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Relationships and the importance of trust in yacht building.

Q&A with… Robert Drontmann, Sales Director

So, trust is important in any business relationship. Why is it especially important in superyacht building?

That’s a good question: Trust.

Yacht building is a very long process, usually about three to four years unless people step into one of our spec projects. It’s a complex project with many stakeholders. And the most important thing, which is also the challenge for shipyards, is to keep your promises. This is essential to have a happy owner and a happy owner’s team. Superyachts are an emotional purchase. There’s nothing more personal than emotion. We’re holding something very intimate in our hands. Sometimes, it’s a project that’s even more intimate than a house. So, more than in other businesses, trust is paramount for us.

And how does a company like Heesen build this trust and nurture its relationships with clients?

First and foremost, to build trust, you have to deliver a trustworthy product.

Additionally, it is paramount to have a dedicated after-sales and customer care department that is in constant contact with the fleet, captains, and engineers.

Every yacht in our fleet has a dedicated After-Sales person who looks after them.

This is how you gain the trust of your clients, by making sure that their yacht works like a Swiss watch! We have a 24/7 call centre and the Heesen Flying Squad to support our fleet all around the world.

The third ingredient is the strong sense of belonging in those who operate the yacht. Heesen is no longer a family business, but we still very much feel like a family. Thanks to employee retention, the Heesen faces are very recognisable year after year! To strengthen the sense of belonging, we organise events and seminars, mixing fun and learning moments where we can share our latest technical innovations. It is a two-way communication channel, and we also listen very carefully to the feedback from the field! The boat shows are the easiest moment to get together par excellence. At the Monaco Yacht Show, for instance, we organise a dinner where the world that gravitates around our company is invited. Clients, brokers, designers, captains, and key business partners.

The Monaco Yacht Show | Photo Guy Fleury

 

So many of Heesen’s clients are repeat clients. Can you tell me about some of the feedback you’ve received and why they keep choosing Heesen?

The most important thing, of course, is that they love being on board. They love hearing what other people say about their boats. One of our clients said: we’ve got the sexiest boat in the harbour. What kind of a compliment is that? They turned into a repeat client. I think they’re pleased that the whole process has been a pleasant journey. We kept our promises, and the boat is performing well. Part of the reason why people like to come back is that we have very high employee retention. There are clients who build three boats with us. They keep seeing the same people at the shipyard, and that’s extremely reassuring. Once you’re part of the family, you want to maintain that relationship and stick with the family.

Heesen sources the highest quality materials from all over the world. Over the past few years, supply chains have faced significant pressure, as well as working restrictions at the shipyard. How do you go about managing expectations on both sides and keeping relationships smooth?

What’s unique at Heesen is that we control the whole process. So we have everything, all the disciplines, in-house. We even have our own interiors factory for the luxurious areas. We are facing a little bit more challenging time with respect to materials and sourcing of materials. However, we have a very proactive purchasing department that sources for multiple projects at once. So, we are not immediately affected in that sense. In the shipyard, we actually have countdown clocks on the wall, which shows how precise and comfortable we are in our building process. It’s not to put pressure on our workers. It’s another way of showing that we are in control.

Heesen Yachts Interiors is based in Winterswijk | Photo by Dick Holthuis

 

Okay, great. And so, one of Heesen’s core values is no Mission Impossible. What do you think this statement symbolises to clients?

We always listen very carefully to our client’s requests. We do our best to try to accommodate their questions and modifications. We have the best welders, the smartest engineers, and the best organisation. You dream it, and we build it. But every modification has an impact. As I said, the huge advantage is that we have the whole process in our own hands. Heesen has all the sources in-house, so we can quickly determine the technical impact, the time impact and the financial impact of a request. And if you combine that with the history of yachts we’ve delivered, we have a very good benchmark and level of experience delivering groundbreaking design and world firsts. We also have the smart custom series, which are based on an existing platform, which is proven to save time on engineering and eventually cost. When I think about the history of Heesen and the yachts we have delivered, such as Octopussy, the fastest yacht in the world at that time – clients can see that we have always been pushing the boundaries with our friends. Now, we’ve built Ultra G, which has a top speed of 37 knots; it proves we are still comfortable doing that.

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COME AND MEET US: YOU’RE INVITED!

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Mark Cavendish   Chief Commercial Officer

| Robert Drontmann   Sales Director

Heesen Yachts North America

Thom Conboy   Agent North-America, Mexico, Bahama's & Caribbean