Defender Industries in Waterford has created quite an enviable record: 10 consecutive years of growth.
For Al Knupp, the firm's executive director, it's really a tortoise-and-hare kind of story at Defender. The privately held marine outfitter, which competes against some industry giants, has generated a steady upward trend in sales during a time when some larger competitors have fallen away.
In fact, Knupp says that Defender's 2011 sales were the best in the 73-year history of the company. "We're the David in the David-and-Goliath scenario," says Knupp. "We're the tortoise, not the hare," he emphasizes.
Last month, the Great Neck Road company shared its success with its employees, splaying out stacks of cash to be given as rewards for their hard work. It's the sixth straight year that Defender has rewarded employees through its annual "Share the Success" program, which Knupp also calls the company's "Christmas in March."
Defender has a proud history of family ownership and success-sharing among its workers. The firm was founded in 1938 in New York City, but later moved to Waterford where it has blossomed. Its warehouse houses its sprawling inventory of boating equipment and supplies, accessories, apparel, inflatable boats and outboard motors.
Besides its outlet store at its headquarters, Defender has seen tremendous growth in its online sales at www.defender.com as well as continued growth through another sales staple, its extensive catalog. The firm, which employs more than 100, has a significant, and growing, global presence.
"The Internet is changing everything," Knupp explains. "About half of our orders are coming from our website (www.defender.com). A vast majority of our sales are either online or through the catalog."
Defender also has a loyal, and local, following. Today is the last day of its annual Defender Warehouse Sale. The four-day extravaganza, says Knupp, can attract up to 10,000 to its warehouse complex. "It's quite the sight," says Knupp. (Today's event at the warehouse runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) The firm says this "all hands on deck" event is its biggest sales event of the year.
Knupp says Defender's annual Share the Success bonus distribution is always a hit with employees. This sixth year of the bonus, says Knupp, saw the largest payout to employees. On average, he adds, each employee receives nearly an extra week's pay.
The program also is unique, he says, because it provides additional monetary rewards for their years of service with Defender.
The employee also gets to choose how to receive the bonus. In addition to the cash that's handed out to employees during the annual Share the Success festive ceremony in the large warehouse, options can include a combination of extra paid time off, pre-tax contributions to either a 401(k) account or a Health Savings Account, or as bonus pay.
Stephan Lance, the president and co-owner of Defender, pays tribute to the firm's employees for the continued growth and success of the local marine outfitter.
"Our people," he says, "make this happen - they deserve to be rewarded and have their accomplishments recognized."
Anthony Cronin is The Day's business editor.