Regulator President Joan Maxwell looks back on 25 years

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By Jonathan Sweet
September 20, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

Regulator Marine is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Founded by Joan and Owen Maxwell in an old grocery store in 1988, the Edenton, N.C.-based company now operates from a 60,000-square-foot facility where it produces offshore sportfishing boats ranging in size from 24 to 34 feet. Most recently, the company launched the all-new Regulator 25.

We talked to President Joan Maxwell, the 2003 Darlene Briggs Woman of the Year, about the history of Regulator and where the company is headed.

How are you recognizing the 25th anniversary?

Primarily is the new 25 coming out. We have not really done anything internally with our employees, but that’s something we want to focus on. Over the last few months, our focus has really been on getting this new 25 out. We tend to be a very product centric company.

How did the idea for the 25 come about?

We were looking at our 26, which was our single-most popular product over the course of regulator’s history. … We knew the boat was tired, needed upgrading and as we started to talk about upgrading and changing it, Heather Groves, who handles marketing with us, said, “Why don’t we call the new boat a 25?”

We took that idea and basically built upon it.

What do you think has been the biggest change in the industry over the last 25 years?

Probably the biggest change in the industry has been simply the access to information that customers today have about all products. Certainly the Internet has done that, made information much more accessible to customers about not only the construction of that product, but also the actual use of that product: Is it fun to ride a Regulator? Is it fun to fish with a Regulator?

I also think that customers have begun to expect and actually receive better quality products across the board. The bar was raised a number of years ago when the NMMA began to focus on having certification for dealers and manufacturers.

It raised the whole level of quality, of product and of experience for the customers that are out there.

How has that access to information changed what you do?

It’s caused us to really look very hard at what we’re putting out. Is what we have on our website current? Does our homepage change frequently enough and our content within our website to make sure that we have customers or potential customers coming back to us and looking at what we’re doing? It’s caused us to certainly to become more diligent and step up the quality of the information that we are releasing from the plant.

We lost a lot of brands during the recession. Why was Regulator able to make it through and come out in a good position?

We understood early on, as my husband reminded me almost daily, we only had to see where we put our foot next. We tend to want to see a lot further down the road all the time and in the midst of the darkest part of that recession we just had to deal with today’s troubles. We didn’t need to look down the road and say “Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen?” We just had to focus on that particular day.

I think the reason that we were able to survive is that we did have a good product. From the very beginning, it starts with a good product and we never forgot the product was central to whatever we did. We focused on continuing to build a good product and beginning to look at what are we going to bring next.

We actually had all the molds for our 28-foot boat here in our warehouse and did not introduce that model until we saw the economy beginning to turn a little bit. In the midst of when everything was going down we were about three-quarters of the way through the tooling process on that 28. We said nobody’s buying anything, there’s no need to take this new product, put it out there and lose the momentum. So we waited until we saw a slight turn and then we brought the 28 out.

What we did all during that recession is we did focus on working with our dealers to make things happen. There weren’t many customers coming and we needed to help our dealers to make deals, to do what needed to be done for all of us to survive.

We tried to design our retail programs so that they were more flexible.

We’ve talked about the past 25 years. What do you see coming in the future for Regulator?

Where we’d like to take the company is to really fill in some models that we maybe need to give the line a broader appeal to a dealer. Obviously, a dealer wants to be able to take on a full line of boats and not just a few models. We see product development being very important going forward. We see more input from our customers more input on what that product needs to look like. We see going forward, even more focus on quality than we have today. We’re doing a good job now in those areas, but we don’t want to lose any ground.

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