Hi-Tide Boat Lifts
Florida leads the country with more than 900,000 boats registered in the state. From personal watercraft and dinghies to fishing boats and yachts, the Sunshine State has no shortage of boats puttering around its coasts, lakes and swamps.
Given the state’s status as a watersports and lifestyle destination, it is little surprise that one of the country’s leading boat lift manufacturers has emerged from the Sunshine State. Since 1979, Hi-Tide Boat Lifts has been providing boaters with the specialized boat lifts necessary to ensure that taking the boat out for a spin never seems like a chore.
Hi-Tide is not only the largest manufacturer of boat lifts for yachts, but also one of the quickest. While many competitors can turn around a project in two to four weeks, Hi-Tide is able to deliver results in a matter of days.
Originally founded by Donald Wood, Hi-Tide is now owned by Donald’s children: brother-sister team Craig and Kara Wood. Based out of Fort Pierce, Florida, Hi-Tide serves customers around the world with a unique model that sees the company’s products shipped to dealers and marine contractors from South Africa to South America, though the primary focus is on the U.S. and Caribbean markets.
Tracking industry trends
Hi-Tide has enjoyed unprecedented growth in recent years, increasing annual revenue by 10 percent year over year. Company president, Carlos Quinones, credits this growth to an overall trend in the industry toward larger boats which require larger and more complex boat lift systems.
“We do more yacht lifts than any other competitor and that side of the business has really increased over the last couple of years,” says Quinones, who took on the role of president at the beginning of 2016.
The company has also seen growth in the municipal market, with more first responders and government organizations turning to Hi-Tide for their boat lift needs.
“They’ve become a larger customer of ours, especially fire departments, police departments and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” he says. “It starts with the first one and it just grows from there because they all operate off the same list of vendors, so if you establish a relationship with one of them, it goes a long way.”
While the trend toward larger boats and increased business in the municipal sector has been driving growth as of late at Hi-Tide, Quinones is not content to let the company rest on its laurels. The company has long had a focus on in-house research and design, ensuring that there is always a new product or innovation coming down the pike to fuel future growth.
The company is committed to innovation, but has made a concerted effort to steer clear of some of the trends that have hit the manufacturing sector as of late. While the use of automation is up across most manufacturing sectors, Quinones says that such approaches simply don’t work in such a customized process. “We do so much custom fabrication that it wouldn’t make sense to have a machine do it. Every piece of equipment requires a new drawing, a new detail and specialized welding,” he says.
Hi-Tide’s recent growth has created a number of challenges for the boat life manufacturer. As orders continue to roll in, the company finds itself struggling to keep up with the increased demand.
“It’s not a matter of us not having enough manpower or time. We bring in various vendors and making sure they are keeping up with us has really been the biggest obstacle, though we acknowledge this is the right sort problem to have,” he laughs.
As these vendors and subcontractors begin to pass into the hands of second-generation owners, Hi-Tide is constantly evaluating all such relationships to ensure that quality and consistency don’t suffer as a result. “Making sure that new staff with their dealers understand and can comprehend the thinking patterns of the industry is much more important than worrying about the age of our own staff,” Quinones says.
The company has dealt with increased demand by keeping an abundance of products on hand at any given time. “We overcompensate and do forecasting to make sure we have plenty of inventory because we would rather have too much than too little,” says Quinones.
This increase in production has necessitated a 40-percent growth in Hi-Tide’s employee base over the last four years, though Quinones hopes to tackle future growth without swelling the roster any further. “We’re running so efficiently right now we can handle the 10 percent increase without bringing on additional staff,” he says.
An emphasis on company culture
Employees are vital to the success of the company, according to Quinones, with the company often measuring success in terms of employee turnover. “We like to create an environment where people want to come to work, not have to come to work,” he says. “If you don’t have turnover, you’re doing it right.”
Hi-Tide works to reward its staff through a series of activities and incentives. One such activity is the quarterly Moment of Truth, a companywide barbecue that sees employees nominated for various accomplishments and achievements over the past months. “The idea is to encourage them to do things that aren’t required of them,” Quinones says.
The boat lift manufacturer is also extensively involved in charitable efforts, with Hi-Tide owner Craig Wood launching just such a program in early 2016. The Kids on Track program works with the IndyCar series, bringing kids from children’s hospitals and nonprofit organizations such as Big Brother Big Sisters and The Boys and Girls Club to IndyCar races across the country. “This gives us a large sense of pride – we’re big in giving back to the community and more importantly than that, we’re big in helping kids that might not have the opportunities that everyone else might have,” Quinones says.
The program traces its roots to 2015 when Craig Wood was approached by Mazda Road to Indy driver Kyle Connery to become a sponsor. Connery’s father, owner of Connery Concrete, and Craig knew each other, having been in the marine construction business. Craig had been looking for a way to market to a new industry and found a connection with the audiences of boating and racing sporting events.
After a successful sponsorship season in 2015, Wood decided to sponsor the entire Mazda Road to Indy racing series across the U.S. in 2016 and extend the opportunity specifically to children by developing the Kids on Track program. The program grants children free access to racing events, behind-the-scenes tours of the race track, meet and greets with Mazda Road to Indy drivers and more. Kids on Track is working with local charities in 10 cities to grant children and mentors access to these activities.
“The program ‘lifts’ the spirits and inspires the dreams of children throughout the U.S. by providing them with unique access to IndyCar racing events in the Mazda Road to Indy racing series,” Wood says.
With a strong track record of recent growth, a trusted team of subcontractors and a steadily rising profile in exciting new markets, Hi-Tide Boats Lifts is poised for success well into the future.
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