Knut Frostad reflects on the past 12 months as leader of Navico, during one of the most eventful years in the company’s history!
How have you found your first 12 months in charge of Navico?
I can scarcely believe how fast the time has gone! Leading Navico has been an amazing and unforgettable experience for me so far. When I look back over the past 12 months, we’ve been through so much as a business. We’ve restructured to become a more brand-centric company, we took measures to become more resilient and efficient, and we’ve also navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of that, there has been new hires, new offices, new products (some in brand new categories like trolling motors) and we’ve made changes to how we launch products to market.
At times it has been tough, but the journey has been incredible. It’s our people and our customers that have made it so special for me.
Has anything surprised you?
Honestly, it’s our people that have been really inspiring for me. Before I took the role as CEO, I knew that we had great people that were behind our great products. However, when I look back at the way we adapted to remote working during COVID-19, how we all took on a collective responsibility during the pandemic, and how we worked like crazy to protect the company and our business, it makes me extremely proud!
Without doubt, our strong recovery since June and our positive outlook generally is down to Navico’s extraordinary people.
How have you found the COVID-19 pandemic and how well is Navico positioned moving forwards?
It has been a crazy few months where so much has happened. I’ve spent much of my time working remotely (like much of Navico’s workforce). Thankfully, following the worldwide lockdowns and economic shock that initially brought much of the marine market to a stand-still in March and April, recovery has been very strong and the outlook for boating now looks very positive. In a world of social distancing, boating has proved itself as a unique, safe and attractive activity! This has also led to a surge of newcomers to boating in general.
Throughout this crisis, Navico has taken the stance of ‘prudent overreaction’ with every action or measure we’ve taken. Because we reacted early, we were able to recover quickly. We were very quick to close our 35+ sites all around the world and move to remote working. With every action we’ve taken, we always put the safety of our people and our stakeholders first.
Critically, throughout the crisis, we kept all operations running. We remained open for business and never shut down any part of our business. That has been crucial in our success.
What can we expect from Navico in the future?
We have very exciting news for all four of our brands and will be making some very big steps in the next 18 months. I can’t reveal too much at this stage but what I can say is that we will be focussing on what is at the ‘core’ for each of our four brands: Simrad, B&G, Lowrance and C-Map. Whether it is Lowrance helping you get more fish onto your boat, B&G making you a better sailor or Simrad a better powerboater with amazing integration onboard, or just enjoying some quality time on the water with friends and family, we have some amazing innovation coming very soon. C-Map has made a step change now in providing amazing new cartography with its C-Map Reveal product and more is coming soon. It’s exciting times ahead!
What will be key to Navico’s success moving forwards?
We will continue building our resilience so that we can be the most reliable and secure partner to our customers. We will also build financial and operational strength for the next pandemic, the next lockdown, the next economic shock or ‘black swan’ event. We want to be a pillar of strength to our customers that will undoubtedly be looking for stability and reliability during these turbulent times.
We are currently working hard and investing heavily in improving the supply and delivery of our products (which in consumer electronics has been challenging in the past months!) We’re also talking to our customers so that we can pinpoint specific areas to improve.
Aside from executing the basics, we cannot succeed without continuing to drive innovation and a pipeline of world-class products. We have decided to increase our proportionate spend on R&D and build the best pipeline of products over the next couple years to lead the fight to our competitors. The R&D Team now has a new CTO (Jarred Clayton) based in Auckland, and we’re building an exceptionally strong R&D Team both in Auckland and across the world.
Do you have plans to drive sustainability?
When I first joined as CEO my strategy revolved around three key pillars: People, Brands and Sustainability.
Sustainability will be a big priority for Navico in the coming months. There are some brilliant initiatives going on internally including making our product packaging sustainable (as seen with Nemesis and all other future Navico products) and using BioBase (part of C-MAP) to support NGOs and environmental groups by sharing data and offering free subscriptions to them. In the local countries we operate, we also support local charities and social projects and run team-focussed exercises such as organised beach clean-ups.
However, sustainability is about much more than this. We have an obligation to look after the environment, our manufacturing, the sea and the lakes, as well as our total footprint. Not only for ourselves and our customers, but also for all the future generations to come.
We are now starting to form a complete ESG strategy in Navico and a reporting mechanism to package all of this together. This will be a big priority for me in the coming months and it all starts with how we organise ourselves internally.
What’s the outlook for boating over the next 12 months or so?
The outlook is positive and I’m very optimistic. It was reported at the end of August that boat registrations in the US jumped by over 44% year on year. Despite the stat being US-specific, the signs are positive globally, and we believe this is indicative across the rest of the world.
COVID-19 has dramatically reduced people going on holiday abroad and could even change the travel industry permanently. In a world of reduced travel, what better activity is there than pleasure boating in your own country?
All over the world, marinas are busier and busier because boating is one of the only activities where you can truly control who is close to you! Fishing licenses are exploding, more people are entering the boating world or taking the extra effort to get their boats back on the water. This shift is reflected in our revenue across all four of our brands and demand since May 2020 has been very strong indeed (in many instances near record levels following the shock in 2020.)
Having spent so much of my own life on the water, I understand the amazing experience it provides and I truly believe all the newcomers we’ve seen in boating this year will have tasted that same experience, and will be looking forward to a fantastic season on the water next year! It’s down to us to ensure we capitalise on these changing market dynamics be the best possible partner to our customers.
Thank you Knut!