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The Viking Yachts Story - Page 2

By Capt. Bill Pike

Back in the Day Viking Yachts began with the Healey Brothers purchasing Peterson-Viking, a builder of wooden boats. So the early Vikings, like the trio of 37s shown here, were made of wood.

Sorry, Mr. Accountant

There are numerous reasons for the current state of affairs at Viking, but probably the most pivotal is also the strangest, especially considering today’s corporate-run business environment where bean counters and balance sheets wield immense power and control. By Healey’s own admission, Viking Yachts, the little one-horse company his father and uncle started in 1964 on the edge of the Bass River in southeastern New Jersey, and which is now an internationally recognized boatbuilding powerhouse, does not presently have (and never really ever has had, at least for long) a budget.

“I will say this,” Healey clarifies, “we initiated a budget back in 2009—but we only did it for that one year. Otherwise, we make all our boatbuilding decisions without budgetary constraints. Our financial guys are great but I’ll tell you—they don’t sit in on design and engineering meetings. Viking’s run by a family of boatbuilders, not accountants. I can be at a boat show on Sunday and see something that’s gotta be fixed or redesigned and I can get it addressed on Monday. No accountants. No explaining. No nothin’. It’s simple—we build a better boat every day. That’s the philosophy. That’s the bottom line.”

The bean-counters-be-darned approach at Viking supports an internal culture that promotes both innovation and foxy, out-of-the-box thinking. And in addition, in Healey’s estimation, it proves supremely practical and cost-effective in the long run.

Healey puts his money where his mouth is. Only a few years ago, in the gloomy depths of the recession, Viking was pouring approximately $3 million into R&D annually. And this year, with the recession still dragging on morosely, the tab for R&D at Viking is likely to be $4 million, or perhaps slightly more.

By continually pushing the envelope this way, Viking tends to generate numerous forward-leaning projects, some specifically related to boatbuilding, some more generally supportive of it. Take, for instance, the creation in 2003 of two, wholly new Viking subsidiaries: Palm Beach Towers in Riviera Beach, Florida, and Atlantic Marine Electronics in New Gretna—in combination, the duo guarantees Viking customers timely, in-house-optimized installations of tuna towers and electronics respectively. And then there’s the purchase of the giant (80 feet by 20 feet), highly sophisticated, 5-axis profiler in 2004 to facilitate mold production—it set the stage for the larger builds Viking is emphasizing today. And then finally, there are the steadily ongoing upgrades to infrastructure at the primary facility in New Jersey, including such overhead-busters as an on-site wastewater treatment facility, a solar farm that provides electrical power and cuts the company’s carbon footprint by approximately 3,000 tons annually, and a brand-new natural-gas-powered, tri-generation plant (which heats, cools, and produces electricity) that currently saves Viking approximately 25 percent on its utility bills.