Summary: How is it that boats made in Asia cost so much even though wages there are just a fraction of American take-home? How is it that Mirage’s Great Harbour N37, made in the USA with inch-thick fiberglass, mahogany cabinetry and generous standard equipment goes out the door for under $400,000? Shipping costs are part of the answer; manufacturing efficiency is another. The biggest factor, however, is our lean management philosophy. Simply put: Fewer big mouths to feed.
Lean management in a family business
No doubt about it. Boats are expensive. Many of our customers will spend more for their Mirage trawler than they ever did for a home. Many have made sacrifices to buy a Mirage trawler because they believed the trawler lifestyle would make them happy. In our trawlers they saw the possibility of a life that combined adventure with a renewal of ties to family and friends. So on the one hand we have our customers.
On the other, we have our company-Mirage manufacturing. Ken Fickett founded Mirage in Gainesville, Florida, in 1971, and we’ve been building great boats ever since with Ken at the helm. Ken Fickett grew up in the Miami area, where he began hanging out at a boat shop when he was 7 years old. The owner of the shop was an old-school boatbuilder named Raleigh Stapleton, who taught Ken how to build tough vessels for commercial fishermen. Florida State University taught him business, and he taught himself hydrodynamics and aerodynamics.
In Gainesville, he devoted himself to twin passions-boatbuilding and building experimental aircraft. Performance was the common thread. Fickett was a sailboat racer then, and Mirage built performance sailboats-nearly 1,000 of them-that continue to win races today. When the sailboat market slumped in 1980s, Mirage retooled to build sportfish boats. That’s how the company, which employs about 35 people at its Gainesville plant, was able to avoid the fate of many other small and medium-sized shops, now defunct. In 1997, Mirage entered the trawler market with the launch of the first Great Harbour 37, followed by the Great Harbour 47 and, in 2001, by the N37
Over the years, Mirage brought together small, tight-knit team of managers and artisans, all of whom share a passion for boats and the sea. Ken Fickett may be the president of the company but he is often found walking the shop floor exhorting, cajoling, and doing whatever it takes to achieve the best possible workmanship. All of us at Mirage consider ourselves salespeople for our boats, and, in fact, sales for the entire country are handled from our Gainesville shop. Mirage’s managers and crew make decent livings, but no one here--repeat no-one--is getting filthy rich. Neither a dot.com nor Enron, we are a lean organization. Proud, passionate and lean.
Which is why we can build great boats at prices real people like you can afford.