Ally Ford is the longest serving staff member of Superyacht Tenders & Toys, a close-knit team that works hard and plays hard with a work-life balance that many simply dream of. The role of Office Manager is not without its challenges as the company continues its meteoric rise, winning industry awards along the way, and with weekend water sports and Champagne Fridays, it’s no wonder she’s hooked.
OnboardOnline: How did you first get into the yachting industry?
Ally Ford: My passion for food, travel and to explore the world is what initially drew me to yachting. When I first started in the industry I was completely clueless about sailing, but I could cook and had studied hotel management so this stood me in good stead for my first opportunity on an 80ft sailing yacht in the Med. Technically they are just floating hotels, right?! I then spent six or seven years in the yachting industry, mostly on sailing yachts.
OO: When did you join Superyacht Tenders & Toys?
AF: I joined back in September 2014.
OO: What drew you to the company?
AF: Moving ashore and putting roots down with a family is a big adjustment. The idea of working with friends in an exciting, expanding company which shared my interest in yachting was a no brainer. After an interview around the kitchen table with a glass of wine with the founders Josh and Claire Richardson, I was hooked – our kids were together at nursery and SYTT needed help on the admin side so it worked out perfectly.
OO: What does the typical day of an Office Manager look like at Superyacht Tenders & Toys?
AF: No day is ever the same - apart from the adorable office dog, Max, who greets me every morning. A quick check of the diary to see who is in and who is in a ‘board meeting’ (aka out of the river testing new exciting kit) and then I tackle whatever the day throws at me in terms of marketing, operations, admin and much more.
OO: How would you describe the company culture?
AF: At SYTT we want to do our part to protect the environment that we all enjoy, so we all work hard together as a team to try and reduce our environmental impact. We are working to have a sustainability standard to inspire others and promote products and companies which share in this philosophy. We recently launched our own yacht toy and tender rental operation with an office in Monaco and a warehouse in Nice, France which was partly due to market request but also because when we sell something to a yacht, it’s only used a handful of times for a single charter and then it's left unused in the back of a garage.
OO: What are your main responsibilities?
AF: Day-to-day running of the office, marketing, proposals and brochures, boat show operations and ensuring the fridge is well stocked with champagne and beer. It’s very varied!
OO: Do you currently manage a team?
AF: I’d prefer to say I work together with my team. We are a close knit unit of ex-captains, crew and watersport professionals who work well together and are all very supportive of every role within the company.
OO: Which qualities have stood you in good stead?
AF: Definitely the ability to multi-task. Being able to switch from designing a brochure to answering the phone and dealing with an urgent set of toys needed for a charter in the UAE by the end of week is not uncommon. Throw in organising an office lunch, researching a new set of merchandise, liaising with the PR team and remembering to do the school run on time and you get the picture!
OO: As the longest-serving member of staff, what changes have you seen in the company since you first started?
AF: The most evident would have to be the physical size, in terms of the sheer office space and the number of staff. What started out as three of us in an attic office and we’re now a team of 15 (and counting!) with a large barn office and several warehouses both here and in the Med.
OO: What has been your best day on the job since you started?
AF: The day we won our first award, the Queens award for Enterprise, International trade 2017. This was a huge accomplishment for us and to have the acknowledgment of the hard work was very rewarding.
OO: What do you find most challenging about the job?
AF: The most challenging part is also the part that makes me the most excited to come to work - the pressure of deadlines and thinking on the spot is what I thrive on.
OO: Would you say that you have a good work/life balance?
AF: Josh and Claire are very much in favour of a work/life balance. We have a table tennis and fooseball tables in our meeting room and with the two rivers nearby, there are endless other opportunities for a bit of fun at work. Our kids are all at the same school together and family life is important to all of us. Our summer parties involve beach parties with plenty of watersports to be enjoyed by all employees and their families.
OO: What’s your favourite thing about working at Super Yacht Tenders & Toys?
AF: Hands down it has to be Champagne Fridays! Oh, and my standing desk.
OO: What is the most important lesson you have learnt during your time at the company?
AF: Always think ahead. No matter how busy you are, always think ahead to the next project.
OO: If you weren’t working in the superyacht industry, what would you see yourself doing?
AF: I would more than likely have been in the magazine industry or food styling!