 20 minutes from the border, but it doesn’t come natural to me.

Here’s what Rob Youker, Christi’s boss and president/owner of The Sportsman, has to say about what she brings to the business:

“Christi’s 27 years of experience in the boating industry has rewarded her with a wealth of knowledge, yet her greatest attribute is her innate ability to think and act as an owner. Add in her attention to detail and her drive towards success, then mix those ingredients with a sound character and you have Christi Romero: Awesome parent, respected leader, role model.

Two years ago, our service center was in disarray. Christi’s decision to temporarily lead the department gave her invaluable insights into the inner workings of the department, personnel concerns, procedural weaknesses, and training opportunities. The result was not only a more efficient department, but, more importantly, she spearheaded a new and engaging culture.

Ask her anything about the San Antonio Spurs. And dolphins (as in fish)… they surround her life. The Spurs’ success is based on their league-leading team assists (passing the ball to your teammate so he can score). And dolphins? They’re known for countless tales of interacting with humans in friendly, protective ways, displaying hues of compassion, caring, community and generous spirit. Yep… that’s Christi alright!”

Tags:  business advice  fun facts  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member 

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Member Spotlight: Aric Chaltry

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Aric Chaltry started his marine industry career in high school, cutting grass at Nestegg Marine. Shortly after graduating from Northern Michigan University, he spent summers building new docks and working in the service department. Over the last few years, Chaltry took courses through Mercury Marine, Raymarine and Lowrance. And in November 2013 he was awarded the Duane Spader Development Scholarship from MRAA, currently serving as Nestegg’s parts specialist. Chaltry dishes with us about his rise in the ranks, taste in music, and his goals for the future.

Q: What is your current role at Nestegg Marine?
I am currently a parts specialist at our marine ship store. 

Q: How did you get started at Nestegg?
In 1999, I was hired to cut grass, pump gas, work the docks, wax/clean boats, and paint bottoms. I continued learning other portions of our business by working with the service, sales, management, and parts department team.

Q: You won the Duane Spader Development Scholarship in 2013. What was that like? How is the education program going thus far?
It was an incredible and fortunate feeling to be selected as the recipient of that scholarship. The training is extremely insightful and has had an impact on the culture of our business. 

Q: Do you have any advice for students currently in marine technician schools?  
A marine technician’s job is unique, as every job is different. Be prepared for the challenges, and you will be rewarded.

Q: What are your 5- to 10- year business goals?

Chaltry: We are currently at a critical path in our business. We have somewhat plateaued. Nestegg is looking to expand its boat storage facilities and hire additional technicians. We also need to begin finding new faces for those people retiring in the next five years. Additionally, we need to continue additional capital improvements of our facilities.

Q: Let’s Get real… 

  • What do you do when you’re not working? Hunting, fishing, Packers, Badgers, Brewers, and weight training is my therapy.
  • What would be some songs we would hear on your iPod? Disturbed, P.O.D., Godsmack, Metallica, Mudvayne, Linkin Park, Eminem, Papa Roach, Fall Out Boy, AC/DC, Van Halen.
  • What’s your “dream boat” to own? A Hatteras GT63. 
  • What’s your favorite water sport? Fishing and duck hunting.
  • Any other fun/interesting facts you’d to share? I like to tuck my bow in on any island on Green Bay so I can disconnect myself from the world. It’s great just to hear the waves and smell the breeze. Wisconsin’s Spotted Cow, a pair of shades and some guac and chips make it a bonus! 

Tags:  business advice  fun facts  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member 

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Member Spotlight: Steve Baum

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Steve Baum got his start in the marine industry in 1981, as a barnacle scraper at Fort Lauderdale’s Cable Marine. From barnacle boy, Steve worked his way up the ranks, eventually becoming president and CEO of Boat Owners Warehouse, a Cable company. He’s also served on the MRAA Board of Directors for a whopping 17 years, spending the last two as chairman. We recently had the opportunity to talk to Steve about how the boat biz, pizza and his New Years resolution.

Q: How did you get started in the marine industry?

