By Bill Yeargin
If you look up Culture Warrior in the dictionary, next to it you will see a picture of Paul Singer. Paul is the president of Centurion and Supreme Boats and has led an incredible transformation of his company.
Centurion and Supreme are both boating brands with esteemed histories. Centurion has been an innovator for decades and was the first boat company to encourage wake surfing. Many of the boats sold in our industry today are indirectly tied to Centurion’s efforts to create and promote what was then a new sport. Supreme was a storied brand in the waterskiing segment during the 1980’s and 1990’s, eventually making the transition to wake boats. In the early 2000’s the brands merged under one corporate umbrella.
Despite their respected pasts, the Great Recession and boating market downturn of 2008-2010 took a toll on the brands and by the time Correct Craft, the company I lead, acquired them in 2015 they were struggling to recover. By the end of 2015 it was clear the company needed a bold new leader.
I knew Paul Singer by reputation before we met in December 2015 at the Black Bear Diner in Madera, California. Paul played a huge part in building another boat company and is very highly respected in our industry. However, while we had previously met, that lunch in Madera was the first opportunity for Paul and me to spend any real time together. We look for character, competency and chemistry in our leaders and I quickly realized that Paul had all three, in spades.
Paul took over as President of Centurion and Supreme in early 2016 and the first few months were bumpy. In fact, one of our other company presidents used to tell Paul “When you don’t feel like coming in, just come in.” Paul would call me a couple times a week sharing that he had found more “Easter Eggs,” his phrase for an unpleasant surprise. It was a rough time.
Despite the challenges, Centurion and Supreme had a great team and Paul viewed both the team and the company as his ministry. Paul embraced the existing Correct Craft culture and began implementing it at Centurion and Supreme. Key elements of the Correct Craft culture Paul began applying are the three pillars of our culture: people, performance, and philanthropy.
Paul began investing heavily in his people, improving benefits before the company could really afford to do so. The team started reading books together and developing plans to improve. He shared his goals with the team and regularly updated them on their progress. And, Paul committed that every employee would benefit financially from bonuses if the company succeeded, a regular Correct Craft practice we were excited to implement at Centurion and Supreme.
Next was performance. Paul helped the team execute a new Strategic Plan that was designed to significantly improve results. They focused on developing a culture of continuous improvement and invested heavily in new products and processes with an emphasis on being both right and fast. Paul revamped the customer service function, implementing a new customer first approach.
Paul and the team also dove headfirst into philanthropy, having a huge impact on their community. They undertook regular community service projects and led a team of 105 Correct Craft employees who rebuilt a local community center. Centurion and Supreme employees travelled to both Jamaican and Haiti serving others. They demonstrated their support for first responders with their Salute to Service focus. Giving back became a core value.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, Paul fully embraced the mission of “Building Boats to the Glory of God” and our “Why” of “Making Life Better.” There is no question that employees respond positively to a higher mission and the results at Centurion and Supreme clearly prove that.
The above just scratches the surface of the culture Paul developed at Centurion and Supreme. And, the results have been astonishing. Financially, the company is now able to pay more annually in bonuses, to every employee, than the entire company made for several years before Paul arrived. They have new award-winning products and their CSI scores have soared, winning the company more awards. And, the Centurion and Supreme team has made life better for a lot of people. Clearly culture drove results.
Paul would be the first to insist that the transformation at Centurion and Supreme was not just him, it was a spectacular team effort. It is amazing what a team can do when they focus on culture.
Learn More About Culture
Last year our company, Correct Craft, hosted the inaugural Marine Industry Culture Summit in Orlando, Florida. Our team was so certain that the summit would benefit our industry that we stepped up and underwrote the entire event, including subsidizing attendee hotel accommodations. Though we had high expectations for last year’s two-day Summit, those expectations were well exceeded as attendees shared how they were positively impacted by our time together.
This year we will be holding a follow up to last year’s summit on March 3rd. It will be a much shorter 2-hour virtual event but still impactful; in fact, Paul Singer will be featured on a panel sharing his experience. Correct Craft is again underwriting the event to benefit our industry so there is no cost to attendees; anyone interested in joining us can register at www.marineculturesummit.com.
Bill Yeargin is the President and CEO of Correct Craft.