Triton networks with Crew Unlimited (now known as Bluewater)
Date(s) - Sep 21, 2016
06:00 pm - 08:00 pm
Join us as we take Triton Networking to crew placement agency Crew Unlimited on the third Wednesday of September (Sept. 21) in Ft. Lauderdale. Yacht crew and industry professionals are invited to the casual event on Oct. 7 from 6-8 p.m. where CU President Ami Ira is expected to reveal some breaking news.
Until then, learn more about Crew Unlimited from Ira, the former chief stew who relentlessly works to change the industry’s image of placement agents.
- Tell us about Crew Unlimited? How did it start, and what do you do?
Crew Unlimited was started in 1983 by Nord Pedersen and Jude Rilling, and Capt. Eddie Seesholts bought it in 1986. We are the oldest crew agency in the world (or second oldest, depending on whom you ask). We place crew in all positions on luxury yachts, and we book luxury yacht charter vacations, all over the world.
- Who works with you, and what do they specialize in?
Sue Price is with us now for 14 years placing captains and chefs. She has a unique way about her that makes everyone tell her everything, and then she gives them a hard time, telling them what they need to do to fix whatever needs fixing, without sugarcoating it. They listen and love her forever. I envy her guts.
Terry Haas is also still with us, now for 10 years and places mates, engineers and deck crew She’s very knowledgeable, knows a lot about licensing, and has a super solid moral character. She gives great career advice, and knows many of her clients from working with them on board, or through years here placing crew with them.
Holly Fisher has been with us for over two years now, and even at her young age, had already worked on yachts for five years before joining our team placing stews, pursers, estate staff and the like. Five years working on large yachts lends her a depth of knowledge and experience well beyond that of most of the candidates she places, and often more than some of the clients she’s finding crew for.
We couldn’t do it all without Edie Pierce, our friendly and helpful receptionist, and Shalom Weiss, everyone’s favorite social networking, admin assistant/charter assistant/event coordinator/graphic designer, do-everything person. Shalom can do anything I’ve ever asked.
And Ali is back. Alicia worked for us for four years in all capacities, from reference checking to charter assistant to placement coordinator in France. Now she’s checking references and verifying maritime licenses for us. Our dedication to checking out the people we represent is our best feature as a crew agency, and it’s the main reason anyone should use Crew Unlimited above any other agency that doesn’t do this tedious and time-consuming task. It’s the due diligence captains and owners expect from a serious crew agency, yet surprisingly, few bother. Ali is also tech savvy and has been a huge help teaching everyone the ins and outs with our new website.
- There are a lot of crew agencies in yachting. Most crew new to yachting visit them all. Is that the best approach?
I wouldn’t recommend crew visit all of them, but it’s important crew not put all their eggs in one basket. Instead, register with just a few agencies. Pick the ones with professional offices, professional staff, a long history of success, and a great reputation.
People like to do business with people like themselves, so crew should go in and meet with the placement team. See who they click with, then cultivate those relationships instead of trying to be everywhere. Focus on the ones you click with. It’s that commonality in personalities that will help crew excel long term.
And whomever you register with, do it fully, 100 percent. Don’t put forth a half-hearted attempt, because unanswered questions make crew appear as lacking attention to detail, which this industry does not tolerate. Gather reference letters, ask permission to use past employers as contactable references, and take a professional photograph in the attire relevant to the job you want.
- Any different advice for mid-career crew?
It’s not who you know, but who knows you. Crew must get to know their placement coordinator so they can make the best recommendation to the right employer when the time comes. Crew who are only an email pen pal, those who never call or show their face will not have a placement coordinator go the extra mile for them. Think about it. What if a client asks us, “Have you met him/her?” The placement coordinator isn’t going to lie, so she will have to answer, “yes, but it was a few years ago.” That’s not a good enough answer. Help us help you. Come in regularly and keep your profile up to date, even if you’re not looking for work.
- How can you help crew who get to the top of their game, to the department-head level?
Gosh, that’s a good question. We are more reactive, in that we place positions when a client asks us to, rather than acting on behalf of the crew member to find better jobs for them. I think that’s because the employer is the one who pays our placement fee. Of course, we only submit the best candidates for the job, not every candidate who’s interested, which at least evens the playing field a bit and ensures quality.
- What about those who do the hiring? What advice do you have for them?
My advice is the same for those hiring crew. Take the time to get to know our placement coordinators. Come into the office, have a cup of coffee, interview job candidates in the office, and just spend time face to face with our staff. We “get it” 100 times better with those clients than we do with the ones who simply shoot off an email with a job description attached to ours and five other crew agencies.
Captains, owners and managers who want a good fit have to share who they are, and what they need in the crew who will work for them — and that means us as well. Establishing a relationship with an agent who knows how the boat is run is critical to finding great crew through an agency. Help us, help you.
- There’s a lot of frustration among some captains who feel that bad crew continue to get hired. And they blame agencies for that. Do you expect captains to tell you that one of your candidates didn’t work out?