Baum: I got my start in the marine industry in 1981. I’d just finished high school in Cleveland, Ohio in June 1980, and on a whim I decided to move to Fort Lauderdale in December of that year. It was a fairly easy decision; it was winter in Cleveland; and it was Spring Break for six weeks a year in Fort Lauderdale. I arrived on a Friday, and had a good time that first weekend on the beach. Monday morning I went looking for a job, and the first place I visited was Cable Marine, a full-service boatyard. They hired me on the spot, as a barnacle scraper and bottom painter. When I started in the industry, I literally didn’t know port from starboard. I spent the next six years working on boat bottoms and at the same time learning all about them and how to fix them. I also was attending college classes at night to learn about business. Elmer Strauss, George Cable and Joe LaFauci founded Cable Marine in 1978, and once they found out I was going to school at night they offered to pay for the classes, which was a huge help. Once I finished school, they promoted me to manage the parts department at the boatyard, which I did for a couple of years. Elmer, George and Joe also had started a separate company called DS Hull Company Inc. in 1979 as a distributor of large ticket items for boats; things like stabilizers, water makers and refrigeration units. In 1985, they started Boat Owners Warehouse, a retail boat supply store. In 1989, they asked if I would like to move from Cable Marine over to DS Hull Co Inc./Boat Owners Warehouse as the general manager, an opportunity I jumped at. I’ve spent the last 25 years building and refining our wholesale/retail model for aftermarket distribution and sales of marine parts and accessories. In 1995, Elmer, George and Joe approached me about becoming a shareholder in DS Hull Company and becoming partners with some of their children who were working in the business, as part of their estate planning and transitioning to the next generation. And that brings me to today. I’m now partners with Terri Strauss (Elmer’s daughter) and Paul LaFauci (Joe’s son), and the three of us operate three Boat Owners Warehouse stores located throughout South Florida; D.S. Hull Company Inc., a full-line marine distributor for 350 manufacturers; and Yacht Equipment & Parts Inc., a servicing dealer for warranty, repairs and installation on all the big equipment that we sell. I currently serve as president/CEO of the three companies.

Q: You’re currently serving as MRAA’s immediate past chairman. What’s it been like serving on the MRAA Board of Directors?

Baum: I’ve enjoyed every minute serving as chairman of MRAA these last two years. I got involved with the board 17 years ago when there was a Marine Accessories Committee formed as a joint venture between NMMA, MRAA, NMDA and the NMRA. That committee has since been dissolved, but I really liked working with all the other dealers and learning from them. There’s such a vast and deep array of marine retailing knowledge associated with the members of the board that you can’t help but learn every time you’re around them. I’ve served on the board for 16 years and have two more to go as immediate past chairman, then it will be someone else’s turn. I’ll miss the meetings, but I’ll still see everyone at MDCE each year. I’ve been involved with the board through some great times, as well as some very trying times, but I will say this: I feel like I’ve left the association in the best position that it’s ever been. I give all of the credit for this to Matt, Liz and the amazing staff that they’ve built. I was just glad to be there with the rest of the board to help guide them. I’d say that at the top of the list of accomplishments for MRAA is the development of the YLAC. This initiative was started prior to my chairmanship, but I think it represents the future of the association, as well as the entire industry, and I look forward to watching it grow. We have some amazing talent that’s come out of that committee, as well as some amazing people.

Q: With younger boating industry professionals beginning to step up, what kind of advice can you offer them?

Baum: My advice to anyone coming into the industry today would be to make sure you love what you do, because if you do it right, you’ll be doing it for a very long time. I’ve loved every day that I’ve worked in this industry, and I look forward to learning something new from it every day. Even as an 18-year-old barnacle scraper/bottom painter, I loved coming to work, working outside in the fresh air on other peoples’ toys… it was amazing. And back then, I needed to learn everything about this industry, so there were new challenges every day. Some of our customers have some really cool toys, and we’ve done work on some of the most amazing boats in the world. The advances in technology that have occurred in our industry over the last 34 years are incredible. I started in this industry nearly three and a half decades ago, and it really seems like only yesterday.

Q: Time to get real. What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Baum: (1) My favorite color is orange; not sure what that says about me. (2) My favorite food is pizza – from Geraci’s in University Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. Even after 34 years in Florida I haven’t found any better. I worked there for about a year when I was 14. (3) I’m still a Cleveland Browns fan, although I think the last time they were in the playoffs I still lived there. (4) I love to scuba dive, even though I don’t do it as much as I would like. (5) I wear shorts to work most days, one of the many advantages of working in the marine industry. I couldn’t wear a suit and tie every day, although I do put on long pants when I meet with bankers.

Q: What’s your number-one business resolution for 2015?

Baum: My business resolution for 2015 is the same as it is every year: Stay focused on yourself, not the other guy. Keep it simple. Our customer is the only reason we exist. The thing that makes us unique is the experience that we offer our customers.

