David Karpinski, recently named President of Taylor Made Products, has been boating since he was 10 years old. Dave is a graduate of Syracuse University at Utica College where he earned a BS degree in Business Administration and Marketing. He joined Taylor Made Products in 1993 as Mid-Atlantic Regional Sales Manager; responsible for growing the brand’s market share with the territory’s two-step distributors and marine retailers. From 1994-1997, he served as National Sales Manager of Taylor’s Hardware Division. He was in the role of Vice President of Sales & Marketing from 1998-2016, where he has directed worldwide independent rep organizations, created branding and advertising programs, and managed new product and category introductions. He currently serves as a board member on the National Marine Distributor’s Association, as Chairman of the Capital Region Salvation Army Board and as Executive Director of the Parkhurst Field Foundation, a non-profit foundation he formed. He still boats on the Lake he grew up on with his wife Amanda, and two children, Michael & Elise who themselves are avid boaters.
Dave took me on a tour of the Taylor Made factory where I got to see where all the magic happens and the products we use day in and day out on our boats, and on our docks, get made. I was really impressed with the people, the processes, and the culture of Taylor Made. Dave shared with me some of the secrets to their success, showed me some of the new products they are developing, and let me know about how Taylor Made, after more than 100 years, is still growing and innovating. I was particularly moved by the pride the workers have in their craft, one employee noting when Dave pointed out their near flawless shipping record, he himself had just wrapped up a perfect year with zero mistakes! Hope you enjoy my conversation with Dave.
On boating in his youth…..Some of my best memories are boating. I grew up here in Gloversville, where the Taylor Made facility is. My parents bought a cottage on the Sacandaga Lake when I was 10 years old. With that cottage came a 1969 Glastron IO boat. At about 10 years old I got my first taste of boating. We would pack up our house 10 miles away and move up there for the summer. No TV, no radio, no internet, no nothing. We just went up there and enjoyed the outdoors.
On learning to boat…..I got my license when I was 16, as soon as I could. I took the safety course, learned how to navigate. At 16 I’m riding around on this beautiful boat with a 120 horsepower I/O Merc. It was one of the fastest boats on the lake so I was king of the lake. Driving the boat came with a lot of responsibility and conditions from my parents. We would take it over to a local beach, slide it right up on to the sand, spend the day at the beach. It was certainly a great part of my childhood. The operation of the boat was my dad, the rules of the road was dependent on the course.
On family boating now…..On the same lake I’ve got a 22 Regal bowrider. My son loves to tube and my daughter is just getting into it. We’ll spend all day out there going from a restaurant to tubing, visiting my dad who still lives on the lake. It’s a good family experience. Especially, my children, being able to unhook from their electronics and spend a day with family and enjoying the outdoors.
On teaching kids to boat…..At their younger age, everything is about respecting the boat, the people around you, the experience, the safety requirements. You can add on the lessons about navigation and tying knots but everything up until now is - we do it right and we do it safe. They’ll grow up to love boating, but they’ll have the base of knowledge and respect of the craft to do it right.
On destination boating…..Given my job here at Taylor, I’ve had a lot of great experiences in boating but the best I had with my son. I took him on a 10-year-old trip. It was something passed on to me from a colleague long ago. He said when your child turns 10, take him on a business trip, show him what you do, give him an experience he’ll remember for a lifetime. His choice was to go to Ft. Lauderdale and go fishing offshore. I’ve got a friend who runs StarBrite. He took us out for the day and we happened to get two sailfish. First time ever for either of us. Here he is, 10 years old bringing in a sailfish. Needless to say I’ve got two sailfish mounts in my house! Someday he’ll have that on the wall of his house and he’ll tell his children and remember how grandpa went out with him.
