Instead of under promising, try over delivering

Aug 1, 2016 by Peter Herm

As in any business, captains and crew are not in complete control of the outcomes of almost anything they do. They cannot control the weather, mechanical malfunctions, vendors, contractors or many other variables that make up the boating life, no matter the size of the boat.

A successful crew will attempt to factor the inevitable unknowns into their planning and, most importantly, set and continually manage owner expectations accordingly.

A recent example of crew “managing” an owner might be the use of our guest preference form. We had offered the use of the boat to our favorite customer in the Adriatic this summer. The guests were not familiar with the ludicrously spoiled life of big boaters, and were curious about the preference sheet I sent them prior to their cruise.

In my typical fashion, the preference sheet was accompanied by my effusive e-mail about how the crew would bend over backward to accommodate their every desire. I went on at length about how the crew is wonderful, and for the guests to be specific in their preferences for food, activities and itinerary.

I copied the captain on this e-mail as I believe that the best communication is direct communication, and there is no need for me to be in the middle.

After reading my e-mail, I got a call from the captain asking me to temper my language and promises. Wisely, he wanted to deliver on whatever promises I made to the guests, but was not sure he could live up to the high expectations I had set.

He pointed out that given their location, (I like remote places and stay as far away from the “hot spots” as humanly possible) the crew may not be able to deliver on my overly broad promises of specific tequilas, scotches, beers and other less important items.

He was gently reminding me that I needed to learn to do what he does, which is set the correct expectations and not over promise. Good advice for me. Duly spanked, I have sent an updated e-mail to the guests clarifying some of the supply challenges.

This same theory could come in handy for vendors. But I do think that smart crew will help the vendors by constantly probing them on the reality of the expectations they set.

This week’s example of vendor negligence comes from a supplier in Sweden. One of the components in our drive line failed. The parts had to be custom made and were to be shipped to the boat in Sicily with a four-week lead time.

The vendor promised the parts would arrive on a specific day by air freight. The engineer made the appropriate arrangements with the local customs officials to get the parts cleared quickly. He also arranged for an additional engineer to fly in to speed up the install and meet a busy schedule and crossing to Montenegro.

As is sadly fairly typical, the vendor called on the scheduled day of arrival to say the parts had in fact not shipped yet. This vendor knew full well that the parts would not be ready on the designated date and should have called days or weeks earlier to modify the promises made and expectations set. This would not have been a fun call to make, but it would have saved everyone a lot of pain, time and money had they called in advance.

Naturally, when the parts did finally arrive, they were wrong and did not fit. Such is boating. But it is better done with the proper expectations set by everyone involved on all sides of the equation, including me. Lesson learned. Again.

High tide only and bow west.  

Peter Herm is the pen name for a veteran yacht owner who is an entrepreneur based on the East Coast of the U.S. Contact him through