‘ONE-on-ONE’ Interview with Eamon Scott, Dealer Principal at Honda Marine St Francis
Over the next few months we’ll be conducting interviews with the key personnel who have helped to make Honda Marine one of the the fastest growing outboard engine brands in South Africa. For their comments and insights into both current and future trends within the marine industry, check out the full interviews on the Honda Marine Blog.
1. Are you happy with your decision to open a Honda Marine Dealership?
To say I am happy with our decision to open a Honda Marine Dealership in 2011 would be the understatement of the decade for me. The product is simply superb in every respect, giving unrivalled fuel economy, reliability and smooth power delivery. The only big drawback is that we are not selling spare parts as they simply don’t break!
The enthusiasm and professionalism of the staff at Honda Head Office in Midrand is also amazing. I am a relative newcomer to this industry and have come to rely heavily on their advice and support, which has been unstinting.
We are also fortunate to benefit from another important part of our overall business operation, namely our safe and secure boat storage facility that has done much to cement both our business name and reputation locally.
2. New Developments at Honda Marine St Francis
In the Dealership we have had some changes recently, the main one being Warren Rachman’s decision to move on to pastures new at the end of January. I bought this business as a complete outsider just over 3 years ago and my business partner Warren has helped me enormously in terms of technical and industry knowledge right from the start. His sister Julie and I thank him for his key contribution to the establishment of Honda Marine St. Francis and all the staff join us in wishing him well for the future.
Warren leaves big shoes to fill, but I can confirm that plans are at a very advanced stage to appoint a strong Technical Director with the required industry and workshop management experience. I am confident of our ability to continue to provide our customers with the highest standards of technical service and support.
3. What’s it like being involved in the Marine industry during these difficult economic times?
In a weak economic environment I think a big challenge for all of us is the inflationary pressure partly brought on by the weak Rand. We have to balance the protection of our margins against not over-pricing our products which are, after all, almost exclusively imported. However as a foreigner, I also see worrying signs of home-grown, self-inflicted cost inflation… mistakes made many times in various other countries, but which we seem determined to repeat here. As far as economic policy is concerned there is also a conspicuous leadership vacuum, and a mish-mash of mixed messages being sent out.
4. How do you see the Marine industry going forward? Where is your primary market focus going to be?
There are however some tempting prizes on offer unique to the South African market. I have gone on record before as saying that I believe the route to glory in this industry, which will give us unparalleled growth for decades to come, is to sell the lifestyle to the major previously disadvantaged social groups. How to do this is another matter, but we must address this urgently and with all our might. The potential rewards are so enormous and the risks of failing to do so could be disastrous. As Soichiro Honda himself once said, ‘I failed in 99% of my attempts in order to succeed in the remaining 1%.’ We ourselves already have several of these customers here, but all of us need a lot more.
The other opportunity will be provided by continuing worldwide environmental pressures to phase out 2-stroke motors, and by their poor performance in terms of fuel economy, both of which areas are key Honda strengths.
5. What have proven to be the most popular Honda-powered boat packages in your area of operation?
We have 2 main markets in St. Francis Bay, namely the fishing market and the ski-boat market, and these are reflected in what we sell. Pairs of 40’s, 50’s and 60’s are popular, as are single motors in the 135 to 150HP range. Small motors in the range of 5 to 15hp are also sought-after in the St. Francis canal area for small utilities and ducks.
6. What do Customers say about the Honda Marine outboards, is there a lot of product loyalty?
We have been astonished by the degree of customer loyalty right from the very first day. When we launched as Honda Marine St. Francis we met all sorts of people who came in expressing their pleasure that they now had a Honda Main Dealer in their area, and all of whom told us how delighted they were with their motors. If anyone thinks, ‘Well he would say that wouldn’t he’, I challenge them to find Honda motors on sale second-hand, which tells its own story.
7. Have you been able to establish key partnerships in your local area (eg. Local community involvements/ Angling Clubs/ NSRI/ other…)
We have excellent tie-ups with many local busineses, particularly all those involved either directly or indirectly in the marine business. Such is our standing that this month’s meeting of the local Business Forum will be held on our site.
We also have very close ties with the local NSRI and have benefitted significantly from their commitment to re-equip with Honda motors, and work closely with them on servicing and technical support.
8. ‘The Way Forward’ after last year’s horrendous fire in St Francis
People from outside are always asking me what were the effects of the awful fire in November on our business. The answers are mixed, but certainly in the short-term the publicity seemed to bring a huge number of visitors to the area this year. While some boats that were destroyed are being replaced, others are being sold pending re-building of properties, so I think it is too early to decide definitely one way or the other. A few houses are not being re-built so there are some stunning, well-located plots available on the canals at great prices and I am sure this will attract new people to the area.
Above all whatever your boating needs, if you’re either living in or visiting the St Francis area be sure to pay us a visit, we look forward to meeting you.
CONTACT DETAILS – Honda Marine St Francis
Tel.: 042 294 0961