By Adam Quandt
The 12th Annual Boating Industry Movers & Shakers awards recognize outstanding leaders and trailblazers across the recreational boating industry who continually pursue and embrace the challenge of change.
This year’s Mover & Shaker of the Year and finalists continue to drive innovation and navigate challenges and changes across our ever-changing industry through their strong leadership and dedication both within their respective organizations and beyond.
Mover & Shaker of the Year
President, Brunswick Boat Group, Brunswick Corporation
Although a relative newcomer to the marine industry, Brunswick Boat Group President Aine Denari has quickly made her mark not only within Brunswick Corporation, but also on the marine industry at large. In just two years with the company, Denari
“What brought me here was really a combination of the super exciting products and technologies that we have, the opportunities within the industry,” Denari told Boating Industry. “With most recently coming from the automotive industry, where a lot of the technologies are maybe a little more mature, here we have the opportunity to take a lot of those learnings and technologies and really implement them in the marine space. It’s really all about bringing boat technologies and products to the next level as we think about autonomy, electrification, connectivity and all of those kinds of elements.”
As president of Brunswick’s Boat Group, Denari is responsible for the largest boat portfolio in the recreational boating industry, spanning 17 boat brands across fiberglass and aluminum found around the globe.
Denari joined Brunswick in October, 2020, after spending 20 years in a variety of executive positions across the automotive industry and other leadership positions at major global consulting firms. Most recently, prior to joining the team at Brunswick, Denari served as the senior vice president of ZF AG’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business.
“Aine is a proven leader with two decades of experience defining and implementing industry-leading strategies, driving change, and designing and leading world-class teams,” Brunswick Corporation CEO Dave Foulkes said during Aine’s announcement. “As we look to the future, consumer expectations of boating are being set by other leading-edge mobility experiences, and Aine’s deep experience in implementing new technology in the automotive and other industries will help advance our boat group strategy and capabilities, and, in particular, accelerate the implementation of our industry-defining ACES strategy.”
From early on, Denari dove headfirst into the technical side of the automotive industry. With an engineering background and graduate work on combustion research at Purdue University, Denari spent six years at Ford Motor Company after receiving her master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Following her time in combustion research and engine design and development at Ford, Denari returned to business school earning a master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Detroit Mercy.
Before rejoining the automotive industry, Denari spent time at two leading global consulting firms. “It was very exciting because I got to see new and different things every couple of months,” Denari said. “One of the things that really excites me is just learning and working on continuous development and consulting was a fantastic opportunity to be able to do that.”
A challenging start
While the recreational boating industry has experienced successes like never before, the industry has also faced its fair share of challenges over the last couple of years, many of which beginning right from the start of Denari’s venture with Brunswick.
“With 17 boat brands among an even larger portfolio across the whole company, communication has always been of the utmost importance, but has become an even larger focus while tackling the challenges of late,” Denari said. “This is a journey that we’re going through and one of the things I wanted to do very early in my tenure here was really to try and leverage that scale and synergy a lot more.”
Denari noted that, rather than having 17 individual brands and teams operating individually, it’s more about how everyone can work together and leverage strength across the portfolio. This has become especially important as the brands – and industry at large – navigate complicated supply chain challenges.
“Regardless of current challenges, there are places all of our brands within the Brunswick divisions can definitely work more closely to develop a competitive advantage,” Denari said with a nod to the newly named Navico Group. “Together we can create a full optimized end-to-end system, while thinking about specific needs and use cases we’re driving towards.”
Teamwork makes the dream work
Navigating challenges are finding success simply cannot be done without a strong team. Denari noted that the team and its collaboration are and will always be the driving force behind the Brunswick Boat Group.
From utilizing team members with a long history of experience in the marine industry to bringing in new talent in a variety of functional areas to pull knowledge from other industries outside of the marine industry, Denari places a huge emphasis on the importance of a strong team for success.