On the success and longevity of TaylorMade…..The Taylor success is rooted in its culture. It's new product innovation and quality. A lot of us are boaters, we know the industry, we live it. When you put something out in the marketplace, you want it to be new, innovative, different, to make the day on the water a much better experience for the consumer. It’s what you would want to use and how you would want to use it. A quality piece that the company stands behind. We’re known for our lifetime guarantee in fenders long before any other fender company would have thought of doing such. I think we’re known for quality and innovation.
On what you might not know about Taylor Made…..What I would want people to understand more is the scope of what we can do in just in time. Meaning almost a custom made product. Take boat covers for example. I’ve got a Regal 2200, I need a boat cover for that boat. You can go to our website or to any of our customer’s websites, find that exact boat cover, order it from Taylor, and have that made in 3 days and drop shipped to your house in black, or burgundy, or specifically what you need. You go to any of our customer partners and you see things that are in the stores or in the catalogues or in the dealers but you probably don’t realize the scope of what we do that is special ordered and drop shipped immediately to all boaters across the country.
On the newest product innovations…..Well there are two that are hitting the market this year that we are excited to introduce. One is a patented color technology in fenders. When you think about PVC fenders for the last 50 years, originally, they were white, blue, and black. Taylor innovated and added colors to it. Well we’ve taken it a step further and we’ve actually patented the use of a pearlescent additive to the PVC formulation. It took four years to get the formulation right. But think about a clear coat on a car - it’s not just a flat, basic color. There’s depth to the color. The same thing is happening with gelcoat and accent stripes on boats. Now, we’re able to make it in silver, or gold, and we’re able to color match the gelcoats to take it to the next generation. The days of flat PVC colors are gone. As a company that makes everything from the boat cover to the bimini to the fender what you want is consistency in the color. From one manufacturer, we can be consistent and it’s not a mismatch of what’s on your boat. We came out with a product line called Storm Gard that we introduced it in. The second is we introduced an entire line of solar LED dock lighting. Until now it’s been repurposed garden lighting. We’re introducing a whole line of innovative, motion sensing, wired expandable packs, all with soft white lights and solar powered. It’s the warm white light that you’d expect from a nice setting like a dock.
On the Fishing University partnership…..Charlie and Ray approached us and I took them through the tour and they were blown away by our capabilities. They said we need to design specific fishing products that people would be looking for. They helped us come up with a spot marker. You can take our same soft vinyl and come out with a guaranteed for life hotspot fishing marker. Or a boot that goes over the prop of your trolling motor. Out of the same PVC we’ve come up with a boot. Very specific designs for everyday problems. I go back to the comment about extending the day on the water, enjoying it more, and taking some of those nuisance problems and having a solution for them. That’s been a great partnership.
On the best boating advice received…..The first piece of advice was from my dad – docking is the hardest part, have good fenders! His comment to me which I still take to this day is to take it slow. People don’t realize there aren’t brakes on a boat. When he taught me, he said do it deliberately, take your time, there’s no hurry to get into the spot, do it right and do it once. The other thing which is instilled in me is the entire safety component. Don’t drink and boat. Don’t be unsafe in the way that you boat, and respect the others around you and it will be a good day!
On efforts to get more people on the water…..We, as members of the industry, sit on boards that have the mission to make it easier to do business and to get more consumers into the category. I won’t point much further than the Discover Boating initiative. It’s key to make it easy for people to have that first boating experience. If you’re a young couple looking for a leisure activity, you’ve got choices. What we want to do it make it easy for people to understand what the life is going to look like. If you go onto Discover Boating you’ll see ‘Find the right boat for me’ and you’ll see a lot of lifestyle pictures. The key is to let them picture themselves in that business. We fully support all those efforts in order for people to get outdoors and on the water and enjoying that lifestyle.
On advice for someone thinking about boating…..The biggest misconception is the barriers to entry. It’s too expensive or it’s too much of a pain or I’m too much of a novice. The first thing I’ll do is invite them out for a day. Once they experience it they’ll be hooked.
On who he would spend a day on the water with…..The answer for me is family. If I could get any one of my family out for a day, to me the biggest moments are with family!