The Viking Yachts Story - Page 3
By Capt. Bill Pike
The Feisty Ironworker Who Founded the Feast
Indeed, as a booming, debt-free, globally applauded business run by a family of boatbuilders, not a legion of number crunchers, Viking is a highly unusual enterprise. But the company comes by its uniqueness honestly. While in light of his self-effacing style, it’s unlikely that Bill Healey, a remarkable man, would take much credit for the success of the company he and his brother Bob founded nearly five decades ago, Healey is undoubtedly at the very heart of what Viking Yachts is today.
There’s a story he likes to tell of the old days, when he was still just a kid from Atlantic City, a young, ex-Marine with an ironworker’s I-can-damn-well-do-anything-just-watch-me attitude, struggling to deal with an increasingly complicated, wholly challenging, and only recently bought-out-of-bankruptcy boatbuilding facility. The story quite succinctly illustrates the velvet in young Healey’s personality as well as the iron, attributes he’s relied upon—and seemingly nurtured—throughout his life.
The story starts with a guy, one of Healey’s employees at the time, nicknamed Head & Shoulders, after the popular shampoo. He was big, this guy. Huge. With shoulders like a fullback’s, according to Healey. And he had a bad, bad habit of ripping tools off and selling them to various mercantile establishments around town.
Upon discovering a timing light was missing, thanks to a call from a friendly gas-station operator, Healey quickly determined it was Head & Shoulders who’d done the deed. “So I called this friend of mine,” Healey says. “He was an ironworker like I’d been once and his name’s Butch. Butch! Hell, he was even bigger than Head & Shoulders. I mean, he had shoulders on him like that!”
Healey invited Butch to visit Viking Yachts late one afternoon, at the end of the work day, a time when Healey would typically stand at the exit, shaking hands with his employees as they headed home, a ritual he rarely missed because it so closely fit one of his most deeply held beliefs: “You can never treat a good man too good, or a bad man bad enough.”
At any rate, during the handshaking ritual on this particular afternoon, Healey invited Head & Shoulders to join him in a back room where Butch waited, fists balled for action. As soon as Head & Shoulders entered, he immediately claimed innocence.
“Give him a shot, Butch,” Healey yelled.
Magic happened. The order, which needed no execution as it turned out, precipitated an instantaneous confession, a prompt return of the goods, and the end of all inventory issues at Viking forever, according to Healey.