Alison Rentoul is known to many of us in the industry as The Crew Coach. However, she had to sustain quite a few bumps and bruises before she decided to dedicate her career to helping others avoid (or perhaps just soften) those same growing pains.
Having learned from the mistakes she made throughout her 14 years in yachting, she now provides others with the benefit of her hindsight. Alison recently answered our Q&A, giving us a glimpse into what motivates her now: making life better for superyacht crew – or at least less stressful...
How did you get into the yachting industry?
Pretty much by accident! I had just finished my second ski season and was wondering what to do in the summer; someone mentioned yachting and it sounded very exciting and glamorous so I decided to give it a go!
Was it how you expected it to be?
The reality couldn’t have been further from the glamour I’d imagined – in my first position (a Monaco Grand Prix charter) I literally thought I was going to die, we worked so hard. It was the hardest I’d ever worked in my life and I quickly realised yachting was far from glamorous! As the years went by though I did get to experience some of the amazing perks yachting has to offer, like seeing amazing places and getting to sample occasional slices of a mega-rich lifestyle.
What do you love most about being The Crew Coach?
Contributing something positive to the industry and helping people really get the most out of their careers. Removing the causes of inner stress and anxiety so people can smile again. In a way you could say I’m on a mission to put the fun back into yachting!
What is the single biggest issue affecting yachting at the moment?
Crew longevity. We are losing good people faster than they can be replaced. Experience levels are decreasing in many of our senior crew and this leads to a lot of unnecessary stress on board, and sadly sometimes also dangerous or costly mistakes. I think this is happening because some owners and managers still haven’t appreciated how fundamentally important it is to promote a safe and harmonious working environment for their crew. Having said that, this attitude is slowly changing, with some extremely positive initiatives such as Camper & Nicholsons’ enlisting me to provide leadership coaching to the senior crew of their worldwide fleet.
What keeps you awake at night?
Worrying about people not getting the help they need. Conflict, anxiety and stress are so unnecessary. I wish more people had a lower tolerance threshold to these, as then they would seek solutions sooner. Unfortunately we seem to think it’s okay to tolerate extremely high levels of pressure, conflict, stress and anxiety, which is not only bad for the people experiencing it, but also everyone around them.
What would you change if you could?
The attitude that crew should automatically be expected to sacrifice their personal life for their position. I think this is also contributing to the shortening longevity we are seeing in the industry. It is one of the highest causes of stress and conflict in the industry – people’s inability to take time off for important milestones such as weddings, funerals and other major events. I also know plenty of Captains who have missed the births of their children and large portions of their kids’ lives.
This attitude that crews’ personal lives come second puts incredible strain on family and romantic relationships which then manifests in stress on board. Surely it’s not so difficult to get a temp in to cover a crewmember for a few days so they don’t have to miss out on these major life events?
What could you do without?
Negativity. It always surprises me when I come up against a very closed mind. But sadly there are still quite a few of them around. A closed mind is like a closed book: it’s just a block of wood.
If you weren’t being The Crew Coach, what would you be doing?
There is absolutely nothing I would rather be doing. Honestly! I have one of the most interesting and rewarding jobs in the world and I am my own boss. It doesn’t get much better than that!
What is your idea of the perfect boat?
One where the crew are respected and appreciated, led by a captain who knows how to bring out the best in their team. A yacht with these sound foundations will always operate successfully, efficiently and smoothly.
What was your greatest experience on a boat?
Stopping mid-Atlantic to go for a swim. It felt like being in space – a bizarre combination, simultaneously terrifying and awesome.
What was your worst experience on a boat?
Witnessing and being subjected to some dreadful leadership and horrendous bullying. Then again, those experiences ultimately led me to coaching and give me the passion and fire in my belly that makes me want to fight to ensure nobody has to suffer unnecessary misery like this during their time in this industry.
What is your motto?
If it sucks, do something about it. Life is not a dress rehearsal.
What is the greatest virtue?
Kindness. It underpins everything I value and I think it’s pretty underrated. You can achieve an awful lot with kindness – as the author of the all time classic book “How To Win Friends And Influence People”, Dale Carnegie, said: “You catch more flies with honey.”
Alison Rentoul is the founder of www.thecrewcoach.com working with crew at all levels to help them realise their highest potential at every stage of their career.