The superyacht industry is changing in response to evolving global luxury market, the rise in wealth of the digitally savvy new generations and demographics of owners and the consumer culture driven by the concepts of life experience, adventure, privacy and personalisation.
Looking at some of the most interesting recent collaborations such as the work of Zaha Hadid for the Blohm+Voss innovative shipbuilding studio or the mega yacht ‘Guilty’ by American artist Jeff Koons and Italian designer Ivana Porfiri, superyachts have become conceptual projects bringing together luxury, art, radical design and intuitive technologies turning contemporary superboats into smart homes. They have also become fantastically equipped toy boxes that include water jet packs and high-tech surfboards.
We had a unique opportunity to discuss the most disruptive trends in superyacht industry with Josh Richardson, Managing Director of Superyachts Tenders and Toys, the leading independent consultancy specialising in all yacht tender and toy needs, based off the Suffolk coast. The company took part in the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) programme supporting ambitious businesses to innovate and scale internationally, delivered by Penny Lord, Kirsten Masson and Claire Johnsen, EEN Innovation Advisers based at St John’s Innovation Centre.
What is unique about your business?
Whilst you can purchase many items from lots of different companies we provide a one stop shop for all superyacht needs relating to tenders and yacht toys under one roof. This has dramatically increased our turnover for new builds as rather than a captain or project manager contacting 50-100 different companies we are a dealer for all greatly simplifying the process and also meaning we can pass on the best pricing due to the larger overall order. As ex captains and project managers we have a lot of knowledge of this industry and with this we have a lot of contacts, which is more than half the battle in getting new business.
What drew you to the sector you currently work in?
Having previously run yachts and sailed around the world, then worked for a superyacht management company overseeing the day to day operations of superyachts we saw, what we thought as a niche in the industry which is not serviced. There is a lot of emphasis on buying and selling the large yacht but not on the smaller boats which live on board (tenders) and supporting ‘fun’ equipment. Overall we enjoy this industry, it is small but affluent and there is a lot of opportunity. Quite simply we have no idea what someone is going to ask for next, it could be an 80mph boat, an inflatable sea pool, an amphibious quadbike. Many of the owners of these yachts are looking for the latest and greatest gadgets which ensures we are at the forefront of what is available.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We don’t really have any companies we feel who are overall competitors as we offer something different, particularly with the custom tender consultancy and support. That said we need to keep pricing competitive and we have learnt what level this needs to be to gain orders and now price at this level to get each deal, so that we are efficient and are not constantly quoting but not getting the work.
How do you and your team stay on top of industry trends?
As we are keen sailors, water sports participants and are interested in the industry we see new products come, and also get approached by many manufacturers so that we are on top of the latest trends. At other times we are designing these latest trends, for example our inflatable landing craft which we designed and brought to the market.
What does your average workday consist of?
Generally 0830-1800 for me work is highly varied and contains a lot of reviews of designs, our project managers reports, and general quoting and contact with clients. We have a few key clients to include Royal Families and the like. There is no way to get away from shipping as all products we do are exported so this can be quite time consuming. Running a company you are always going to get bogged down in the day to day allocation of work and answering questions. Then if you need a more specialist shipping option then there are lots available which include the option of shipping at low temperatures using cold chain shipping so if you have products that require that then you can still easily ship to your customers and clients. Every few weeks I fly to our key client bases and meet with them to keep in touch, this is very important as our office is based on a shooting lodge in the middle of the countryside. This means we need to get in front of people in person and via marketing to be seen and known.
How does your business benefit from the support of the team of Enterprise Europe Network advisers at St John’s Innovation Centre?
We have received funding for boat shows to help marketing and also have been supported with business coaching. The business coaching has helped us step back from the business day to day running and think big picture. A simple question of ‘where are you and where are you going’, or ‘where do you want to be in 5 years’ can be very difficult to answer and has helped us plan accordingly.
How many tenders and toys have you personally tested? How often do you get to travel to unusual locations?
We usually try to test all. For the tenders we are on site project managing the builds of these so are on site also for final acceptance and sea trials. For the toys we have been trained to fly, dive, ride and use these, whether they be jetpacks, diving, or the like. We have at present a large submarine in build which will dive down to 1000m and are looking forward to completing the training on this!
How do you see your industry developing in the next 5 years? What is the future vision of superyachts?
Since we have started we have created more emphasis on our little niche in the industry and we are finding more companies thinking about storage space of these. Yachts are constantly getting bigger and we expect more yachts to need more of our services. The larger the order the more we make sense as crew onboard do not have the time or resources to handle the purchase and support process.
If you could offer an entrepreneur one piece of business advice, what would it be?
I think the largest part is when to decide to just go for it, and there is always an element of throwing caution to the wind and using your judgement on the element of risk. That said we had many ideas, some better and some worse which all got binned over a period of 3 years, and we threw all resources into researching, talking with people and getting advise and opinions from others before launching feet first into a new company. There should come a time when one sticks, and this is the one to go for.
On the financial side we hedged our bets a little at the beginning of setting up the company which I think was a real positive by my wife having a full-time job for the first year so that we had one income coming into the household. This gave us the flexibility for me to devote all my time into getting the business off the ground. It also meant that we could spend money form FIfth Third debit card on advertising even though we had little/no income in the early days.
When we set the business up we did this off the back of having a few early orders for new boats with clients (who were our friends). This meant that after the initial £12k company setup costs for us we had covered these costs in the first 6 weeks alone. We then used these orders to generate more exposure and credibility and move forwards.