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Commentary: In Praise Of Human Capital

As anyone I’ve ever worked with knows, I’m not cut from corporate cloth. I hate meetings that run a second longer than necessary. I swear a lot, sometimes in public. I live in blue jeans and mostly white T-shirts. There’s a fair-to-good chance I will drink too much at the company Christmas party.

And I talk to myself, often in full voice, incessantly

Beyond the high-performance boating world, the passion of Steve Miller (center) is Western Swing music and fronting the Remington’s Ride band.

That’s not to say I never gave the corporate realm a try. For the better part of a year, I was on contract as an editor for Source Interlink in Los Angeles, then the world’s largest publisher of print magazines with more than 100 titles from Motor Trend to Surfing. I was hired to reimagine, retool and otherwise resurrect an ill-fated magazine called Sportboat.

Ultimately, I failed. The publisher eventually put Sportboat out of its misery and I was gone.

What I loved about working for Source Interlink—yes, there was something I loved about it—were the editorial management systems I learned there and adapted to speedonthewater.com. Corporate does systems well. What I didn’t love about it was pretty much everything else.

So where am I going with this? Earlier this week, general manager Stuart Halley and director of customer experience Steve Miller were let go from Mercury Racing. A significant reorganization at Mercury Marine made their positions either redundant or unnecessary. And now they’re gone.

As a less-than-superb businessman, I wouldn’t presume to question Mercury Marine’s business strategy. Such decisions are part of corporate life—I get it—and even if you have 30 years on the clock as Halley and Miller did you know you’re never far away from needing another gig.

In his own true-blue fashion, Stuart Halley always represented Mercury Racing in style. Photo by Cole McGowan copyright Powerboat P1.

But as a friend of both gentlemen and a longtime fan of Mercury Racing, it’s a tough one to swallow. From this reporter’s perspective—albeit from the outside looking in—Halley and Miller did superb jobs. Both were easy to work with. Neither shied away from difficult questions. And different as they are, both are intelligent, funny, eclectic and fantastically quotable characters.

Two quick stories:

In January, Miller and his friend Peter Roberts of Double R Performance jammed for the Scrapyard Media and Speed On The Water crew as part the “Water Street Confidential” video series shot in Fond du Lac to celebrate Mercury Racing’s 50th anniversary. The epitome of cool, Miller came flying in from one meeting, set up with Roberts and blew us away with his guitar chops and then was off to another meeting.

In February, Halley and I had a “mystery guest” dinner, where each of us brought a surprise guest, on the opening night of the Miami International Boat Show. I brought Unlimited hydroplane racing legend Steven David. Halley brought Mercury Racing legend Fred Kiekhaefer. It was a high-performance marine industry journalist’s dream-supper, except that most tales told that night will forever remain off the record.

Halley and Miller are, in short, superb human capital, and in a world desperately short of such currency that means something. They may well have been “redundant” in their roles with the ongoing reorganization at Mercury Marine. But they remain one-of-a-kind human beings who handled their responsibilities with intention and joyful dedication.

So thank you, Stuart Halley and Steve Miller. The pleasure was all mine.

Strike that. The pleasure was all ours.

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