The Next Chapter

Published in the April 2013 Issue April 2013 News Katie Burke

The SkipperLiner website contains a promise from Jeb Griffith, the owner and CEO of the company, that your houseboat will meet your every want and need. After speaking with Jeb for only a few seconds, you would quickly realize that this is more than just online advertising. It’s a personal philosophy that he and his entire staff are completely committed to.

In business since 1971, SkipperLiner has a hard-earned and well-deserved reputation for building quality houseboats. The Griffith family has been behind the reins since they purchased the company in September of 2010. It started with the opportunity to buy a first-class office building, restaurant, marina and shipyard as well as the SkipperLiner name and operation.

“When the opportunity presented itself, I saw it as a wonderful investment,” said Jeb. “There was a 16-man crew with about a billion years of experience between them. These hardworking, talented boat builders wanted to see the industry revved up again.”

Even though 2010 was a rocky time for the houseboat industry, Jeb didn’t let that dissuade him. As a third generation American whose family had emigrated from Wales, Jeb has proven the American dream with many successful business ventures in the construction, computer software/IT and sporting goods industries.

“All the business and customer skills learned in these jobs apply to the houseboat building business,” said Jeb. “It’s really about understanding your customers and over-delivering with the product you provide them, it’s called delighting your customer.”

While he may have not been a boat builder by trade, Jeb did have personal experience with SkipperLiner as a consumer. 

In His Blood

“I have owned seven SkipperLiners over the years, including both leisure and commercial vessels,” said Jeb. “Our children grew up on houseboats and the family bonds and experiences that resulted from those experiences are priceless. We spent many weekends with our kids and their friends aboard the boat on the Mississippi. We’d fill the beds and have one or two people on the floor.”

Combine Jeb’s business savvy with his own familiarity of the brand and taking over SkipperLiner was a perfect way for him to come out of retirement.

“I had been retired for a few years and was ready to stop twiddling my thumbs,” said Jeb. “I genuinely like being here each day and I have fallen in love with the boat-building process.”

Once he purchased the business, Jeb turned it into a family affair with his son Pete Griffith working in an executive capacity and advising in the areas of product development and marketing, and his daughter-in-law Molly Griffith is the controller. Others may not be genetically related but have been quickly adopted in as integral parts of the business. Gary Smith heads up Sales and Marketing while Bill Fieck leads Design and Construction to round out the leadership team. This close family dynamic allows them to run the business in a way they all can be proud of.

The Right Way

“When they purchased SkipperLiner, the Griffiths were committed to doing it right from the beginning,” said Smith. “They commissioned market research to learn who the target market is and what those people are looking for in their boats. This innovative research approach showed them how much consumers value the SkipperLiner name.”

The SkipperLiner brand has over 40 years of proven workmanship and quality builds behind it. In fact, one of the most popular boats in the world, The Liberty Belle at Walt Disney World, is a SkipperLiner. This 133-foot vessel is a sophisticated blend of aluminum and steel superstructure and transports more than 12,000 passengers daily around Tom Sawyer Island in Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom. Even more amazing than that, the first SkipperLiner ever built in 1971 still operates today on the Mississippi River. Examples like this make it easy to believe the SkipperLiner team when they tell you they build quality boats that are meant to last. The company’s history proves it.

“The quality and customization of our boats are why customers hold our brand in such high esteem,” said Pete. “As economic confidence continues to rebound, so does interest in new builds.”  SkipperLiner has both new pleasure and commercial in progress. When it comes to the pleasure side, there are three distinct styles to choose from. Once you choose the style you like best, there are multiple floor plans to use as a starting point, depending on the length you desire. But really there is not one mold that your boat has to fit into. Each SkipperLiner vessel has every aspect built to customer specifications so no two are ever the same.

Quality & Design

 The houseboat style appeals to the traditionalist who maybe has owned other houseboats in the past and has always aspired to own a SkipperLiner. They are drawn to the quality, reputation, dependability and durability of the SkipperLiner brand.

