Although small, the wake segment has recovered more quickly than other parts of the market and is getting plenty of attention. Boating Industry talked to Bill Yeargin, president and CEO of Correct Craft, parent company of Nautique Boat Company, one of the biggest players in that segment. Correct Craft also recently acquired the PCM and Crusader engine brands, increasing its foothold.
Yeargin shared his thoughts on the towboat segment, the boating market as a whole and the future of Nautique.
Boating Industry: The wake segment continues to be strong. Why has this segment recovered better than others?
Yeargin: First, it really depends on how you describe strong. The wake segment is just over 50 percent of where it was before the recession and is a small overall piece of the boating market. We have about a dozen brands fighting over about 7,000 units. People in the overall boating industry often mention how well they think the wake segment is doing and it is doing better than it was but it is still much smaller than we were, and there are a lot of good brands fighting for that business.
The segment has, however, recovered better than some others and I think there are two good reasons for that. First, we have a very loyal and active customer base. Wake sports are an important part of their lifestyle. Secondly, the companies in our segment have all done a good job developing new product which we all know attracts buyers.
Boating Industry: What’s your outlook for the segment in 2015? For the marine industry as a whole?
Yeargin: Jonathan, I wish I had a crystal ball. … The industry now has a few years of growth and we all expect it to continue. However, I do not see any dramatic growth on the horizon. Just slow steady growth. For our segment the latest information says the growth rate is slowing down. It is still growing but at a slower rate.
Boating Industry: What’s next for the towboat market? What are some of the product features we can expect to see in the near future?
Yeargin: The collective towboat segment has always been near the forefront of our overall industry in innovation and I expect it will stay that way. Our Nautique team has an exciting five-year development plan and I know we will stay focused on innovation and new product. For a bunch of reasons I am going to dodge your question on specific product features but I can say there is good reason to expect continued innovation. The future is bright!
Boating Industry: In your opinion, what sets Nautique apart?
Yeargin: I am not sure where to even start answering that question.
I guess I will begin by sharing what I often tell our team. Our opinion of ourselves does not matter, it only matters what the market and more specifically what our customers think. Over the past few years we have been fortunate to win all of our segment’s awards. We have won Boat of the Year, Wakeboard Boat of the Year, Wakesurf Boat of the Year, Most Innovative Product, Innovation of the Year, Manufacturer of the Year and many more.
These are awards that are voted on either by actual customers or others in the wake industry. So, I am happy to say that, while we fully respect our competition, both the market and our industry have clearly indicated that Nautique stands apart and ahead.
However, I do think there are many reasons our industry and customers have set Nautique apart.
Insatiable drive to ensure we have the industry’s best product. Our product development team is incredible and they all live the Nautique life. They are on the water skiing, wakeboarding, wakeskating and wakesurfing and know what people want. Our team also has the mindset that we do not want to be market driven, we want to be market driving and that mindset makes a huge difference.
A commitment to customer service that might not make sense to others. We make decisions all the time that are stupid short-term decisions but the right long-term decision. I would much rather build brand equity than have short term profits and I believe that mindset sets a company apart for long-term success.
Great people – Our team really is incredible. We have a unique culture that is simultaneously highly assertive and highly cooperative. Politics are almost non-existent and the group truly puts the team and our product/brand above the individual. I am so incredibly proud to be part of this team.
Nautique Cares – We want to build the world’s best boats and we want to give great service but equally important to us is using our resources to make the world better. We do our best to take care of our employees. We invest in our local community and the past couple years we have funded and helped build two houses with Habitat for Humanity. Our employees travel all over the world trying to help those who need us. In the past eight years I have taken employees on many trips to Asia, Africa, Central America and the Caribbean serving others. On one of those trips, to India, we were so impacted by what we saw that we donated a $120,000 Nautique to raise money for the organization we were helping there.
Boating Industry: Why is Nautique Cares important to the company?
Yeargin: We do not want a culture at Nautique or any other Correct Craft company that is all about making money. We believe there are more important things.
We know we must make money but we also want to use our resources to make the world better. We can dramatically impact lives by choosing to do so.
While it is not the purpose of the Nautique Cares initiative, Nautique Cares also has a dramatic positive impact on our company culture. I believe the most effective company cultures are humble and high trust/high care cultures. We still have high expectations and hold people accountable for their results but people are much more likely to want to produce in the right environment.
Recently we hosted about 125 suppliers at a vendor appreciation lunch which we held at one of our waterparks, Orlando Watersports Complex. Vendor after vendor came up to me at that lunch and shared how unique our culture is and how much they enjoyed working with our team.
Boating Industry: Correct Craft made some big news recently with the PCM and Crusader acquisitions. What drove that decision?
Yeargin: PCM and Crusader are premier brands with a great legacy, outstanding product and a remarkable management team. They have a culture that is consistent with Correct Craft, Nautique and Aktion Parks. We believe we have tremendous potential working together as we have been for nearly four decades.
As with all of our companies we want to continuously improve. However, there are things we never want to change, such as culture. PCM and Crusader are consistent with our culture and at this time there are no plans to change location or management of either company.
Boating Industry: What does that purchase mean for customers of Nautique, PCM and Crusader?
Yeargin: There will not be much difference at the retail level. Nautique, PCM and Crusader will all remain committed to selling the best product available. Additionally, PCM and Crusader will also be available for other towboats besides Nautique.
Boating Industry: Another part of the Correct Craft family is Aktion Parks. Why invest in cable parks? How has it helped the business?
Yeargin: We are very excited about the cable business. We own Orlando Watersport Complex in Central Florida and we will soon be opening our second park, Miami Watersports Complex, in South Florida. Our plan is to have numerous parks open around the world over the next 10 to 15 years.
When we first announced we were getting into the cable business some people, including other boat manufacturers, thought we were crazy. They asked why we would want to promote wake sports on a cable when we were trying to sell boats. However, we viewed it differently. We see cable as a great way to bring customers into wake sports and some of them will want a boat. And yes, it has been good for business. I have spoken to people who have bought boats after being exposed to wake sports at a cable park.