Think small

The first boat built by Scout in 1989 was a 14-footer.

The company has grown a lot since then – producing boats as big as 28 feet in length – but it has recently rededicated itself to the small boat market and quickly seen its efforts pay off.

“Last year, we made a decision to refocus on three models [under 20 feet],” says Dave Wallace, vice president of operations. “As a result, we’ve sold more 17-foot boats in 2006 in what I would call a soft market than in any of the last five years.”

Scout’s refocus on the small boat market has included updating its 175 Sportfish for the 2006 model year, working to update its 18-foot model for 2007, boosting its small boat advertising and reconfiguring its manufacturing floor. With its recent $5.5-million expansion, the company has separated its manufacture of boats 20 foot and below from its big boat operation, running each with its own management team.

Previously, with the growth in demand for big boats and limited manufacturing space, they were often built side-by-side the company’s smaller craft. Because the large boats tend to be more exciting to make, employees working on the smaller craft – and even managers – would get distracted by them. In addition, the company’s advertising dollars started to be concentrated on promoting the bigger boats.

“Companies tend to lose focus on those smaller boats and move into the bigger boats where they think there are higher margins,” says Wallace.
But the problem with that mindset is that first-time boaters tend to start smaller and move up to larger boats. Losing touch with that market may cost a boat builder big boat sales down the road.

For Scout, the wake-up call came when a few boat builders entered the small boat market, and it began to lose marketshare within that segment.
Now, however, it’s gaining it back and then some.

“The lesson is to learn from your mistakes, stay focused and whatever you do – do it the best you can,” Wallace concludes. “If you decide to stray away from your roots, make sure you are prepared to pay the consequences. No matter how big you get, you have to think small.”

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