Flagship: ‘What a time to be in business’
The survival of the most adaptable is the reality facing businesses right now in every industry, as economies begin to adapt to life post-Covid. Superyachting, whilst usually more sheltered than other sectors in times of crisis, when faced with a pandemic, has fared no better.
From operational and business practice changes to the day-to-day running of the office, we have seen dramatic alterations to how and where we work.
Working from home (aka. WFH) has been one of the most widespread of these changes. What was previously thought to be impracticable and inefficient has been proven over the past 18 months to be, in some cases, more effective. Now many businesses are downsizing their office space and selling off real estate, whilst many employees have moved away from urban hubs.
Mike Wills, co-founder and chief data officer, CSS Platinum, told Superyacht Investor (SYI): “The global pandemic has been the catalyst that has brought forward the changes to the future of work, which has been discussed by academia for some time.”
“What’s fascinating is businesses are now faced with a number of dilemmas.” First, there has been a minor exodus from cities, said Wills, although cities, especially London, will always have a certain gravitation towards them, he added. “However, businesses are now thinking we have operated, while we don’t know all KPIs [key performance indicators], at least okay to have survived. And a lot of employees are saying: Why do I need to come back to the office? We’ve proven this can work.”
That leaves businesses with a big decision and there are now businesses hiring on the basis the role is remote. “There’s an argument for both sides. Suddenly, you can likely scale down your real estate. If you have 100 desks, you think we will keep a core 30 for those who like to socialise and enjoy the office craic. As long as they’re hitting targets there are a lot of business prepared to do this.”
Technology playing huge role
Wills sees this time as a resetting. Businesses that aren’t flexible or lean enough will unfortunately not survive, but others then “come out of the flames”.
Technology is playing a huge role. A business can now hand its employee a laptop and save on the long list of costs per head arising from office space legislation. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that, according to Wills: “The issue is when you work remotely, that’s where there are additional security costs. In an office you have your IT-security-game-face as it were, but at home you are in your comfort bubble.” Therefore, the risks at home are much higher, can your partner, children or visiting tradesmen check your screen? Do you logout when you leave the room?
Wills is confident this can be trained into staff, as it is in the office environment, however at onset of the pandemic this was not the case. In fact, many businesses required employees to work using their private device, which throws up more security issues.
“We are at a time when practices have changed. Businesses will either accept it, work out a hybrid model or simply say no. It will then be the power of the people who decide,” said Wills. “And I would say you could supplant the word business for yacht or crew member.”
Technology has been leading changes at Burgess Yachts. Take, for example, the imminent launch of its multi-party 360 virtual yacht tours. Richard Lambert, senior partner, head of Sales, told SYI: “We have invested a lot in our digital offering. As a slight variation to our virtual tours, we are about to launch the client, broker, captain and engineer login so a guided walkthrough can be completed totally virtually. That gives the client the opportunity to ask the experts on that particular yacht any questions they have.”
Majority will remain post-Covid
Lambert believes most changes will remain in place post-Covid. “The ability to have that interaction with the captain, engineer, broker and client virtually will remain. It allows clients to narrow down their shortlisted selection much more easily and without having to jump on planes or without having to organise numerous in-person meetings. That will change how work in this way forever, it’s a much more efficient way of operating than we have done previously.”
In what turned out to be a stroke of luck, Burgess invested in its IT systems in 2019 essentially to bring them up-to-date. Representing a brokerage, Lambert often finds himself on the road and the system update included cloud-based computing allowing remote access. “That put us in quite a good place as we went into the pandemic”
Whilst the pandemic has been a terrible event worldwide, perhaps one silver lining can be found in the technological developments which have allowed people to work remotely and remain employed, said Lambert.
Businesses and how they do business have changed dramatically over the past 12-18 months. Teams and Zoom calls have become a daily occurrence. But one thing (although it may be restricted) that can never be replaced is face-to-face meetings.
Lambert said: “You can never ever replace that real face-to-face contact that you have with somebody. From a team standpoint, now that we are able to meet once again, we are making sure to get everybody together because I believe the social element is so important. So, I think that technology has made the way we operate possible over the past year or so, but I do miss face-to-face contact and think it is very important.”
For those that have adapted, survived and sometimes thrived, I would chance that that face-to-face contact we all long for is just around the corner.