Specialty Fabrics Review April 2022 - 29

that we order materials early even if
we're not going to start for six months, "
he explains.
Despite heightened demand, Keeler
has no plans to add employees or try to
boost production volume. " We're at a
sweet spot, right where we want to be. "
That said, he doesn't expect industry
demand to slow anytime soon.
" I think people love boating, and
no matter what happens they will
always have some money to throw
at their boats. "
Bragging rights
Asked about his company's claims to
fame, Keeler points to an unconventional
Oyster Creek policy that allows
employees to work on their own projects
in the shop, after hours, at no charge.
" Our claim to fame is our culture-
it's a really fun place to work, " he notes.
" I want my employees to do well, so if
they want to generate more income,
I say do it. It helps with employee
retention and happiness. "
On the horizon
All things considered, Keeler foresees no
sweeping changes for Oyster Creek now.
" We're going to keep a focus on
what we do best. We have a good
system, and I think rather than
branching out, we have enough work
to focus on what we already do. "
One day, Keeler's 18-year-old
son Fin may want to take over the
business, but for now, " I want him to
go out and see the world a bit and do
something else for a while, " he notes.
These days, it's easy for Keeler
to laugh about his parents'
skepticism when he first started
his thriving venture.
" For a long time, they thought
'You just did four years of college
and now you're washing boats?'
Now it's different, and suddenly I'm
the guy with the cool company, and
I get paid to play around on boats.
I'm 51, but I still feel like a kid. "
Michelle Miron is a freelance writer
based in Hugo, Minn.
www.SpecialtyFabricsReview.com 29
What advice do you have for
industry newcomers?
" Go talk to other shops, people
who have already done it,
and don't be afraid to ask
questions, " Keeler says. " If I
had it to do differently, I'd get
somebody into a management
position sooner. I've tried to have
bookkeepers and accountants,
whose services can be quite
expensive for a small business.
Unfortunately they don't see all
the little things. For example
you might not have enough in
your account for your monthly
expenses, or you might have
to take a late fee sometimes
depending on cash flow.
Keeler says it's also important
to delegate responsibility. " You
can't run everything. It's hard
for one person to do every
single aspect unless you have
low overhead and you're a
one-person operation that only
takes on select projects. It felt
like this machine didn't start
running well until I could divide
up the tasks. One of the things
that helped our team come
together was when we started
making job titles with tiers, it
helped define people's roles
and helps with expectations. "
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Specialty Fabrics Review April 2022

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