The Millennium style appeals to that trend-setting individual who wishes to set themselves apart with the finest houseboat that money can buy. They appreciate the well-known, distinctive styling of the wrap-around glass, the spacious, panoramic interior and contemporary lines pioneered by SkipperLiner. These vessels and their distinctive look and innovative features continue to set the standard for premium houseboats.

The Yacht-style houseboat appeals to those who demand the room and spaciousness of a houseboat, but prefer the pointed bow style of a cruiser style vessel. It really is the best of both worlds. This boat is the perfect answer for those that love to entertain and spend time with family and friends, but maybe find the styling of a traditional houseboat not quite to their liking. The complete versatility in vessel design that SkipperLiner offers is what sets the company apart. They are proud of the fact that if you can dream it, they can build it.

The houseboat world is constantly evolving and SkipperLiner continues to offer the features that consumers expect when it comes to modern boats. The green movement continues to become more mainstream, so when it comes to their boats, SkipperLiner offers many proven options.  Some of these are new offerings in true energy-saving lighting, components, HVAC and appliances.  Others involve weight-saving materials, solar and hydrogen power.  But the true function is the design team’s commitment to studying different options and presenting the best scenarios to the customer.

“The truth is that there is no cookie cutter solution for the buyer who wants a more energy efficient or environmentally friendly boat,” said Smith.  “The key is to figure out what their goals are and how they actually plan to use the boat.  Only then can we show them how together we can make a difference that is suitable to them and their boat.”

 Functionality is another big trend that Skipperliner sees. 

“The days of completely changing your life, simply because you are on a boat, are gone,” said Smith. “There is very little that we cannot do with the interior to suit the owner’s lifestyle. Wifi, Bluetooth, mobility, entertainment centers- these are now ‘must-haves’ and our design team is all over it.  If you use it in your office or home, we can easily, smartly integrate it into your boat now.  SkipperLiner ownership is all about not sacrificing.”

Latest Trends

Designer interiors are becoming quite popular as people demand more new-age, quality materials such as high-end carpets and floor coverings, solid surface counters and spacious comfortable baths. The team at SkipperLiner uses a local interior decorator in order to support their local economy as well as a national designer to make sure they are up-to-date on the decorating trends. It’s the small attention to detail like this that puts SkipperLiner boats over some other manufacturers. The company also frequently uses top-of-the-line appliances because of popular demand.  

“We recently got a request for a boat that looks and feels like the interior of a modern, high-end hotel,” said Pete.  “We went for it and the boat looks really cool.”

The outdoor entertainment aspect of houseboating is one of the most important aspects of houseboating. 

“We see a lot of emphasis on the upper deck and bow and stern deck areas,” said Pete. “Integrated hardtops to block the sun and the elements, screening to keep out sun and insects, bar and grilling stations to entertain outdoors, water slides, and devices to haul and re-fuel the never-ending supply of personal watercraft continue to evolve with the ever-changing consumer demands.  Additionally, the electronic requirements for the interior now exist topside.  Why not watch the news or a movie up top in the breeze?”

Another factor that distinguishes SkipperLiner from other houseboat builders is that they offer the customer the choice of either a steel or an aluminum hull. 

“While the others have continued to offer only aluminum hulls, SkipperLiner recognizes the need for both materials depending on customer preference and where the boat will be used,” said Jeb. “This company has vast experience in both materials and we are committed to providing the customer what they want.”

Full Throttle Ahead

One fact that no one can deny is that SkipperLiner has an extremely bright future. Their skilled and innovative team will continue to build boats that people can be proud to own. Their leadership team is constantly examining the market to see where it’s headed and how they can best serve consumers. Plus as the Baby Boomers start retiring, SkipperLiner will be there to make sure those who want to spend their golden years on the water, whether year-round or seasonally, have the boat that best suits their needs.

How do they intend on doing all that? By constantly maintaining a dialog with their customers and continually providing them with their every want and need. After all, that’s the SkipperLiner promise. And this is a company you can take at their word. 

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