Cynthia Trudell says it’s good to be Sea Ray. Why? In part because Sea Ray is owned by boating behemoth Brunswick Corp.
Two years ago, the former president of General Motors’ Saturn division left the automotive industry to join Brunswick as the president of the Sea Ray Group.
"The industry was ripe for change," she says, commenting on her attraction to the position. "I wanted to be able to apply what I had learned over the years in the automotive industry."
The boating industry reminds Trudell of the auto industry 15 years ago, and she’s using her experience to help it narrow that gap.
Trudell isn’t new to big companies, and she is quick to recognize their downsides.
The key to effectively managing them is a productive rather than inhibitive hierarchy and a fine balance between a centralized and decentralized management approach, she suggests. In other words, the parent company has to know when to get involved and when to let its boat companies do what they do best – target their unique markets.
Brunswick used to be very decentralized, according to Trudell, but the company has since realized that it makes sense to leverage back office operations, such as legal, human resources and IT departments, as well as sourcing and purchasing.
In addition, the company leverages the technical knowledge and innovation produced by the teams that lead each of its product lines.
"We have learned a lot from our colleagues in the Life Fitness and Mercury engine groups," she explains. "If we were a stand alone company, we wouldn’t have access to that."
But when it comes time to making the decisions necessary to compete effectively in the market place, Brunswick doesn’t interfere, according to Trudell.
The company "allows us to move at the pace we need to compete in the marketplace," she says. "You have to make sure the hierarchy doesn’t get in the way of making decisions in a timely manner." -- Liz Walz
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