Orchestrating the largest in-water boat show in the world is like setting up a pop-up city of 100,000 people for several days. With a total economic impact of roughly $500 million, greater than a Super Bowl, FLIBS is one of the most important annual boat shows for closing business deals. Captains and crew head into high gear as they prepare their yachts for tours, private events and potential yacht owners demanding VIP entry passes, unlimited access to yachts, and evening events held at mansions, performing arts centers, and executive airports. For my business, it is a time where I proudly present the yachting industry and give the affluent a small glimpse into our lifestyle and excellence in service. This year, as the host of a special group of family wealth office advisors and managers, I experienced first-hand the importance of the crew and its ability to represent the heart and soul of their vessel and the industry at large.
Interestingly, I found a wide discrepancy among trained crew in terms of presentation. My tours were scheduled the day before the show’s opening, which is always marked by frenzied crew activity and last minute preparations. Having been on many yacht tours, service excellence is a given, or it should be for individuals who are responsible for family offices worth over $100M. However, my group missed the red carpet treatment and the tours lacked luster against an amazing evening sunset.
On the first yacht tour, the crew was seen turning on lights and raising the shades as we boarded the yacht. Once on-board, the crew disappeared for the duration of the walk-though and my group wandered around aimlessly, admiring the yacht’s sundeck while snapping photos meant to make those living in the cold North East envious of the experience. We were not guided in any particular manner, except that lingering in any one area of the yacht felt rather unwelcomed. Relief washed over the crew as we exited and moved on to the next yacht. As I shuffled the last guest off the yacht, I couldn’t help thinking about the delicate balance and psychology of knowing when to give a client their space.
On the second yacht tour, the crew was very engaging while guiding us along, explaining and narrating the highlights of the yacht’s unique spaces, history, and design. They were attentive and fully present, affirming that my group had value. Conversations were also peppered with fun stories of their world travels and the general crew lifestyle. As a result, my group began to smile and laugh more and genuinely appreciated the informative experience as opposed to the “be seen but not heard” tour. The photos on the upper deck were now relaxed, fun, and shared among attendees and posted on social media sites for the world to see.
What would seem to be simple crew training 101, it bears repeating. You just never know who is walking on-board your yacht and people are watching closely, even at the end of the working day, even when everyone is dog-tired. What sets you apart in any industry and brings great success is attention to detail at the precise moment it is required, like selling a $50K painting to the guy who walked into the art gallery with flip flops, shorts and a baseball hat.