Tags:  business advice  fun facts  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member 

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Reasons To Do Business With a MRAA Dealer

Posted By Michael Geatz, Friday, July 12, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2019

 Why You Should
Do Business with a Member
of the MRAA

1.) Financial strength

MRAA members gain financial strength using exclusive benefits and resources.

2.) Education

MRAA members receive discounts to attend educational events, keeping them up to speed with economic trends and changes.

3.) Professionalism

The MRAA's mission is to provide opportunities for growth and improvement. Members have access to these efforts on an ongoing basis.

4.) Benefits

Special sales, marketing, financial, operations, and F&I offered only to MRAA members gives them a leg up on the competition.

5.) Grow Boating

MRAA dealers are actively involved with industry wide efforts that promote the boating lifestyle and improve the boating experience for customers.

6.) Lobbying

MRAA members contribute to MRAA's efforts in Washington, efforts that fight to make boating more enjoyable.

7.) Certification

Certification provides certified dealers with an official seal that speaks to their level of professionalism and desire for continuous improvement, ask your dealership if they are certified today!

Tags:  benefits  certification  education  financial strength  Grow Boating  lobbying  MRAA member  professionalism 

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Consider This: What Exactly Does That Mean?

Posted By Robert Stevenson, Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2019
I gave a speech the other day and I came in early to listen to some of their industry speakers to see if I could gain a better understanding of the most pressing issues they were facing. What I heard and saw in Power Point slides was incredibly confusing for this "Non-Industry” person. Acronyms were everywhere; they almost couldn’t get through one sentence without some abbreviation being used or industry specific expression. I wondered how many new people had no clue what was being discussed and also how many veterans in the audience were confused, but would never admit it.

If I was speaking to an audience that might not be familiar with sports terms, slang or expressions, it would be prudent of me to leave out phrases like … jump the gun, blind-sided, home stretch, throw in the towel, second wind, learn the ropes, down to the wire, across the board, step up to the plate, and hit a home run. Connecting with your audience is critical, so it is really important to make sure any words you use will compliment your message rather than confuse your audience.

One reason companies don’t succeed is because they fail to make things clear, concise and understandable. People don’t like to appear confused or stupid and rather than raise their hand in front of all their peers to ask for help or for a better explanation of what you just said, they will stay silent. Many managers assume that since no one asked any questions, then everyone must have FULLY understood … only to find out later that wasn’t the case. The problem with finding out later is that it usually ends up costing you time, money, and/or customers.

He's an ace reporter ... My sister's boyfriend is a real airhead … Your ideas about politics are all wet … That is really a cheesy looking outfit. Most of us would have a general understanding of those phrases, but if I asked you to tell me exactly what the bold words mean, I am sure I would get several different answers. Kind-of understanding and fully understanding can be the difference between failure and success.

Why do we say "Right as rain” , "Rule of Thumb”, "Red Herring”, "Cut through the red tape”, or "Run the gauntlet” … what do they really mean. Two of those expressions go all the way back to the 1600’s; I wonder if anything has changed since then?

Many people might think the phrase the whole nine yards has something to do with football. It has nothing to do with football and there is no consensus on the origin. The most common explanation is from World War II. Most aircraft machine gun belts were nine yards long and if a pilot unloaded all his ammunition on one target then he gave them the whole nine yards; everything he had. Mistakes come from lack of understanding and sometimes lack of understanding simply comes from poor explanations or examples.

The best teachers are the ones who speak the language of their audience.

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Consider This: Raise Your Bar

Posted By Robert Stevenson, Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2019
Bill Gates said, "Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Couple that statement with one from former Intel Chairman Andy Grove, who said … "Only the paranoid survive. Paranoids believe someone or some force is out to get them,” and now you should have a better perspective on how two enormously successful men remained successful in such competitive, turbulent times. I think it is extremely important to be confident but not arrogant. I find arrogant people to be resistant to evaluation and challenges, have a false sense of invincibility and are especially close-minded to listening to what others might suggest.

The business landscape is littered with powerful companies who thought they were invincible only to find they were vulnerable to smaller, more nimble companies. Success teaches us that if we keep doing the same thing, the same way, we will keep being successful. That might work "until” your competition starts following everything you do to the letter, then it is time for you to raise the bar. You shouldn’t fear your competition, but you should certainly respect them.

Realize your only true security in life is ...

