Kenway Boats established a reputation for excellence, which spread to industrial customers and the custom-made products that they required. Today, Kenway Corporation specializes in custom composite manufacturing and field service. They are serving markets that are combating corrosion – infrastructure, transportation, renewable energy, military and government markets – as well as a thriving marine market.
CM Interviews caught up with Ian Kopp, president and COO of Kenway Corporation and Maritime Marine Group LLC, to discuss the advancement of composites within the company and how Kenway has progressed over the years. “The key for us has been to become good at failing,” says Kopp. Read on to find out how Kopp and Kenway use failure to grow and develop new markets.
Kenway Corporation has grown steadily since taking over Kenway Boats in 1966. How have you managed that growth over the years?
Kenway Corporation actually started as Kenway Boats in 1947, when Kenneth G. Priest, Sr., started building wooden runabouts of his own design. The next two decades witnessed the transition to fiberglass boats and other composite fabrications as the company diversified its product offerings. Finally, in 1966, the decision was made to focus exclusively on these industrial clients and Kenway Corporation replaced Kenway Boats.
In terms of finding opportunity for growth and developing new markets, we have failed plenty at that effort, pursuing possibilities that just did not fit our company well. But with each failure we learned. We learned more about ourselves, our strengths and our core competencies. We also learned new manufacturing techniques that make us more competitive for upcoming projects. The key for us has been to become good at failing. Sounds strange, I know. But if you fail fast and you fail cheap, then you can devote more time to your opportunities for success. That has been the difference over the last 10 years. It has been good for us and brought value to our customers.
What do you think would help most manufacturers break into new markets? In what direction would you point them?
For us, what has been the major difference between the failures versus the successes is when it comes to diversification. It is about recognizing our core competencies and learning to say “no” to the projects that look enticing but just are not a good fit. We’re not very good at saying “no,” but we are getting better. And that has helped us.