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Member Spotlight: Christi Romero
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Christi Romero

General Manager, The Sportsman

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?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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? 

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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?

A: 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.

A:                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!”

8401 73rd Avenue North, Suite 71, Minneapolis, MN 55428