It’s 2009 and I’m Second Officer on a 90m yacht. As the Chief Officer was on leave the captain had asked me to find a new Bosun for our deck team.
I knew some good candidates personally but as the yacht had just paid a yearly subscription to use one of the big crew agencies for ‘unlimited’ placements, the captain felt obliged to use them.
I sent a detailed description of the job to the agency via email and followed up with a phone call, speaking for a few minutes to an agent.
A couple of days later I received an email that took quite a while to download through the V-Sat as we were at anchor. In it read a brief message asking me to let them know if any of the following 15 CVs attached were suitable. Wow, 15 CVs I thought; they must have a lot of people on their books looking for work. I was impressed until I started reading them. I was working on a sail yacht which required a Bosun with a strong sailing background. The first 3 CVs were individuals who had only worked on motor yachts…
The fourth CV was the clincher and I spent the rest of the afternoon helping out with the wash down. Why? Well, it was my own CV that also had the open position listed as my last role.
What I realised is yacht recruitment could be so much easier. Technology was advancing so I knew this could be used to our advantage however I also knew I needed to talk to agents who had yachting experience and knew what the job roles entailed. I needed someone who could do all the due diligence for me instead of handing me a bunch of CV’s hoping one might tick all of the boxes. Someone I could trust and help me out at the drop of the hat when I required crew. Someone who knew me and my programme well enough to send candidates who not only could do the job well but also fitted in well with the crew and the guests (something technology can’t do).
Receiving my own CV was one of many bad incidents I had with crew agencies over the years, both looking for crew and looking for jobs myself. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever want to become a crew agent but I knew there had to be a better way. I co-founded YOA back in 2014 not because I wanted to clip the commission ticket but because I knew the struggles yachts have with poor crew hires and how tough it was to find that dream yacht job. It was a few years before the business made any profit but this simple motivation kept us going when many others would have quit.
There still seems to be a bad stigma around about crew agencies in the industry and I can really understand why. “Agencies are expensive”, “They haven’t spent years on yachts so what would they know?”, “Why use them if I can just find crew on Facebook?”, “I have strict budget constraints”. It’s clear these employers have never experienced service from a truly exceptional agency to make their work lives easier. I doubt the yacht owner’s HR team are looking for people for their company on social media.
Superyachts are the epitome of luxury and service so to run them you simply need the best crew. Why not use true professionals to find these individuals for you?
The yacht recruitment industry has improved greatly with some awesome new companies providing much better services these days but it still feels like the wild-west at times. The yacht crew agency industry is swamped. I understand the difficulties faced by greenies out there looking for their first yacht job, captains wondering who can actually help them find crew and everyone else in between.
I have friends who have started and succeeded with their own crew agencies. I’m stoked to see them succeed after all of the hard work they would have put in. I know first hand how hard it can be.
I don’t see any of these agencies as competition, I see them as motivators to push our service to even higher levels. Something we strive towards daily by improving our technology, team and processes.
This is why I am so proud to see YOA still growing so rapidly. Our team has grown from 2 to 21 in just a few years and are made up of Captains and HODs (many whom used YOA while they were on yachts). We are seeing record numbers of crew signing up to our system and the feedback from clients looking for crew and crew looking for work has been incredible.
We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re just making it better with good old fashioned one on one expert service mixed with ever evolving unique technology.
With big plans and ideas brewing, I can’t wait for the next 8 years.
Who would have thought? Not me.