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Hawaii Business' SmallBiz 2013 Editor's Choice Awards

Hawaii small businesses are honored in five categories: New, Green, Woman-Owned, Innovation and Long-term Success

(page 5 of 5)

Joe Adams

Photo: David Croxford

Long-Term Success

Windward Boats

Joe Adams

Nominator: Martin Tadlas, Hawaii National Bank

For almost three decades, Joe Adams has navigated Windward Boats through friendly and stormy economic conditions, and turned it into Hawaii’s largest boat dealer.

With the help and encouragement of friends, Adams started the company out of his home in Enchanted Lake in 1984. Initially, he focused on smaller items. “I would do demonstrations on the dock and in the backyard,” says Adams. “I had one bedroom full of engines, another full of inflatable boats and my garage was an improvised workshop.” After six months, he was able to afford a small facility on Kailua Road.

From those humble beginnings, the business grew almost exponentially and, in 1990, acquired its current one-acre location. Adams attributes his success to introducing local customers to the option of financing, with which Windward Boats was able to add more lines and products, and emerged as Hawaii’s top seller.

Though business dropped by 80 percent over a single month at the onset of the latest recession, Windward Boats stayed afloat with flexible management. As customers preferred to repair what they already had, the firm met the increased demand for service and maintenance. “We had to change with the times,” Adams says, and calls the past four years the most challenging of his company’s history.

A business that sells luxury goods seldom enjoys steady sailing, but Adams has smoothed out the ride by serving government and educational institutions, such as the Navy, Coast Guard, local fire departments and universities. Maintenance contracts with these organizations, explains Adams, are usually less dependent on economic circumstances.

Adams prides himself on being Yamaha’s top seller in the country’s western region for 12 consecutive years. This is remarkable, considering Hawaii’s modest population. What also contributes to his success, Adams says, is that he hires exceptional professionals who are also watersports enthusiasts like himself.

Martin Tadlas, Kailua branch manager of Hawaii National Bank, who nominated Windward Boats for a small-business award, calls it a “flagship business” for Kailua. Tadlas also applauds Adams for his involvement in the community.

Born and raised in Kailua, Adams is a champion for sports-related causes such as the Special Olympics and AccesSurf, which introduces ocean activities to children and veterans with disabilities. “I wish there was more charity to those who really need it: the handicapped, veterans, the homeless, the starving,” he says.

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