Kashka Tunstall talks to the men behind Everyman Boats about navigating choppy economic waters.
Russell Spiers and Nigel Langdale have hit the jackpot. Or, at least, they have built it.
Jackpot is the name of a hulking 9.5 metre aluminium boat, the latest build to come out of Spiers' and Langdale's Frankton warehouse.
The two cousins, who grew up in Te Awamutu, are the everyday men behind the brand of Everyman Boats.
The company, consisting of Spiers, Langdale and extra builder Richard Brough, produces a range of aluminium boats, with the accent on quality.
Jackpot is the largest job the trio has undertaken and it took 11 weeks for them to build and fit out the boat.
It is their first crack at a commercial-sized build and the addition of commercial capability signals a shift in thinking for Spiers, 56, and Langdale, 55, who started Everyman up five years ago.
Previously, the company had focused on the recreational 4.7m-7.5 m range. Langdale comes from a trade background. He spent a decade building with well-known Hamilton outfit RamcoBoats before going solo, experiencing varying success with small and medium-sized boats.
“He's a very good boat builder, a good craftsman and he has an eye for perfection,” Spiers says of his cousin.
Spiers took the academic route. He decided on Waikato University and studied accounting and management.
He went into the corporate world for 10 years before setting up his own small construction business in Auckland.
Five years ago he chucked that in and paired up his skills with Langdale's, developing Everyman Boats.
Langdale builds the product while Spiers fits the boats out and looks after the management side of the company.
But within a year, the financial crisis hit and the big ticket "luxury" boat market was not so luxurious any more, Spiers says.
“When we first started we had about six months and then the global financial crisis came. That sort of knocked the stuffing out of us,” he says.
The company adapted to suit the conditions, focusing on local markets and keeping overheads as low as possible.
"We're not a flashy business," Spiers says. "We dug a bit deeper."
The business kept costs low, setting up in a modest rental site in Frankton (the original home of Ramco) and took on only one new hire, Brough, who also has a background building with Ramco. Spiers' partner, Tracey, keeps the books.
Being based in the Waikato also helped get through the tough times, Spiers says, because the big pool of avid fishermen and family boaters have kept demand alive.
“What we're finding is that the economic recession has hit people in different ways - there are people out there that are quite comfortable.”
“We believe that there is still that market there and it is going pretty strong.”
For Everyman, business is on the mend and the company is turning a sustainable profit.
The company has three months of work ahead, a "solid" amount according to Spiers, with the boats selling for between $30,000 and $200,000.
Business has increased noticeably in the last year with boats commissioned and exported to Australia and Vanuatu, he says.
The Hutchwilco Boat Show in Auckland in May resulted in the sale of five boats which ended up across the country, from Whangarei to Nelson, and with the build of the first 9.5m boat now complete, the company is hoping to break into the commercial market.
“Getting the brand out there over a time is starting to work for us,” Spiers says. “It's better than we have done for five years and I'm feeling very confident about the future.”
The plan going forward?
"It's more of the same really, we don't have to change our recipe," he says.
"We think we're pretty successful now in these tough economic times. There aren't many boating companies that are forging ahead."
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