As the new COO of Iconic Marine Group, Joe Curran has his work cut out for him.
But “I’m a West Side of Chicago guy,” Curran told Trade Only Today. “This is a street fight that’s worth fighting. This is cool. With the talent we have and the talent we’re going to bring, it’s going to go places and it’s going to be fun.”
The company purchased Baja Marine LLC in May and is hard at work turning around the boat brands — Baja Marine, Donzi, Donzi Classic, Fountain Powerboats and Pro-Line. Now it is investing in a dealer network, product development, and even infrastructure and facility upgrades, and continuing to build its team internally.
Fountain will be the first to reveal the results of renewed investment in product development. A new Fountain 38 Thunder — a center console set up for poker runs with four 400-hp Mercury racing engines — will debut at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in November.
With three brands that sometimes competed with one another, Curran is working to differentiate each brand.
“We have four brands that have a great following at retail,” Curran said. “Every brand has a place and has a distinct personality. These are no different. Each one of them will end up being responsible and distinctive. You’ve got to be respectful of the past, and you’ve got to develop for the future. That’s the kind of the thing we’ve got to massage and juggle.”
“All of those brands, Pro-Line aside, all competed at one time,” Curran said. “The positioning of these brands is so they aren’t going to be toward competition. Basically, the personality of that brand will pull forward.”
The company will trim the Baja offering from where it was, focusing on the Outlaw series, so it hits a different price point than Fountain Powerboats.
“Fountain is what it is. It’s been a leader in speed forever,” Curran said.
“Frankly, as we develop new product for Donzi, we might take it in a little different direction,” Curran said. “If you go look at that brand through the years, it’s been everything. So we can focus on some different things really creatively. It’s got some great appeal. And it gives us leeway to take a direction that makes sense for the company and not compete with the other brands. It’s got a lot of intrinsic value in where it can go.”
Donzi Classic, boats that haven’t changed much since 1967, also have a place in “heritage locations” such as Lake George, N.Y., Lake Geneva, Wis., and Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H.
The company won’t limit its product debuts to the Fort Lauderdale show or the Miami International Boat Show and Yachts Miami Beach, Curran said. It also plans to introduce new products in markets that make sense for the brand and model, such as Chicago and Atlantic City or New York.
It also will make an appearance at a poker run in Key West this November and at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in December, Curran said. “We’ve got a lot of events on the plate between now and show season, and we’re introducing something at every event.”
Once factory-direct, Curran is adamant about dealers being the cornerstone of a boatbuilder’s business. Curran spends one of every three weeks on the road, speaking with dealers he knows from his years at Crest Pontoons. He slated the MDCE event to talk with dealers there.
“The dealer relationship, to me, is of the utmost value to the company,” Curran said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for years. Those relationships keep companies going. We’ve got to create some consistency. That helps the most.”
Curran said the passion from the team — which includes Carol Price, a 30-year veteran of Fountain — is fueling the turnaround.
“The people that are here today, the people who’ve been at this facility their whole lives, they’re pouring it in big time on this deal,” he said. “Otherwise it doesn’t come off the mattress.”
Read more about the company’s direction in the October issue of Soundings Trade Only.