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Owner’s View: Are crew and brokers friends, enemies or both?

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Owner’s View: by Peter Herm

Captains, crew and yacht brokers have a complex relationship. I don’t pretend to understand all of the intricacies and nuances of those relationships, but I think it is deeper than just the pain of getting the boat ready for a no-show listing appointment.

I have written on this topic before; Crew have a huge impact on boat sales and purchases. I have to admit to wanting to sell my boats and become a charterer after some of the antics of my various captains and crew over the years. The blown-out windows in the salon off Costa Rica come to mind, as do the new props in Fort Lauderdale and the lost $20,000 anchor in the Gulf Stream.

Fortunately, the urge to sell fades and I remember the enjoyment of steaming through bright blue water on a sunny day in the Adriatic. But some owners don’t have as sharp a memory, and I know of many who have had ongoing crew issues and gotten out of boating altogether. They have enough headaches in their lives, and a boat should not be one of them.

The final disposal is a commission for the broker – but a one-time commission, with no more to come. Or maybe the brokers make more with a repeat charterer? But they have crew issues, too.

Yacht brokers also rely on captains and crew to ensure a sale. I have been on many a poorly maintained boat listed for sale where the crew are half the reason it does not sell. On the flip side, many boats have been bought thanks to a sharp crew meticulously maintaining a boat and creatively entertaining charter guests who then make the leap into ownership.

To further complicate the relationships, you have the yacht brokerage firms that are also crew placement agencies. This adds a dynamic to the owner-crew-broker relationship that is tough to explain. You want to get the job, but the boat is just not the right boat for the owner’s mission. You can’t kill the sale … but should you?

Overall, crew should remember that although there are plenty of jobs out there in this industry, the more owners who have less than satisfying experiences, the fewer boats will be sold in the long run.

Brokers need to keep in mind that a big boat owner’s biggest headache will not be the money spent on the over-the-top refit, but rather the care and feeding of the crew. They need to gently coach new and veteran owners alike that, just like in any of their businesses, people management challenges are a part of the “pleasure” of big boat ownership. The good brokers will prepare an owner for this reality – gently prepare, but prepare nonetheless.

Professional yacht management is one option, and plenty of brokers provide this service as well, but it still boils down to hiring and managing people. Whether you add a layer of management into the mix or not, the ultimate enjoyment of the boat will be a relationship between the owner and the crew.

So what do the best crews do? That is too long a story for the space available, but the short answer is: They reduce the actual and potential headaches for the owner.

Try to encourage owners to deal with brokers who are upfront about all aspects of boat ownership – the good, the bad and the ugly.  Some brokers do this better than others, and many owners in the boat size ranges we deal with every day already know the joys of crew management. But the future growth of big boating is a function of brokers who sell reality, not just fantasy; and crew who deliver fantasy, not just nonstop helpings of reality.

Bow west and high tide only.

Peter Herm is the pen name for a veteran yacht owner who is an entrepreneur based on the East Coast of the U.S. Comments are welcome below.

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