Founding Members Profiles: Nigel Beatty
APSA: When did you join APSA?
Nigel: “I was one of 45 Founding Members who came together to form the Association in 2011.”
APSA: Why did you join APSA?
Nigel: “I was asked by Colin Dawson who realized that I had an operation already in Japan. Colin and I didn't know each other well at the time and I didn’t know many of the founder members. But the benefit that my business has received from being a part of APSA is incredible and the connections are stronger now and that is why I joined – I knew my business would benefit.”
APSA: What led you to working in the Superyacht industry?
Nigel: “I started my career in the Royal Navy in the early 1990s, with stints in the South Atlantic (Falkland Islands) patrols, involvement in the first Gulf conflict, and the resulting peace keeping effort. In fact, my yachting seeds were sown in the Persian Gulf while onboard HMS Hermione, a Leander Class Frigate,) when I was invited onboard M/Y Leander (named after the same class of naval frigate) which was docked close by in Jebel Ali in the UAE. There was a cocktail party, and Sir Donald Gosling (the owner of Leander) along with his Captain, showed me all through the yacht. At this point that I knew what direction my career was going to take.
“It was brilliant, Sir Donald is a great fan of the Royal Navy, having been an Able Seaman in the distant past. The drinks would flow whenever he had any RN personnel onboard. A classic guy, I got to meet him several times - the last being when he flew on his private jet into RN Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall for the summer Air Show, and he pitched a tent on the grass next to the control tower! He was a real gentleman, great fun, and an absolute pleasure to know.”
APSA: What was your first few jobs and experiences in the Superyacht industry?
After leaving the Royal Navy in the mid-90s, I moved straight to Florida and the Bahamas and worked on yachts, moving through the various licensing levels to finally become an MCA Master (Y) 3,000 GT on some large private and charter superyachts around the world. Then almost a decade later at the end of 2004 I moved back onshore. I had done all the milk runs in the Med, Caribbean, USA and some in Asia, and I was bored and did not want to work to someone else’s schedule any longer. I wanted to run my own business, and work to my own timetable, although for a couple of years I did do some delivery work running superyachts back and forth across the Atlantic for other skippers who were taking vacations”.
What area of the Superyacht industry has been your speciality?
Nigel: “I started Super Yacht Logistics in the spare room of my apartment in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I knew precisely the kind of support superyacht captains needed to do their job properly. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s when I was an operational skipper, I knew, and was friends with, most of the superyacht captains on the circuit, so it was only natural that they heard about my new business and contacted me. This was all just before social media kicked in, so a lot of my marketing was just word of mouth. It was also when ‘yacht management’ was a dirty word amongst Captains and crew, and many management companies were not particularly good, tending to micro-manage a yacht from a position of inexperience. The idea of a “support” company that could do everything that a management company could do (but without the micro-management) was appealing to my fellow Captains. Brokers also referred me on as I was not a threat to them either (yet!).
“It was a growing business which quickly developed into all sorts of sectors of the industry and word spread quickly amongst captains I knew. It was interesting. We did not stick to any rigid business idea, but we tended to allow our clients to push the company in any direction it needed to go. We just followed a path of least resistance, and it was very easy to move into a number of different sectors and work on behalf of yachts. I understood just about all the sectors of the industry anyway, so it was quite simple, however the SYL businesses grew more quickly than I anticipated, and I needed to put in infrastructure.
“So, a long rambling answer to a simple question, we are mainly been in the business of supporting operational, whatever section of the industry we work with, insurance, parts and supplies, agency work, consulting.
APSA: Where are your business based?
Nigel: “So, I moved SYL out of the bedroom into ‘real’ offices in about 2005. Now we have premises in Japan (2), and one each in Florida, Australia, and the UK.
APSA: How has your business developed over time?
Nigel: “It has expanded into various sectors of the industry as I more opportunities presented themselves. SYL got into the business of spare parts, fuel and supplies, a section of the firm that was eventually spun off to an entirely new company called Fathom Supply. This was entirely organic growth as we never intended to get into supplies. It started as “favours for mates” who were skippers. By 2010 many of the friends with whom I had done my original licenses with were now in charge of massive yachts, 90 or 100 meters plus. Even my previous first officers that I had trained and brought through myself, were running bigger yachts than I had ever captained! They all would all get their crew to contact me for parts and supplies and logistical support.”
“But I never wanted to be a massive parts business, it would have taken over his life. In any case, Dean [du Toit] over at National Marine Suppliers had that market sewn up, and his business was exploding at the time. I had no desire to compete with him, as he was tightly focused on his core business while I was all over the place and there was no way I could do what he did with National Marine! So, we limited Fathom Supply to just a few yachts that we wanted to work with. These ranged from 20m and 60m to then over 100m. There were no qualifying criteria, apart from the fact that WE wanted to work with them, which led to a happy and stress-free parts business. Today we have only eight yachts or so on our books, two of which are huge while the smallest if a little sailing catamaran. It’s fun. We do a brilliant job because we are dedicated to those yachts/Captain/Owners, and we have picked them to be our customers rather than the other way around; others we have turned down as we don’t need the business.
