If there is such a thing as a ‘typical yachtie’, Liz Jackson, the woman at the helm of the innovative yachting logbook company L.J Commercial Services, is not it. As one of four daughters of farmers from the North East of England, and being fortunate enough to spend summer holidays on her parents sailing boat in the Mediterranean as a child, post university Liz secured her first position in the industry on the boat of a former Welsh dairy farmer who hired her “because farmer’s daughters are typically hard-working”.
Fast-forward a few years, and Liz had more than earned her stripes on board as chief stew and then a purser, travelling to destinations as diverse as Costa Rica, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Australia, the Mediterranean, and Palau amongst many others, before eventually moving shoreside. Following a stint working for major brands on dry land including such names as Tesco and Carlsberg, as well as the birth of her child, Liz decided to harness her business and marketing experience and take her already nascent logbook company to the next level.
A quiet storm
As Liz explains, the growth of her business, L. J. Commercial Services, has continued on an organic basis since she first decided to take that leap. “I took the bull by the horns and just started to make it a much slicker operation – whether that was through the design elements or just marketing the company better. Overall though, we’ve always been somewhat under the radar as a business and relied on our reputation and word of mouth to gain clients, which I think is the better approach in this industry.”
She continues: “We know that we have a great product and can give great advice due to our knowledge of the industry, and this has stood us in excellent stead so far. As a result, we’ve experienced natural growth from there. What often happens is that a captain, chief officer or chief engineer will leave a boat, and we retain that boat as a client, and then they pick you up again on a new boat – so the growth has always been organic in this way.”
Putting people first
Despite the necessity of conducting our interview via Zoom – which is sometimes maligned for its impersonality – it is obvious from any conversation with Liz that she is a people person through and through. Laid back, easy-going and straight-talking, any client engaging with L.J. Commercial Services can feel secure that what they are being offered is what they will get - a vital ingredient for business success in yachting.
Liz explains more: “People deal with people in yachting – ultimately, my brand is me, and if people know me, they can be certain that they know what they will be getting. Thanks to our knowledge and experience of the industry, we have come to expect and always maintain a certain standard in everything we do. We have lots of clients who come back year after year because they like our approach, which is to be honest, and transparent, working with them from the first contact, right through to the end product and beyond.”
Digitizing the industry
As a company offering the world’s first digital logbook (the full benefits of which you can explore here), it is clear that Liz and her team are fully switched on to the potential that digitization can bring to the yachting industry, and she is refreshingly frank about its occasionally sluggish progress towards this end, whilst being careful not to overgeneralise.
“This is not the case for the physical building of a yacht, which remains at the forefront of technology and benefits from developments in this area. The operational side of yachting has also benefitted from technological advancements. For example, there are now bracelets for those on board large boats which you can wear and the crew know exactly where you have ordered your diet coke to, and can easily find you on the vessel.”
She continues: “Despite these technological advancements which play an integral part in the industry, there are peripheral elements of it – such as logbooks prior to us! – which have not kept up to speed. To be honest, I often end up asking those in the industry the same question: “If so much of your operational management system is digital, why are you still using paper logbooks which need to be transported and shipped all around the world, rather than a system which can be installed in a morning?”
Getting on board
Speaking to Liz, it is clear that getting her logbooks on board superyachts as impressive as the 156-metre Lürssen Dilbar and the 90-metre Oceanco DreAMBoat has not come without plenty of hard graft – but, as that first yachting employer noted, this work ethic comes as naturally as breathing.
“In the early days, the biggest challenge was getting access to the boats. If you want to promote yourself to a business on land, you can walk into a shop and hand them your business card. You can’t just do that with a yacht as they’re all in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or other far-flung parts of the world, and I’m in the UK. It’s all about getting access to those decision-makers on board yachts – and this is why word of mouth referrals and networking are so important.”
Hard work pays off
For Liz though, all of these efforts are more than worth it when she receives glowing feedback from her clients. “We had a yacht write to us recently and say, “Wow, we’ve just got the logbooks and they look absolutely amazing.” We’d taken them by the hand and guided them from their initial concept, where they didn’t really know what they wanted, right through the design phase, realisation and beyond. Now both the crew and the owner say that they love what they are seeing on the bridge and that truly is the biggest accolade for us!”
Turning to the all-important question of what she’d be doing if she wasn’t juggling the running of L. J. Commercial Services alongside childcare responsibilities, Liz is typically direct. “Although I might consider working for Tesco again or working as a purser on board a yacht, my favourite job I ever had was just after I’d left yachting when I worked in a sandwich shop in Cornwall four days a week. It will always live in my mind as my best job because life was just so easy. Life doesn’t always need to be complicated.”
To discover more about the range of logbooks offered by L.J Commercial Services, including the eLogbook, visit the company’s website.