Cutting its own path

These days, it seems everyone’s doing it. But no one is doing it quite like Southco.
The access solutions provider began in a fairly traditional manner. In July 2003, it acquired Swedish marine hardware firm Mobella AB. Then, this past August, it formed Southco Marine, a division devoted to addressing the boating industry’s needs, and hired a staff of dedicated marine engineers.
Later that month, however, it made a bold and somewhat unusual move. Southco acquired a marine rep firm.
David M. Arndt & Co. Inc. provides the company with a staff of dedicated marine salespeople who have the necessary industry relationships to increase marine market acceptance of the brand.
The acquisition also fits into Southco Marine’s strategy of offering a range of components that fit together, thereby giving the boat a consistent look and feel.
By purchasing the rep firm, Southco is able to offer its own products in conjunction with those represented by David M. Arndt & Co. This eventually may mean providing boat builders with a full range of products with matching designs, rather than the hodgepodge of products most boats currently sport, explains Richard Hipp, general manager of Southco Marine.
“We’re unlike any other provider to the national and international boat building industry,” says Hipp. “Our business develops consultative partnerships with boat manufacturers during their design cycle to understand their individual requirements and to offer a bow-to-stern range of solutions that combine our market experience, products and services.”
As part of its investment in the marine market, Southco also has opened a new customer support and training center in West Melbourne, Fla., which serves as the headquarters for the Southco Marine Authorized Representative Training (SMART) program. Under SMART, the company’s reps must undergo 80 hours of product training on the full range of Southco offerings and annual testing thereafter.
So far, these changes have resulted in dramatic growth. Just two and a half years ago, Southco’s marine business made up only about 2 or 3 percent of the company’s revenues. As of October, that number was closer to 10 percent.
“We are taking market share,” says Hipp. “We think we can grow a minimum of 20 percent per year, even if the market shrinks.” — Liz Walz

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