Industry icon Leon Slikkers announces his retirement
Leon Slikkers, a marine industry pioneer whose career in boat building dates back to the 1940s, is retiring from Tiara Yachts, the company recently announced.
An industry pioneer who overturned conventional wisdom when it came to building boats out of fiberglass instead of wood, the now 93-year-old Slikkers founded S2 Yachts in 1974. The company s’ initially focused on towable sailboats, but as it grew it gained better access to capital. and Slikkers’ relentless drive to innovate in a highly competitive industry, S2 began building powerboats soon after.
This ultimately led to the creation of Tiara Yachts, a leader in the mid-size luxury yacht industry that currently employs over 600 people at its state-of-the-art 800,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Holland.
“This company, its rich history and all that it has accomplished would not have been possible without the vision, passion and unwavering entrepreneurial spirit that our father demonstrated for many decades,” said Tom Slikkers, CEO and President of Tiara Yachts, a position he has held since 2012. “His dedication to excellence and translating his passion for boat building over three generations will be a lasting legacy as we continue to provide a exceptional customer service and highly specialized products.
Leon Slikkers’ career began as a carpenter for Chris-Craft in 1946. In the mid-1950s he took a risk by selling his house to raise capital and start building mahogany runabouts under the name Slickcraft. Boat Company. Soon after starting Slickcraft, he started experimenting with fiberglass and composites. He sold Slickcraft to AMF (American Machine and Foundry) in 1969 and remained its chairman for four years, before founding S2 Yachts with a focus solely on sailboats.
In 1976, S2 began manufacturing sport boats under the Tiara brand, and in 1978 Pursuit sport fishing models. Customers quickly adopted the products, and a variety of improvements and new models were added over the following decades to consolidate the company’s leadership position in the market. S2 Yachts then sold the Pursuit Boats brand to Malibu Boats Inc. in 2018. Given the impressive length of Leon Slikkers’ career, it has been said that he has built more quality boats than anyone in history. Of the industry.
Expansion of luxury speedboat portfolio, celebration of inboard heritage
From the early days of the company, Leon’s drive to meet customer wishes and needs through cutting-edge design and engineering processes shaped Tiara’s culture of innovation and quality. In recent years, he has seen a growing demand for larger, outboard-powered products with more luxurious amenities. This led to the company’s decision in 2017 to develop a suite of outboard motor boats that combines the luxury, quality, utility and performance of the company’s inboard series. Since then its luxury outboard lineup has skyrocketed in popularity, leading to the launch of the 48 LS, the flagship of the LS series, in February 2021, making it the largest outboard-powered model. proposed to date.
“It was with our father’s foresight and vision that we made the crucial decision to pursue a Tiara-inspired luxury outboard brand,” said Bob Slikkers, senior vice president of operations. “That we have been able to embrace and adapt so quickly to these changes does honor to our father’s original vision combined with the skills and dedication of our design, engineering, manufacturing and sales teams. . We decided to do something bold for our company and our brand, and we succeeded in doing it, a real testament to our management team and their ability to achieve more success in the future.
The most recent and perhaps the most daring example to date of the company’s efforts to design and innovate around customer needs will occur in 2022, when Tiara Yachts will launch a 55-foot inboard yacht at cutting edge technology, a cleverly designed combination of its LS and Coupé. series that represent Tiara’s most personalized and technically advanced product. The luxury long-range vessel will feature multiple modules to customize the cockpit layout to suit each guest’s personal lifestyle, whether entertainment or fishing, with multiple seating configurations and deluxe features. such as a summer kitchen and outdoor dining.
“Being part of a three-generation family business is an exciting experience. I’ve heard stories from my dad and grandfather about the family’s success, and now I’m involved in the development and design of our future products, ”said Alex Slikkers, Sales and Marketing Specialist. “We have so many new ideas and new products on the horizon that I know our customers will really appreciate it. ”
“In many ways the new 55 is the culmination of everything we’ve learned as a company and a manifestation of what is most important to our customers who want incredible boating experiences,” said Tim Slikkers, Director of Engineering. “Each chapter of our journey illuminated successful features that inspired the 55, which is a clever blend of the best features of our day and cruising models, and an exceptionally innovative, luxurious and performance yacht that will be unlike anything else. in the market today It is also a declaration that Tiara Yachts remains a major player in the national and global inboard markets.
Growth fuels next-level investments
Tiara Yachts has experienced impressive growth in recent years. The company’s income is expected to more than double in the period 2017 to 2022. With zero debt, the family will continue to make smarter investments to leverage their success for future market share growth.
“The company was founded on the idea of creating an enjoyable browsing experience for its customers. Everything we do is aimed at supporting this mission, so there is no room for complacency, ”said David Slikkers, director of government relations for the company. “We are constantly innovating and reinventing every part of our business, from design to engineering, manufacturing, sales and customer service. Every day we come to work looking for new ways to delight our customers.
Manufacturing in the 21st century offers many opportunities for continuous process improvement, from the use of robotics and UV curing to the deployment of 3D printing. The company’s tight molding process journey, begun twenty years ago, is accelerating as more and more benefits are realized, including the use of advanced woven fibers and carbon composite materials that reduce weight and improve performance, while creating a safer and cleaner working environment for employees, potentially reducing VOC emissions by 70%.
“Our sophisticated manufacturing methods parallel those used in the aerospace and defense industries, where precision is essential, giving us a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting new employees who wish to do part of a technology team, ”said Kelly Slikkers, Director of Manufacturing and Quality. “Our grandfather founded this company in part thanks to historic western Michigan know-how combined with our commitment to providing rewarding career paths. Our strategic investments in people, processes and products over the past few years will help us attract the best and brightest minds, while positioning our company and brand for an exciting next chapter. “