Q. What kind of company did you see when you arrived in 2006?
A. It was a mess. I was the fifth CEO in five years. The company was losing money, the products and processes were a mess and rapidly eating into brand equity. There were also significant relational issues among the family that owned the company. I knew that if we could clean up the mess we had significant potential. I also knew I wanted to grow significantly. When I arrived, I did not know how it would play out over the next nine years.
Q How did you accomplish growth at the start?
A. We transformed everything. We focused on developing great product, overhauling our sales and marketing and developing production processes that both improved our quality and profitability. Literally every function in the company was overhauled.
Q. Why did you look to the international market?
A.I saw great opportunity in the global markets. We expanded our presence from 40 to nearly 70 countries. I have been to all of them! We have been able to double the number of units we sell internationally. Selling globally has definitely become more challenging with the high dollar but we have a long-term view. Export sales is an absolute priority and operates completely separate from domestic sales. We have a team of five people who exclusively focus on international markets.
Q. You also seemed to focus on new-product development. Did Nautiques have a big R&D culture when you arrived?
A. When I got here, the Nautique product development team was focused on how we could build things less expensively. I changed the focus to how we could build things better. I have told our team many times that without good product nothing else matters.
Q How did that play out?
One of the most important changes I made was to bring in Greg Meloon to run the want the very best. Most of the time those buyers want a relationship with their dealer beyond just a transaction. We can provide that. Since acquiring the brands, we have hired a new National Sales Manager and a new International Sales Manager. We are working to expand our global dealer base. Last August I travelled to Asia to meet with potential dealers for the two fishing brands. I believe there is significant global potential.
Q. Do you expect any more acquisitions in the next few years?
A. We are interested in continued growth. We are working on a deal with another boat manufacturer we hope to close soon and have several potential new cable park locations. We have grown significantly and expect to keep growing both organically and through acquisitions.
Q. Can you talk about the company culture and what makes it unique?
A. Our culture is driven from what we call “Making Life Better”. Part of our culture includes strategic planning but I often say that “culture eats strategy for breakfast, every day”. A company can have the best strategy ever, but without a great culture it will not have a sustainable and healthy organisation.
Q. What does “Making Life Better” mean?
A. We want to build the world’s best boats and we want to be very profitable. But there is something much more important to us and that is using our resources to make life better. We strive to make life better for our customers, employees, dealers, vendors, our community and the world.
In order to make life better we know we need a culture of excellence that values everyone in the organisation and seeks input from each team member. We want to be focused on continual improvement and developing market driving product. While we cannot tolerate mediocrity, we attempt to value and respect everyone in our organisation as well as everyone with whom we come into contact.
I regularly have dealers, vendors, customers and those who visit our facilities tell me that the difference in our culture is noticeable. Last year, we were chosen as Manufacturer of the Year in Florida among 18,000 companies.
Q. Your employees do social projects and even go to other countries to help. Was that part of the culture before you got there?
A. Shortly after joining Correct Craft, I started the service trips. Since then, I have taken employees all over the world to serve those who need help. We have taken employee trips to Cambodia, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and all through Central America and the Caribbean. The groups we serve love our visits because we are bringing engineers, designers and very talented folk who can make a big difference.
I am happy that we are able to have such a big impact on those we serve, but it makes an equally big impact on our team. We realise that we have a higher mission and want to make life better for people around the world who need us even though they could never pay us back.
Q. How many employees did you have when you started and how many are there now with the other companies in your umbrella?
A. We had a little over 300 when I started and we have about 800 today.
Q. How do you view your employees?
A. We have an amazing team. When I arrived, our company was in turmoil and many thought it was in its final days. Today we are much larger, profitable, growing and have a great culture. I am thrilled with what we have done in Orlando and around the world with our service.
The thing I am most proud of is the culture of personal improvement that we have developed. We have many employees whom we have encouraged to finish their university educations and many others have received different certifications.
When I arrived at Correct Craft, I am pretty sure I was the first MBA in the company’s history. Since then, through our encouragement and support, we have a couple dozen employees who have gone back to college and earned MBAs. What we’ve been able to encourage these employees to do will help them way beyond their careers at Correct Craft and that makes life better.
Q. What has been the most fun part of the job?
A. Leading the turnaround at Correct Craft with a great team was fun, the service trips are fun, developing such an impactful culture was fun, and growing our company through acquisitions is fun. I believe we are beginning to see some of what we can accomplish.
However, the part of my job I have enjoyed most is establishing wonderful relationships with people all around the globe. I have developed many friendships that I value immensely.