“Collaboration and teamwork are first and foremost,” Denari said. “It’s about the balance between those team members who bring a huge expertise within the industry and those that bring in the capabilities, expertise and best practices from other industries. That’s what lifts us all up as a team and I’m so happy to see it.”
Along with building a strong team, Denari also places a huge importance on mentorship and building up a next generation workforce.
“The value of mentoring to me is just really, really important. And I say this as someone who has always been in the minority in my career,” Denari said. “Partially to just really understand how we can grow and develop the next set of leaders, regardless of whether they’re in a minority or not, but also in particular to try and help get minorities to really understand what their potential is and how they can get there and get them all the help and support they need to get there.”
From her involvement in a variety of different mentoring groups both within and outside of Brunswick, Denari hopes that she can inspire all at an executive level to realize the importance of mentorship and the impact that it can have on the future of an industry.
From cars to boats
There’s no denying that marine industry is quite different from the automotive industry, but there’s a lot that can be learned and carried over from marine industry’s much larger counterpart, and that’s exactly what Denari aims to do in her role with the Brunswick Boat Group.
“The biggest thing that surprised me – and it’s definitely on the positive side – is the passion and the engagement of the people,” Denari said. “This industry has to be unique, right? Everybody in this industry is so passionate about it and that comes through in everything that they do. That’s incredibly motivational and engaging.”
“Of course I knew that boaters in general were passionate about boating, but I don’t think I had fully realized how passionate everyone across the industry is, and that’s been really an exciting and nice piece about this move from automotive into recreational marine,” Denari added.
Along with her entrance into the marine workforce, upon joining Brunswick, Denari and her family also became part of the boating community. While growing up in Dublin, Ireland – about a mile away from the ocean — Denari was exposed to various water activities such as sailing and windsurfing. Her Sea Ray 310 SLX is her first foray into powerboating and boat ownership.
“It has been such a great experience,” Denari said. “I have three kids, so just the great family days out have just been something like ‘oh my gosh, why didn’t we do this before?’. It’s been such a fantastic family experience. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is what’s going to keep them coming home once they go off to college.”
And that’s exactly the experience Denari aims to improve and spread in her work at Brunswick. “It’s about making boating the most wonderful option and experience out there and I’m honored to be a part of the team to carry boating into the future,” she said.
Editor’s note: The 2022 Mover & Shaker of the Year, Aine Denari, will dive into the above topics and much more during the 2022 Boating Industry ELEVATE SUMMIT in Orlando, Fla. on Nov. 14-16. Find more information at www.BoatingIndustryElevate.com.
2022 Movers & Shakers Finalists
Executive Vice President, Sales & Service, Suzuki Marine USA
With just over 30 years at the helm of Suzuki Marine, George “Gus” Blakely has been a part of just about every success the company has experienced over the past three decades.
However, Blakely’s journey with Suzuki did not begin in the marine space. Following his education, Blakely joined Suzuki’s motorcycle division and was involved in the development of the company’s early enduro bikes. After a downturn in the 80s and the company shuttered its racing program, Blakely moved back to corporate headquarters in California and began working in Suzuki’s government relations space.
From there, Blakely moved into the automotive world, spending five years in engine R&D with Toyota. Yet the marine industry made a calling to Blakely in the form of various opportunities with Mercury Marine.
However, the call to Mercury was not truly Blakely’s first exposure to the world of recreational boating. Growing up, Blakely’s father introduced him to a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities from motorcycles to boating. In the early 70s, with a passion for both, Blakely’s dad opened up a motorcycle and marine dealership, leading to even more opportunity for Blakely to embrace the on-water lifestyle.
“It’s really been kind of my whole life,” Blakely said. “I’ve always been around boating or motorcycles and now that I’ve gotten older it’s definitely been more toward boating.”
In 1991, armed with a wide range of new experience and expertise, Blakely made his return to Suzuki, this time in the marine space.
