How to become a superyacht broker:
When it comes to brokerage, there are 2 breeds:” the Boat Brokers” & “the Yacht Brokers”.
If you go on LinkedIn right now and search for ‘Yacht Brokers’, you will find nearly 2500 results, but when you search for ‘Boat Brokers’, you will only find 160 results. Well, yachts are much more glamorous than boats!
When starting my career as a boat broker a few years ago, I remember meeting a guy in my building’s elevator on the way to work one day. He asked me what I did for work so I responded “yacht broker”. I couldn’t believe how he reacted to those 2 magical words. It was like time had stopped. His facial expression immediately changed and he looked at me with the most profound admiration and said “Whaou, yachts! Fancy!”
Every month I receive messages from readers asking me how to become a “yacht” broker. So I wanted to go behind the scenes of not only this intriguing profession but more specifically of the elite of the industry. The ones who serve the 0.001%: the superyacht brokers.
Being a great superyacht broker takes much more than being connected to the rich and famous or hanging out drinking cocktails with a nice suit on the deck of a superyacht.
A great superyacht broker must not only have in-depth knowledge of the new vessel and existing market, but must also have relationships with clients, builders and support professionals. The larger the yacht the more complex it becomes. Crew management, engineering, maritime law, classifications, insurance, naval architecture, tenders & toys, are only some of the things that should be taken into consideration during a large vessel transaction.
During the last Cannes Boat Show, I asked one of my friends who sells new yachts for a recognized brand of trawlers from 50′ to 90′, who he thought was the best broker he knew. He said Richard Lambert from Burgess.I actually knew Richard from the time he was at OceanStyle. I remembered meeting him on the dock a few times and recalled his friendly and professional attitude but was also impressed with his resume and progression in his career.
I reached out to Richard, and with no surprise, he accepted to share a few of his tips with our community. Richard is currently Managing Director Asia and Senior Broker at Burgess. For those of you who are not familiar with the superyacht world, Burgess is one of the global superyacht industry leaders in sales, purchases, new construction, charters, and management of luxury superyachts.
So without further a due, let’s review Richard’s interview.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself and what did you do to become a superyacht broker?
I have always had a passion for sailing and the water and while at School and University I was a sailing instructor. This led to yacht charter and brokerage initially for Princess in the UK and then Mallorca before starting my own business and then returning to the UK. I started with Burgess in 2005 to focus on the semi-custom market and we launched OceanStyle.
2) What do you think differentiates a boat broker from a yacht broker? In other words, what would the difference be in the process of, for instance, listing and selling a 35′ boat versus a 100′ brokerage boat?
The principals are the same in theory, however, in our industry, the key factor is the relationship that you build with the client. This is vital at the larger end of the market as you can be dealing with a client for years before they decide to move ahead with a purchase.
3) In working with other brokers to help them improve their sales results, I often see 2 major barriers of improvement:
-Their constant desire to put their product before their customers in the selling equation.
-Their lack of persistence and follow-up due to the fact that boat sales are often a long selling cycle.
I am curious to know how those particular barriers affect your organization and what actions you are taking to increase your sales performance and customer satisfaction?
As I mentioned above, the relationship with the client is paramount, it is important to listen to their needs and make sure that you as their broker are prioritizing their requirements. This does not mean that you cannot guide and advise them and ensure that they are making an informed decision, but it is important to listen to their needs and realize that this is a profession where you have to take the long-term view.
4) What are some of the interpersonal and technical qualities you look for when hiring a new yacht broker?
There are a number of qualities that I would look for aside from purely a passion for yachting. Patience, the ability to build relationships and professionalism are a few that I would see as priorities.
5) In your 11 years as a superyacht broker, what part of your job has been the most challenging and has required you to spend the most time on and why?
One of the most challenging periods was during the financial crisis, we experienced difficult market conditions and depreciation that we had not seen previously. Sellers were becoming frustrated that their yachts were not selling and buyers were making incredibly low offers. We still get some clients that are looking for a distressed purchase but I am pleased to report that those days have now passed. The way through this period was patience and honest communication of quantifiable market conditions.
6) What is the top sales or marketing advice that you would give to a young boat broker who is just getting started in this industry?
Gain experience where you can and do not expect to start as a superyacht broker. Ensure that you have done your research and always be honest, if you do not know the answer then do not lie.
7) I recently wrote a blog post on the future of boating and I am curious in knowing your opinion on where the market is heading and what you are doing to adapt?
It is a fascinating market and it is one that you need to consider globally, the appetite for building larger and larger still seems to be prevalent. However, I feel that the semi-custom proven platform with shorter delivery lead times will appeal, especially in emerging markets. The brokerage market is stabilizing and there are some significant signs that the market is stabilizing, fewer price reductions are an indication of improving market conditions and clients setting realistic asking prices. The quality builders have performed well in recent years and this is demonstrated in stronger resale figures. The market is driven by confidence and there is instability from a geopolitical standpoint which can destabilize these stabilizing conditions.
As you can judge through Richards responses, you can not expect to become a superyacht broker overnight. Even if Richard started early in his career and is a young broker compare to the industry average, he had many years of experience before working with one of the top superyacht firms today.
He also really emphasized the importance of patience and long term vision when serving clients, which is becoming a rare virtue in our current society. With instant access to information and stories of overnight success everywhere, online or on TV, professionals tend to seek instant results.
But the most important element, in my opinion, is the ability to continue and persevere during the challenging times. His experience during the 2008 crisis was extremely challenging with frustrated sellers and incredibly low offers from buyers. This might have been a very uncomfortable and difficult period for Richard and his team but they worked through it and grew to become stronger today.
Challenging periods should be seen as an opportunity and not a failure. This reminds me of the Lobster Theory. When their shell gets too tight and uncomfortable, lobsters have no other way to grow than to hide below a rock and shed their old shell to make way for a new one. Their discomfort is entirely part of their growing process. So next time you are in a period of doubt, stress or adversity, use this opportunity to grow and become better.
I hope that you enjoyed this interview on how to become a superyacht broker. Please share your thoughts or questions below and let me know who would you like me to interview next.