|Building Business with Pleasure|
Want clients to remember you as the best of the best? Charter a yacht for your next corporate event.
By Kim Kavin — October 2004
lf you’re a businessman, chances are at some point you have found yourself standing exasperated in a hotel room at a corporate “getaway,” reading line by line down the sponsor’s crammed itinerary of product speeches and feeding times, wondering why in the heck you accepted the invitation in the first place.
If you’re a good businessman, at some point you have realized that resorts and cruise ships and all the other places most companies take you to woo your loyalty are okay, but that really, you’d just as soon have gone out for dinner with the principal players instead of being bussed around to tourist meccas. “It’s all nice, but you don’t spend any time with people,” says Nick Trotter, president of Meridian Yacht Charters. “It’s almost like it’s a nametag tour, and that’s not where the value is in developing business relationships.”
Trotter, who used to run resorts in the British Virgin Islands, has seen his share of corporate cattle-calls. So when a businessman approached him about two years ago and said he wanted to create something different, something better—something memorable—for his best clients, Trotter knew a yacht charter was the way to go. From his Virginia office, he organized a weeklong, five-yacht extravaganza in the Caribbean. The businessman invited his top suppliers and their spouses, all of whom spent a week enjoying the yachts, the watertoys, the five-star service, and one another’s company. “You would never see his company name on anything at all—no bags, no hats, nothing like that, which they thought was cool because it’s very high class,” Trotter says. “Their goal was to show those people the time of their lives.”
The businessman figured he would do the charter event once, then go back to less-expensive options like resorts and cruise ships. But before his party even got back to the dock, he had asked Trotter to begin coordinating another, bigger corporate event for this winter. “They find out when they do it that it exceeds their expectations, and not just in terms of fun,” Trotter explains. “It allows them to spend time with people in a way that they didn’t imagine was possible before.”
That’s one of the keys to winning at big business: getting people to believe in something they didn’t even imagine was possible. For many people, even at the highest end of corporate pay scales, yacht charter is that “something.” For all the industry’s growth in the past decade, charter remains an activity pursued by a relatively small club of in-the-know clients. Most people don’t think of it when it comes time to vacation. Only those who are truly knowledgeable think of it when it comes time to talk business.
Suzette McLaughlin, a charter broker in the Palm Beach, Florida, office of Camper & Nicholsons International, has arranged two charter events for a heavy-hitting company in the automotive industry. Both were in the Caribbean and planned at least a year in advance, and each included ten separate yachts. “If you take the boat, the provisions, the first-class tickets and land activities, these programs are easily over a million dollars,” she says. “You’re not going to find your average, everyday corporation doing this, but if they compare it to a five-star resort—which these guys are staying at anyway—apples to apples, it’s not that much more.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.