“At that time, they were really interested in looking at the OEM market and selling directly to builders rather than just through a dealer network,” Blakely said. “I was pretty much a one-man show at the beginning, but now that business has grown exponentially to become Suzuki Marine’s strongest.”
With continued growth in the marine space, Blakely recently made his newest move in orchestrating Suzuki Marine’s separation from its motorcycle division and the establishment of a new entity — Suzuki Marine USA, LLC — headquartered in Tampa, Fla. Prior to the move, Blakely was instrumental in locating and acquiring the ideal 20-acre waterfront property in Panama City, Fla. on which to develop the Suzuki Marine USA Technical Center. Under Blakely’s leadership, Suzuki Marine has invested heavily to create a facility where it can test and refine outboard technology in real-world conditions, while better supporting the needs of boat manufacturers and dealers.
As a testament to Blakely’s successful leadership, nearly every employee at Suzuki Marine made the big move with the team from California to its new headquarters in Tampa.
Along with the cross-country move, Blakely has been a driving force at Suzuki Marine in innovation and doing things in new ways. From Suzuki’s Clean Ocean’s project designed to help preserve our industry’s playground, to a new partnership with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team, Blakely isn’t afraid to do things differently and take a chance on something new.
“A lot of it starts with the incredible support I’m given from our corporate leaders at Suzuki,” Blakely said. “That paired with the strong team we’ve built in our marine space has allowed us to do some amazing things and take some new adventures over the years.”
Blakely is often quick to highlight the many years of experience found within what he calls his Suzuki Marine family. And he points to this sense of family and experience when celebrating any success the manufacturer achieves.
“It’s definitely a notion of blood is thicker than water. We’ve become a family here over the years and that certainly brings our teamwork to the next level,” Blakely said.
Despite some challenges along the way, all of the efforts have elevated Suzuki Marine to all-new levels, building the engine manufacturer to a top three player in the recreational boating industry.
“For me, helping our team to accomplish the things we set out to do and at the same time have some fun while doing it, that’s the highlight of serving as a leader,” Blakely added. “It can be hard work sometimes, but we enjoy going to work each day, which makes facing every challenge that much easier.”
President, Dometic Marine
As the youngest of eight kids growing up, hunting and fishing was a way of life for Dometic Marine president Eric Fetchko.
“We always had a boat, but it was always a 50-50 chance the old two-stroke would start and during that time I don’t think I ever remember a gauge on the boat ever working,” Fetchko said. “I love the water, I love boating, but even back then I was thinking there’s got to be a better way to do this and that’s been my whole career about making boating a better experience.”
After school, with a mechanical engineer background, Fetchko went on to work in the sawmill industry, before getting a job with Teleflex.
When starting his Dometic (Teleflex) journey, Fetchko thought it was going to be a “two years and I’m out” type of job. In June 2022, he celebrated his 36th year with the company. “It just shows that the marine industry is awesome to be a part of and once you’re in you never really leave,” Fetchko said.
From early beginnings as a junior engineer to climbing the ranks to his current role as president, Fetchko’s passion for the marine industry has never been lacking.
Through his tenure with Dometic Marine, Fetchko has played a role in some of the company’s largest projects including the emergence of both hydraulic and electric steering systems, various OEM integration projects and starting Dometic’s marine electronic development center.
“It’s been an interesting journey for me being a mechanical guy,” Fetchko said. “The whole journey through Teleflex to SeaStar and eventually Dometic has been all about learning something new every single day.”
Learning something new every day and navigating challenges was something Fetchko had to learn very early on in his management venture when he took over as general manager of Dometic’s Vancouver operation in 2007, just before the 2008 downturn.
“My mentors at the time said ‘well Eric, if you learn to be a general manager during this time and do it well, you’re definitely going to be ok’,” Fetchko said. “It was tough, but what we did in the 2008 crisis by investing in engineering helped us climb uphill very quickly coming out of the crash.”
