Ever Fired a Client?

Four pros chime in

A collage of four boat-builders.
Four boatbuilders get candid. (from Left): Courtesy Viking Yacht Company, Courtesy Chris Rabil, Courtesy Jarrett Bay Boatworks, Harry Hindmarsh

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Pat Healey, President and CEO, Viking Yacht Company

Pat Healey, President and CEO, Viking Yacht Company
Pat Healey, President and CEO, Viking Yacht Company Courtesy Viking Yacht Company

Our philosophy comes from my father, Bill Healey, and that is: “The customer is always right.” So naturally, we would never think about firing a customer—it’s not in our company’s DNA. Sometimes we must advise customers when they come to us with an idea that might not be feasible, but it’s also our obligation as a builder to make certain that the owner receives the boat he expects. For this to happen, we all must be on the same page, and communication is critical. We have been, and always will be, committed to this philosophy. Just like we are committed to building a better boat every day, we must remain true to that business model to succeed.

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Michael Rybovich, President, Michael Rybovich & Sons

Michael Rybovich, President, Michael Rybovich & Sons
Michael Rybovich, President, Michael Rybovich & Sons Courtesy Chris Rabil

It’s not easy to identify a jerk on the first date. We all tend to be on our best behavior, and in this business, it’s easy to become star-struck. The customer-builder relationship is like a marriage: It’s a huge investment in passion, time and money, so it’s vital that the relationship be anchored in mutual trust from the beginning. It’s a hard lesson learned in preliminary discussions when it becomes obvious a potential client or captain doesn’t trust our judgment that it’s far better to decline a project than to discover in the middle of it that the customer believes that he is smarter (and better-looking) than the builder.

Randy Ramsey, Founder, Jarrett Bay Boatworks

Randy Ramsey, Founder, Jarrett Bay Boatworks
Randy Ramsey, Founder, Jarrett Bay Boatworks Courtesy Jarrett Bay Boatworks

“No sir, we aren’t interested,” aren’t the words you want to hear from a boatbuilder. We take pride in our work, and nothing’s better than seeing our customers build their dream, no matter how unorthodox the wish list might be. Jarrett Bay has learned 36 years’ worth of lessons, but perhaps the most valuable is who not to work for. You’ve heard the stories: The customer knows more than you, or has an unrealistic time frame and/or budget. The worst are those who don’t appreciate the people who put their hearts and souls into the boats that are custom-built just for them. Boatbuilding is a competitive business, and we do whatever we can, but sometimes, we are just better off saying no.

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Paul Spencer, President, Spencer Yachts

Paul Spencer, President, Spencer Yachts
Paul Spencer, President, Spencer Yachts CourtesHarry Hindmarsh

In 25-plus years, I can think of maybe a handful of times where early in discussions, we came to a mutual understanding that there isn’t an alignment between our commitment to the style and performance of our boats and the client’s wishes. We produce top-notch boats that deliver a smooth ride with classic lines, so if a client’s ideas were to force a sacrifice to those core elements, I don’t think it’d be a good experience for either of us. Spencer clients are a part of the family, with a shared vision for innovative boatbuilding, and we build our best boats with those whose dreams push us further.

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