Bill McGill has always followed his passions. He turned his back on a stint in the space program but then took a corporate position at Colgate-Palmolive, to take a chance on Florida dealership Gulfwind Marine. Later, McGill partnered with five fellow Sea Ray dealers to form MarineMax, today the world’s largest recreational boat retailer. At 72 years of age, he doesn’t seem to have any intention of slowing down. Proof? When I caught up with him, he was fresh off a weekend of not only barefooting but also slalom and trick skiing.
A lot of people probably read “barefooting CEO” and think it’s just stroking your ego, but I’ve seen you — you don’t just barefoot, slalom and trick; you do them better than guys a quarter of your age.
I’m out barefooting almost every weekend I’m home, both Saturday and Sunday, running the slalom course and trick skiing and having a blast. And I’m doing it either with my ski buddies or with our kids or the grandkids. It’s really rewarding.
Have a favorite?
I do ’em all. I love trick skiing for what it is, trying new tricks and getting out there and doing it. I love barefooting for the physical part of it, the feeling of accomplishment. And I love the slalom course because I’m back at my personal best from when I was competing. I plan on getting back into tournament skiing one day when I have more time.
So how does a kid who grew up on a Tennessee farm develop this passion for boating and skiing?
We grew up as a boating family. Our reward for working hard on the farm was that we got to go boating on a Sunday afternoon, after milking cows, baling hay and doing all the things you do on a farm.
That same family dynamic is a strong part of MarineMax’s success.
If you’ve got a family that’s playing together, and they’ve all bought into this recreation called boating, it’s a bond that’s pretty powerful. More and more people are realizing what a wonderful recreation this is. Try to think of another recreation where the whole family is enjoying it together. People are hungry for it today. With the limited time people have, it’s about quality, not quantity, and boating delivers that quality experience.
“Banana George” Blair barefooted until he was 92. Think you’re going to give him a run for his money?
I’m still backward barefooting; my dad’s 95 and still rides a dirt bike on the farm. I plan on skiing till I’m 100. I’m going to exceed all of them.