Following some corporate shake ups, the official purchase of the operation by Dometic has allowed Fetchko and his team to continue taking new marine technologies to never before seen levels. In his leadership, Fetchko places a large emphasis on never resting on any laurels. He believes that change continues success.
“It all takes vision and it takes the influence and support of mentors to move toward success,” Fetchko explained. “I had someone that allowed me to be entrepreneurial and the reason I’m still so passionate about the industry after 36 years is because I can affect change and I matter. So my job in my role now is to make sure that the brilliant engineers and team members we have now can affect change and they matter.”
With an eye for growing talent, Fetchko built and maintains his own in-house mentorship program aimed at providing aspiring leaders within Dometic Marine with the tools and inspiration to keep moving the boating industry forward to unprecedented success.
Between continued and new OEM partnerships paired with ever-changing and ever-increasing technology, Fetchko has his and his team’s sights firmly set on carrying boating into the future with the goal of making boating easier for all.
“Consumers expectations are constantly evolving and constantly increasing,” Fetchko said. “If we don’t keep investing and evolving to not only meet but exceed these expectations we become dinosaurs in innovation and I don’t intend to see that happen to an industry I’m so passionate about.”
President, William F. Miller & Associates
Hill Lenderman has served as president for William F. Miller & Associates since 2015 and actually purchased the company in 2018. However, Lenderman has had a much longer history with the company and the boating lifestyle.
In his childhood years, Lenderman grew up spending countless hours on the water with both his parents and grandparents.
“I’ve basically been on the water from birth on,” Lenderman said. “And I’m absolutely still a boater today. My family and I still spend a lot of time out on the water, whether it be fishing, skiing, you name it, it’s very much a passion of all of ours.”
Lenderman met Joe Miller and his dad in high school after spending time hunting with them throughout the years. During his college years, Miller told Lenderman that as soon as he was ready to join the “real world” to give him a call.
In the late 90s, Lenderman joined the William F. Miller & Associates team in a sales role, covering a variety of the company’s territories over his tenure.
“I served a lot of our largest and core territories over the years and that provided me with some of the best learning opportunities to push myself further and further,” Lenderman said.
After being asked to serve on the company’s board of directors when it was put in place by Joe Miller, Lenderman moved into the role of president of the board, which he directed through the 2008 downturn.
“At that time, we had to take a step back and really look at how we might do things differently,” Lenderman explained. “But that mindset of constant evolution of business remained well beyond navigating 2008 and that’s really helped us through other challenges that we’ve faced throughout the years.”
One of the largest changes that Lenderman and the team at William F. Miller & Associates carried out of the 2008 downturn, was a strong focus on building up a younger team of sales associates and providing them with a strong foundation to bring the company well into the future.
“From the very beginning of this company with Bill Miller Sr. over 60 years ago, there’s been a big sense of core values across the team. And those core values continue to help us build a stronger and more successful team of next generation workforce,” Lenderman said.
In his leadership role, Lenderman spends time with all of William F. Miller’s team members new and seasoned, in an effort continuously set his team up for nonstop success. However, Lenderman also believes that it’s important to fail sometimes.
“I’ve always been taught that it’s ok to fail and I continue to pass that mindset along to my team today,” Lenderman said. “The important thing is that we continue to learn from our failures. It’s important that our younger team members figure out and navigate through their failures on their own, but also for them to know that myself and senior leadership are here to help them if need be as well.”
As the industry continues to navigate various challenges and new ways of doing business, Lenderman focuses on not only the efforts of his own team at William F. Miller, but what he and his team can do for the industry as a whole. In this, Lenderman has consistently served as a communicative liaison between factories, sales representatives and customers. Over his tenure, he has helped suppliers and customers alike by looking at alternative ways of doing business, all while minimizing shortcomings. “Relationships have always been number one for us,” Lenderman said. “Not just from a sales aspect, but what we can do for our customers to make business and in turn our entire industry better for everyone involved.”