In the business of moving boats
Ten years ago, Cliff and Jeanne Lewis found the perfect place to move their business. It's a commercial/residential lot along Highway 61 south of Hastings, and as well as being the Lewis's home, it's home base for Cross Country Boat Transport, Inc.
"We're just a family owned business," Cliff said.
They bought the business from a friend almost 20 years ago. Cliff had just been laid off from his job at King's Cove Marina, and the first owner was ready to pass the business onto someone else.
"We came around at the opportune time," Cliff said.
They were no strangers to boat transport. Having worked for Erickson Marine and King's Cove, Cliff knew how the process worked. The marinas would often take on transport jobs in the slower seasons.
"We were always delivering boats," Cliff said.
The family already loved boats and boating, so taking on the business was a logical fit.
"It turned our hobby into our way of life," he said.
The business is a small one, with just a few drivers for four trucks and Cliff and Jeanne to take care of managing it all. But that doesn't stop them from attracting clientele from all over.
"We get everywhere there's water," Cliff said, from Key West to Maine, California and Seattle.
They haul all sizes and types of boats, and they've developed a reputation that boaters value. The key is providing personalized care.
"There's no personal touch anymore," Jeanne said, and many businesses give off the attitude that they don't care for the people, only for the amount of business they bring.
"We don't ever want our customers to feel that way," she said. "We want them to feel like theirs is the only boat we're moving today."
Cross Country Boat Transport's professionalism doesn't stop in the office. Cliff and Jeanne are careful to hire only drivers who will take as much care with their loads and the people they work with as Cliff and Jeanne do. It's not always easy to find the right drivers.
"How do you teach someone what's taken you 40 years to learn?" Cliff asked.
Their methods have paid off. The people they do business with not only come back to them, but they also recommend them to others with boat transport needs.
"They kind of look out for us," Cliff said.
Their attitude also benefits their employees. Rather than driving them around the clock, they try to give them a balance so they can have lives of their own.
Moving boats on the roads presents its share of difficulties.
"Every state has its own laws," Jeanne said.
Boats are oversized loads, which are subject to a host of transportation rules. The trucks can only drive in daylight, and they need permits in every state - as well as cities and counties if they have to leave state highways.
The laws are constantly changing, as well.
"For us, it's always research, research, research," Cliff said.
Over the years, they've had to change their methods. Cliff remembered having to stop his truck at a hotel to use a teletype to get permits as he crossed the country. Now the process is all done online, and Jeanne can order them from the office at home for the drivers on the road.
Being a small business with high standards has allowed Cross Country Boat Transport to keep a stellar record. They've never had any crashes - something not many transport companies can say.
"We've been pretty proud of our record," Cliff said.
To learn more about the services Cross Country Boat Transport offers, go to www.ccbti.com or call 651-437-2454.