Decisions - Robert Braithwaite - Sunseeker

Founder and managing director of the Dorset boat-maker.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

MY BEST ...

... was deciding to build boats myself and develop a company. I built my first boat in 1968. I was a marine engineer and I decided to start making boats because the company I was working for - BMC - imported boats that were either American or Scandinavian. I had a great passion to create something British that was the best of its type.

Everything is made in Poole. We design, develop and manufacture the boats here. In the past year, we've made 330 boats, from 47ft out to 120ft. The only way I've succeeded is by building a team around me.

I still have a very hands-on role but that has changed over the years. I didn't want to step back, because people who start their own businesses don't feel that they can ever let go. But I realised that to succeed at a business and to keep it British, I had to bring in skills from other industries.

I started that about eight years ago. We brought in an accountant from the City, manufacturing skills from people trained in the US, and product developers from BMW. It was the only way forward.

MY WORST ...

In the early '80s, we were invited to start building boats in Canada, but that was a major mistake. They said they'd put the money in, and we'd give them the technology - which we did. Interestingly, the product they built looked good and they had the American market then. In the end, we brought the boats back here, because we found that although they looked good, the galleys fell out when we started to use them. We had already put some boats out but, luckily, we found the problem, rectified it and stopped production in Canada.

It was a harsh lesson, because it could have damaged us seriously. We decided that we wouldn't build elsewhere in the world ever again - we would always build in Poole under our own management.

You can imagine this is the biggest thing we could ask, because it's much cheaper to manufacture elsewhere in the world. But we are resolute. We have problems with the pound, which means we have to get more efficient because you can make the best product but it has to be at the right price.

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