“In the early days of SYL, we set up a completely separate operation under the SYL banner in Japan. Japan was not the obvious place to set up business of course, but I had been in Japan for three months preparing a superyacht for a delivery back to the USA, and I fell in love with the country. I became determined to link my new yachting industry business to Japan; a part of the industry that not many people knew even existed. I used the contacts I had made in Japan to create a pipeline for brokerage boats to ship there from the USA, usually smaller cruisers and sport fishers. On average we sold six or seven boats per year into Japan, and shipped them over, but at the height of business, around 2011 - when US yachts were in a buyers’ market and the dollar was really weak against a strong yen - we were shipping a yacht every month over to Yokohama. We even started to buy our own stock boats for shipping, most of which were sold before they even hit Japanese shores!
We also could supply the Japanese yacht industry with many parts that they cannot get in Japan via our US parts company, and in about 2006 we started working as yacht agents in Japan looking after foreign cruising yachts
“Then my friend and Colleague Carol Harris, who is fluent in Japanese and worked with me in Japan, decided to settle in Cairns Australia and set up SYL there which subsequently led to a Brisbane/Goldcoast office under Eric Pearson, a captain that I had known from my earliest days in yachts. We suddenly got work in Europe, so we set up there too with Nigel Jenkins, another large yacht skipper working with us on various projects.
“In 2012 we started YOTFIX in Florida with a team of expert shipwrights led by Gary Skinner which performed refit and project management in conjunction with SYL; again, this came out of demand that we were experiencing. I sold YOTFIX to Gary Skinner in 2019 and he continues to own and operate the business brilliantly. I still chat with him regularly and he continues to do loads of work with us.
“in 2015 we launched AZURE | YACHT CREW HEALTH when myself and Christopher Abba established a crew insurance platform. Chris left in 2019 and I took full control of the firm. It’s a boutique insurance company that specialises in health care insurance for captains and superyacht crew. Claire Murray French, a Florida based British industry professional, and long-time close colleague of mine, took a significant ownership stake in the firm in late 2019. She now oversees all the other companies in Florida too.
“Also In 2015, while all the other companies were humming along nicely, I decided to join YACHTZOO in Fort Lauderdale and Monaco as a licensed Yacht Broker. I then set up YACHTZOO JAPAN in 2017. I was planning to start my own brokerage firm with Grace Zeilmann, my yacht broker partner who had worked with me since the early 2000s on all my Japan yacht sales. We had significant investment on the table to get started, but in the end, we asked ourselves why we need the headache of moving into an already saturated sector of the yachting industry; plus, we both had other businesses already. However, both of us understood that we needed more of a structured set up in the brokerage sector, so we started looking for an existing brokerage firm that we could join. YACHTZOO was really the only option for us. It was a high-end firm, dealing with exceptionally large prestigious yachts, but it retained a boutique and relaxed feel. It is quite unlike any other brokerage firm that I have ever dealt with. Yes, there are good and sensible rules in place, and it is incredibly professional, but it was free of the corporate structure nonsense and micro-management that I hate so much. This was an interesting move for me after 12 years of starting successful companies and being my own boss, but I soon realized that YACHTZOO would allow Grace and I the latitude to be flexible in the markets that we wanted to work in and approach those markets in our own way. In addition, I could easily oversee my other companies at the same time. I never imagined for one minute that I would be comfortable to be under another person’s business structure, but YACHTZOO continues to be a great fit for me. I enjoy being part YACHTZOO; I really respect the partners and their business philosophy, and the exceedingly smart way that the entire firm works and interacts.”
What is your Business/Management style?
Nigel: “Over the years Super Yacht Logistics (SYL), my first venture, has expanded into Japan, Australia, USA, and the UK, while the other companies have also spread to various global locations, I think finding the right people to work with is critical, just as finding the right partners is the key to any long-term business success.
“With Kenta Inaba (Japan), Caroline Harris (Australia/NZ), Claire French (USA), and Nigel Jenkins (UK/Europe), I believe that SYL is well set up to manage customers’ needs. I don’t get too involved in the day to day running of SYL anymore, as they are all very competent people who are able to get on with it and provide the service that customers need. I am right there if they need me to assist them, but they really do not need me interfering.
“This is the core principle that I have pushed throughout my career; good businesses are simply a result of good oversight without the micro-management. It is the same idea as when I was a Captain. Allow your team to get on with it and do what they do well but be there to provide them with support and advice if necessary or if asked. The ‘quiet oversight’ allows you to act and make informed decisions swiftly when you need to as a company owner. Ultimately your team’s expertise will provide success to your business and yourself. It also allows someone like me to run around pursuing other ventures and investments as well as the YACHTZOO stuff, which is what I really like!”
Where are you based now and what is your vision for APSA?
Nigel: “I have been the Chairman of APSA since 2016 and will continue to head up the Association for another year or two if I’m asked to! I really hope to expand the membership further. We really have an extraordinarily strong and broad Asia & Worldwide based committee for APSA, and a strong and dedicated Admin and Marketing section, so I want to show our members what we can do for them, how we can promote them and make their businesses more profitable and successful. I also want APSA to be all inclusive to the country associations in ASIA… I feel it is APSA responsibility to push their aims and initiatives. My company has got a lot of direct and indirect business from APSA and I think it is a very worthwhile association for Asia Pacific based companies to be part of and other worldwide companies that want to do business with Asia.”
“As far as where I am based, I have done over 20 years partially based in Florida, so I am now moving away from there, although my Florida companies will continue to operate.
“Speaking fluent ‘Japanglish’, I am now generally dividing my time throughout the year between my homes in the Cotswolds (UK) and Tokyo, along with frequent visits to Monaco where YACHTZOO’s head office is. I move around a lot and I am still a sailor at heart so cannot sit in one place for awfully long!”