Ø your ability to perform better than your competition
Ø your desire to improve, learn and study
Ø your persistence to constantly keep moving forward
Ø your consistency in delivering more than is expected
Ø your focusing on the most important matters

Over-confidence (arrogance) destroys even the best of the best. So, explore failures to understand what happened, acknowledge weaknesses, seek advice from others, welcome suggestions, and stay humble. There are 31 billion Goggle searches every month, 1 billion people hooked up to the internet, the top 10 In-Demand jobs that existed in 2012 did not exist in 2004, technical information is doubling every two years and 65,000 new websites are created every 60 seconds; change is rampant. So, if you keep doing what you’ve always done … you will be gone.

What are you doing this year to RAISE YOUR BAR ?

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Consider This: The Pace of Change is Accelerating

Posted By Robert Stevenson, Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2019
Some people embrace change. Some people just go with the flow and deal with it only when they have to. Then there are those few, die hard, stubborn, inflexible, obstinate people out there who are going to fight changing to the bitter end. In today’s accelerating pace of technological change, I am finding that if you plan on WINNING, SUCCEEDING, and STAYING ON TOP, you better pay attention to the ever-changing landscape of technology.

Blind devotion to past technologies, methodologies, systems and procedures is a success killer. The pace of change is accelerating in every industry, every market, and in every facet of our daily lives. Technology is coming at us faster than it ever has. It took over 50 years from the invention of the gasoline car before one quarter of the population in the US had one. The telephone required 35 years to hit the one quarter mark. Then things started getting even faster. The television only took 26 years, personal computers took 16 years, and the cell phone reached that population exposure in just 13 years. Since its release on June 29, 2007, Apple has sold over 243 million iPhones and will pass 500 million by the end of 2013. They sold 10 million of the iPhone 5 in the first two weeks of its release.

In his book, Critical Path, futurist R. Buckminster Fuller estimated that it we took about 1,500 years or until the sixteenth century for our amount of knowledge to double. The next doubling of knowledge took only 250 years, until about 1750. By 1900, 150 years later, knowledge had doubled again. The doubling speed of knowledge is now between one and two years. So, if it takes 4 years to get through college, everything that was known to man the day the student entered college will be quadrupled when they graduate. That is a rather daunting fact; they are behind before they ever get started.

With all of what I have just pointed out, I think it is obvious that for companies and people to succeed, they need to embrace change. We all need to stay curious, flexible, inquisitive, and never satisfied with today’s standard of excellence. What is considered excellent today may be considered average tomorrow. But, never forget the fact that technology is no replacement for staying in touch and caring about your customers and your employees. You can have the most technologically advanced company in your industry but it you lie, brake promises, make mistakes, don’t meet deadlines, are impersonal, emotionless and unwilling to make any extra effort to help customers or care about your employees … you will fail.

If you look for ways to unite technology with a human, caring touch … everyone will benefit.

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Consider This: Lie, Cheat, Drink, Swear and Steal Your Way to Success

Posted By Robert Stevenson, Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2019
A good friend sent me the following article on a great way to make sure you have a successful New Year. I have no idea who the original author was and after doing some research I still don’t know, but the article is so good I wanted to share it with you. I know you are probably confused with this title, but it really makes a lot of sense when you read further. (I did tweak it just a bit)

LIE back and relax just a little more this new year. Let a little more life happen to you without so much worry, fret and concern. Read some good books. Embark on a new discovery path in terms of your education, longings, desires, fun, and spirituality; expand your horizons.

CHEAT failure. Don't be afraid to try something new because you think you may fail. It is through failure that we learn the most valuable lessons and grow. Instead of "If it’s worth doing—it’s worth doing well!” How about "If it’s worth doing at all—do it any way you can…but JUST DO IT!!!

DRINK from the fountain of Knowledge. Many people around you have already been down roads you are about to travel. Learn from them, including the challenges they may have had. Take what they have learned and apply it to the best of your best. Give possibility to other opinions that you have never considered as "realistic”. Consider exploring concepts that bump up against your own sensibilities.

SWEAR to do your best, all the time, in every situation. That is all you can ever ask of yourself. Suspend your judgments at least once every day … just to see if the world really does come to a screeching halt. Notice how often you pre-judge something or someone BEFORE having all the information. Commit to "check it out” long before you get "hooked” on your own story about the situation.

STEAL time for yourself; everyday, take a little more time to develop a stronger relationship with the one and only ...YOU. Remember, if you don’t take care of you … who will? Time spent alone is time invested in the most important person in your life. Relish the wonder of being in harmony with the "real” you…that person that touches others in a remarkable and delightful way.

just a little more in the next year,
you will have one of the most amazing years of your life.
And, it will probably surprise and delight both you and all your friends!

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