After years of experiencing the freedom of sailing around the world on both my own vessels and as the Captain on superyachts, Robert Lehmann knew that when he eventually stepped ashore for good he did not want to work for someone else. He believes the best businesses solve problems and differentiate themselves from the greater market through quality products or services followed up by a high standard of customer service. While sailing and working on boats, he ran into many issues and eventually turned one into a business. Fair Wind Fasteners provides hard-to-find, high-quality marine fasteners to the maritime professional, and he’s proud to be providing what he knows to be the best quality and service available in the industry.
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Thank you so much for giving us your time! Before we begin, could you introduce yourself to our readers and take us through what exactly your company does and what your vision is for its future?
Robert Lehmann: My company, Fair Wind Fasteners, was founded because while working on my own old wooden boat I ran into an issue sourcing good quality fasteners (wood screws in particular) for a project I was working on. Every supplier seemed to sell cheap, and ineffective nuts bolts, and screws instead of the quality I was looking for. Years later, after my sailing career was over I founded the company. I received product samples from a dozen different manufacturers, sent them off for chemical analysis testing, checked tolerances, and ultimately found what I believe to be the best product available on the market. I branded, and sell that product with a focus on quality, and I’m pleased to say the market has reacted favorably.
In the future, I’d like to be able to supply all kinds of boat building supplies to builders, restorers, repairers, and DIY maritime junkies. But for now, I’ll settle on the best silicon bronze fasteners, really nail down our reputation and product offerings, and keep in my lane until it’s time to expand further.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO/entrepreneur when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get where you are today?
Robert Lehmann: I never said I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I believe it was always in the cards. I always had some kind of business idea whether it was selling burned CDs in school (don’t tell), or making handicrafts and selling them. Even later in life, I was always looking for good import/export trade opportunities as I sailed around the globe.
A more direct answer was that I wanted to be a pilot. Dad was an airline pilot, and I went to school to be a pilot but was a bit disheartened when I found out it was more like driving a fly bus straight and level and a lot less like Top Gun.
Tell us something about yourself that others in your organization might be surprised to know.
Robert Lehmann: Oh I have stories upon stories.
I’ve once been shipwrecked and had to be yanked out of the middle of the ocean by a French Army helicopter. I was held up at gunpoint by the police in Mozambique (twice), and once planned to set the record for the smallest boat to sail around the world. However, I’m a bit of an open book, so after a few cocktails those stories tend to come out and I doubt that those who know me would be very surprised.
Many readers may wonder how to become an entrepreneur but what is an entrepreneur? How would you define it?
Robert Lehmann: I would define an entrepreneur as someone who doesn’t follow usual career paths, but instead blazes their own trail. The world is full of opportunities, but the ones that are most apparent are on job boards. An entrepreneur looks beyond those job listings and sees different opportunities. Most importantly, an entrepreneur is a man or woman of action. Having an idea does not make someone an entrepreneur, but taking that leap of faith to pursue the idea does.
What is the importance of having a supportive and inclusive culture?
Robert Lehmann: It’s very important. A business’s internal culture spills over into the customer experience. A good, inclusive, understanding and happy culture truly do lead to higher productivity. Happy employees will more often work towards the business’s overall goals and not just their own.
How can a leader be disruptive in the post covid world?
Robert Lehmann: As cliche as it is, think outside the box.
Find ways around the supply chain issues. Reach out to customers without going to the trade shows. Find ways to work with the new way that our post-covid society is operating. Things aren’t the same as they once were, and while that might mean old strategies are not working, new opportunities come with them.
If a 5-year-old asked you to describe your job, what would you tell them?
Robert Lehmann: I’d simply tell them that I run an e-commerce store, selling quality boat parts online! It’s a lot more than that, but I wouldn’t be telling a 5-year-old the difference between a silicon bronze wood screw and a stainless steel one!
Leaders are usually asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is your most useless talent?
Robert Lehmann: I can plug a USB port in right-side-up every time.
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Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. If you wrote a book about your life until today, what would the title be?
Robert Lehmann: From Sea to Shore
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Robert Lehmann for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Robert Lehmann or his company, you can do it through his – Instagram
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