I recently transitioned from the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association to the young and energetic team at the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. After 20+ years of Baby Boomer generation leadership, a 30-something Matt Gruhn took the reins at MRAA in 2011. Since then, membership has grown 188%! Prior to his leadership at MRAA, Matt played a crucial role in reviving the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo (MDCE). Under his direction, participation grew from 97 in 2007 to more than 1,000 in 2012 and we expect continued growth this year.
In addition to Matt’s palpable enthusiasm, he has surrounded himself with young professionals and fresh ideas. Our staff is all 40 years old or younger, with two thirds of us in their 20s. So, why is it that young professional create big results?
For those of you who follow generational research, you have most likely encountered sweeping statements about self-serving Baby Boomers (1946-1964) or Millennials (1982-1995) who believe they are entitled to everything. What I have personally encountered among young professionals is a drive for improving the bigger picture. Rather than climbing the company ladder, Karen Foster, sociologist, post-doc fellow and author, found younger generations tend to look for “work that means something, work that allows the worker to feel like they are contributing to something bigger than themselves.” As a Millennial, this resonates with me. My career choices have been highly altruistic, focusing on education, environmental issues and association management.
Building a team focused on “the greater good” has been extremely beneficial for MRAA. Our Director of Membership and Education, in her 30s, left her career in journalism to pursue her passion for the marine industry. In the year she has been with this association, her appetite for improvement has reinvigorated an almost dormant educational foundation and produced record numbers of applicants for the Darlene Briggs Marine Woman of the Year Award. She has also established our highly popular Marine Retail Universities, improved MDCE educational offerings and is on her way to developing an online learning center.
Michael Geatz, our Marketing Coordinator, is fresh out of college and overflowing with new ideas. In the world of marketing, tools and technology are changing at an increasingly rapid pace. His ability to navigate through multiple realms of member engagement and recruitment have most certainly contributed to our massive membership growth and conference participation.
Another interesting avenue for younger engagement at MRAA is the role of the Young Leaders Advisory Council (YLAC). YLAC was created in 2009 to engage the next generation of marine dealers. Since then, YLAC has played a critical role in moving the association forward. In addition, this group has funneled young professionals to board positions, allowing for a stronger voice from future industry leaders.
I have no doubt that a large part of our momentum here at MRAA is correlated to the young, refreshing and unconstrained atmosphere. According to Forbes, “young professionals want their space and an opportunity to express their voice without limitation.” At MRAA, not only are young professionals encouraged to play important roles, they are given the freedom to carry out these roles in their own way.
If you are looking for big results, do not be afraid to hire young professionals and set them loose. You may be surprised by the results.
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