Yes, I expect them to, especially if it is a candidate that we presented, but also if it’s not. Agencies that don’t check references are definitely a problem, as are captains who hire from any source that hasn’t checked the candidate’s references, including hiring off the dock without doing due diligence, as they make it possible for the bad eggs to continue.
However, we do check references, and we have since 2005. We have more than 120,000 references in our system, and the detailed information divulged about the character of our candidates is absolutely invaluable to us — and to anyone who hires through us — even though we get responses from barely more than half of the ones we check.
Captains who don’t respond to reference check requests about crew they’ve previously employed, or worse, captains who don’t speak up about bad performance or behavior are part of the problem. They should take more responsibility for their role in the industry, and be honest when someone doesn’t perform up to standard, so the candidate can learn and grow and become better.
- Many believe there’s a shortage of American crew. Should crew agencies play a part in recruiting? Do you?
There is a shortage of experienced American crew, but no shortage of new interest in the industry. Unfortunately, when an agency is engaged to source crew, because there’s a fee involved, it’s a position for someone with extra experience in some category or another.
What I would like to see is an apprenticeship program for entry-level American crew where they can learn on the job (like everyone else does) but be given a chance before they’ve necessarily gotten their STCW and met the minimum six months mark that so many clients seem to require.
It frustrates me that we recruit more than 3,000 new stews and deckhands to the industry every year, but can’t place them because our clients won’t pay for them. Instead, they give us the “six months minimum experience and STCW” requirement, excluding some talented candidates who eventually give up.
The flip side is that the person who got the chance but failed at the job now has six months experience and is now eligible for consideration for a new job. It doesn’t make sense to reward bad behavior, so why not hire someone green instead?
- How does Crew Unlimited stand out?
We have always stood out, primarily because of our people. Capt. Eddie in the beginning, then me, Sue, Terry, and the whole team, we all care – a lot. We’re honest, we work hard, and we expect the same from the crew we represent. We respect the jobs crew hold on yachts, and listen well when they talk. We also advise well, when asked.
We kind of feel like the custodians of the industry, in the regard that the turnover is what makes owners sell the boat. If we can help lower/eliminate the turnover by helping our clients hire the right crew from the beginning, then we’re ensuring our own job security in the future, because the owners will stay in the business of yacht ownership.
We also have a great new website showcasing all the jobs we have, with online chat and configurable job alerts for crew looking for work. It’s so much more transparent, and lets crew take control of their destiny a bit more by building a complete profile, knowing that their references are being contacted, their license verified, the works. The new site also has a hiring manager dashboard for captains who want to search our database themselves.
We also have more than 61,000 crew registered and offices on both sides of the pond, with 33 years of historical data and 120,000 references checked.
- Years ago, you started the Fort Yachtie-da Film Festival to encourage crew to work as a team in creating something fun. Did it work like you had hoped?
Yes and no. It did work to encourage crew to work as a team; it required them to. (There are no “selfie” entries.) And the awards ceremony was a really fun night out for crew, with a creative element centered around their peers and their jobs, with a chance to dress up in gowns and black tie.
But it didn’t work exactly as I had hoped. In my ideal world, captains would have embraced it more, instead of feeling like it’s taking too much focus off the crew member’s job itself. The captain doesn’t need one more thing to manage, and with confidentiality agreements so prevalent, I don’t think we nor the crew, really got the support we needed from above.
Of course, there were a few forward-thinking charter yacht captains (where the skill of video editing comes in handy for charter guest memoirs) from M/Y Starfire, M/Y Lazy Z, M/Y Apoise, and a few others who did embrace the contest, and whose crew went on to produce multiple winners over the years. See them all at www.crewunlimited.com/videos.
- What’s next for Crew Unlimited?
Well, the job of an entrepreneur is never done. If you stand still, you fall behind. So now that we’ve launched our new website, we will begin working on an apprenticeship program for entry-level crew. We may partner with the training schools to fund scholarships or financing for select newbies who stand out.
We also plan to develop a mentorship program for experienced captains to mentor those with less experience. It will be semi-anonymous in that the name of the person asking the question remains hidden.
In the charter department, Shalom and I intend to grow our charter fleet by promoting the terrific track record we’ve had with M/Y Limitless and M/Y Starfire as central agent. We also intend to book more charters in general (because planning a charter yacht vacation is the absolute most fun a girl can have without being the guest) by meeting more people who have the wherewithal to charter, through yacht brokers, repeat client referrals, and at higher end charity functions like the Waterway Soiree and the MICF Chairman’s Gala, of which I’m on the planning committee.
And … drumroll … we will be growing internationally in a big way, but everyone will have to come to our Triton Networking event to see what’s really next for Crew Unlimited.
Join Ami and the entire Crew Unlimited team for great networking on the third Wednesday in September at their Ft. Lauderdale offices, 1069 S.E. 17th St. (33316). No RSVP necessary. Just bring business cards and be ready to meet new people and expand your network of professional colleagues.