Q&A: Seamless Marine’s owner and GM share how they balance aesthetics and good value

Owner Debra Lyne and General Manager Jeff Botelho take a look at some of the boats they are fitting with towers at Seamless Marine in New Bedford. PETER PEREIRA/THE STANDARD-TIMES/SCMG

Owner Debra Lyne and General Manager Jeff Botelho take a look at some of the boats they are fitting with towers at Seamless Marine in New Bedford. PETER PEREIRA/THE STANDARD-TIMES/SCMG

Seamless Marine on Church Street is a niche business building custom accessories for luxury power boats. The 10-member team custom designs and then builds various superstructures for power boats to suit various uses.

Owner Deb Lyne and General Manager Jeff Botelho have just expanded the business to include powder coating, which when applied to the aluminum structure, beautifies it and makes it extremely rugged and easy to maintain.

The firm takes orders from everywhere but especially New England, putting the finishing touches on boats often costing $750,000 or more.

This article (by Steve Urbon) first appeared in the Standard Times on April 23rd, 2016. It can be seen here.

What do you make at Seamless Marine?

We personalize boats for the people who are buying them. We custom design and build hardtops, tuna towers, T tops and enclosures and curtains. We went into business in 2011.

How many employees did you start with, and how many are there now?

We started with one employee and have eight now, including Deb and myself.

And recently you completed an expansion?

We recently took an additional 8,000 square feet in this building, and we’re expanding into the powder coating finish of the frames.

What made you decide to come to New Bedford?

I think the most important thing is that it is centrally located to our geographical working area. We work in Rhode Island, we work on the South Shore, and we work on the Cape. And then we looked at the employees; a lot of guys worked for me on and off. This is centrally located to a lot of those guys. Guys were in Tiverton, Wareham. There were a lot of factors why we came to New Bedford. There’s waterfront access and maritime history.

What is the business atmosphere in New Bedford for someone like you? Does the city assist in any way?

We really don’t have much contact with the city except for the permitting process for expansion. They are certainly open-minded and as helpful as they can be.

You started this business in 2011 with the country just coming out of recession.

Jeff: It was difficult. Deb and I worked long hours and weekends and did a lot of things ourselves. When there was only one employee, the two of us would take an active role in working on the boats. You just do what it takes to get the business moving.

Deb: Jeff did all the welding.

Are there many businesses doing what you are doing?

Jeff: There are are no businesses in New England doing what we are doing, meaning we design everything on paper before we put it on the boat so we can show the owner what he’s getting. We show it to him before any pipe is cut or any tops are made or anything.

Deb: Actually no other company in this area does the fiberglass work. Many of them outsource it.

Is there a healthy market for high-end boats?

We actively do the Newport Boat Show and the New England Boat Show. We bring a good product lineup. We have a very, very strong relationship with boat builders. We have repeat customers. We had two customers who bought each other’s boat. One guy fishes and the other doesn’t, so I turned one boat into a cruiser and one boat into a fishing machine.

What is the work load here? Are you at capacity?

It’s April and in the marine business you’d better be at capacity (laughs), or we’re doing something drastically wrong. We have a steady flow of work here. We’re very fortunate. What we did with Seamless is we tried to find a very balanced blend of boat builders and dealers and retail. This is what keeps us going year round. A boat manufacturer in New England doesn’t only sell boats in New England. They sell all over the world. So the orders come in every month. Those are not the jobs you want to be doing in April and May because you’ve got all these other people coming at you who want their boat done.

This is a seasonal business. How do you try to convince people to do it in the winter or do it in the fall?

They’re already in ski mode, and they’re not interested in the boat. So it’s very difficult to get it all done at the level of quality that we want to maintain and not do it on overtime. These guys will work. Our employees are very loyal and very talented. They will do anything we ask them to. If you ask them to work 50 hours a week, they will. But we try to be conscious of their family life and their time off. We try to do it in 40 to 45 hours a week, and obviously you have the financial aspect of that — the overtime will just take you down.

What is your approach to sales?

If the job is $5,000 or $50,000, it’s the same amount of time in meeting people and designing. Nobody wants to spend their money unless they are comfortable. One of the things we’ve done at Seamless is we’ve developed a relationship with trust. As I was saying earlier, for a lot of these people who own these boats this is a toy and they don’t have a lot of time dedicated to it. So they’re looking for someone they can trust, who is going to give them what they want. They know what they want; they just don’t know how to get there and they want somebody to say this is going to look good on the boat. Here it is on paper. Do you like the look of it? Is it aesthetically pleasing. And obviously they want good value.

This article (by Steve Urbon) first appeared in the Standard Times on April 23rd, 2016. It can be seen here.