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Exclusive Interview with Kris Carroll 
How She Learned and Earned Her Job
as President of Grady-White

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Kris Carroll is president of Grady-White boats. A North Carolina business started in 1959, Grady-White is one of the most successful boat building companies in the world. They're famous for their refined design, smooth ride, and luxurious technical features that create the ultimate in boating satisfaction.

 

 

 

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 1975 Kris with Owner & CEO, Eddie Smith 

Tri-State Marine Asks: How Did you Rise Up the Ranks? 

KRIS: I learned early in life, "If you don't work, you don't eat" which has been a driving force motivating me to work hard throughout my career. 

When I moved from Boston to North Carolina in 1975, I began working at Grady-White Boats as a production control clerk and it's been my home ever since! Through the decades I've been fortunate enough to have worked in many areas of the factory giving me a hands-on education and valuable insights that I never would have obtained any other way.  In 1987, I was made VP of Engineering and then VP of Manufacturing in 1989 - both positions required extremely hard work and gave me extensive knowledge of the boat building industry. All this experience paid off when in 1993 I was honored that our owner and CEO, Eddie Smith, promoted me to president.

I've been at Grady-White 40 years now! Looking back I have to say what a joy it's been to have grown up with many folks here at the company and those at our dealerships. I'm humbled and happy to be living the "American Dream!"

 

Tri-State Marine Asks:

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Kris with Executive Team: Doug Gomes; Shelley Tubaugh; Joey Weller; Mark Doggett;David Neese; & Jill Carraway

What Has Your Leadership Style Brought to GW?

KRIS: My business mantra has been to always follow Eddie Smith's principle: Give the customer an exceptional experience. 

As for a leadership style, back in the 1980's, not only were we selling more boats each year, but many of the boats we were designing and building were becoming much more complex requiring that everyone in the company (and in the dealerships providing the sales and service experience) be 100% committed to giving their full attention to the many details of their work. It was a time that teambuilding strategies became absolutely critical to our continued success. Although I always needed to understand the many technical aspects of the boat building business, I more naturally loved bringing our talented and motivated staff together to get the jobs done!

In the past couple of decades we have instituted many initiatives to help our employees be their very best by implementing training programs, craftsman certification systems, and a personalized system that insures everyone "enjoys coming to work on Mondays...like they enjoy going home on Fridays."   

One of these key initiatives is positive education. All new employees are required to read Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits" within the first 6 months.This helps them understand some of the basic values and beliefs that our company lives by. It's not unusual to hear someone say "this book has changed my life." We encourage this life-long learning by offering employees incentives to read nearly 2 dozen other books to help everyone stay affirmative and focused. This ongoing education helps our team be happier and healthier people at work and home.

 

Tri-State Marine Asks: How Has GW Models Changed Over the Years?

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KRIS:  Wow - that question would take a long time to answer in detail!  Overall, we're constantly creating new ideas and turning them into fabulous new product features. Our boats are much, much more complex than they were even 15 years ago. Technology is definitely a huge part of our designs now, as well as a more luxurious approach that wasn't usually found on earlier tough fishing boats. 

There has also been a migration from cabin models to our Freedom series dual consoles. Now that we have more comfort amenities in the consoles, many people prefer to use the forward area for bow seating. People love to boat, but fewer are spending long vacations and overnights aboard. The desire for weekend trips or launch from a waterfront home make the dual consoles particularly popular for their versatility to go offshore fishing and also do inshore family boating as well.

 

Tri-State Marine Asks: old_boat

Are Older GW's Still Riding the Waves?

KRIS: We know of some originals back from the late 1950's and early 1960's are in the wooden boat clubs scattered around the country. 

Whether it was the old mahogany boats or the fiberglass produced exclusively after 1970, Grady-White boats last for generations! At every boat show we go to, someone will walk up and tell us that they have an old Grady that belonged to their father, or grandparents, or another relative, and it's still as good as new! It is a great testimony to our design, materials, and most of all, our craftsmanship.

 

Tri-State Marine Asks:Bath_dock_edit1

What's Your Favorite Model and Feature?

KRIS: You're asking a parent which child they like the best! I think every model we make is uniquely beautiful in its own way.  

Although I must admit that I'm rather partial to the Express 330 because my husband and I own one (along with a 1989 Fisherman 20' center console) and we have so many happy memories of boating together around North Carolina's shores. 

A spectacular new innovation is the AV2 top with the Sureshade aft cockpit sunshade! The integrated fiberglass top has an electronically controlled sunroof that opens and closes at the touch of a button and the aft shade works the same way. This is an example of how innovative ideas makes a great day on the water even better with luxuries like this to enhance a boater's comfort.

 

Tri-State Marine Asks:Grady-White_167

What's Most Challenging in Building Boats Today?
KRIS: 
 Government regulations continue to be an interesting challenge no matter what business you are in, but certainly the boating industry has an extra share of obstacles coming from many directions. 

 Being involved in industry organizations helps us work together to make sure our voice is heard and that we can help represent recreational anglers in broad issues as well, not just working on direct business related matters.  

 

Tri-State Marine Asks:

Why the Strong Relationship with Tri-State Marine?

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with John Byrnes, president of Tri-State Marine

KRIS: We believe in long-term relationships with our dealers so they become part of our team and experts in our boats.

We've worked with Tri-State Marine for nearly 30 years because they embody what Grady-White wants in a great dealer: a committed team that delivers a terrific experience for their customers.They have one of the longest tenured groups in the marine industry who deliver the ultimate boating experience.

I attribute our successful relationship to the fact that Tri-State Marine operates with the same values and principles as we do when it comes to conducting high-quality business and great customer relations. We both give exceptional attention to detail that results in legendary customer care.

 

 

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