Starting a business is always a challenge. But doing it while still working as crew on a superyacht is a whole new ball game.
OnboardOnline recently caught up with Steve Crawford, founder of the crew agency, Yotspot.com, to hear about the particular challenges he faced while turning a good idea into a thriving business.
OO: How did you first get into the yachting industry?
SC: It’s the usual story. After finishing a Business degree, I got a job in online advertising, but pretty soon I got the urge to go travelling and see the world. I had some friends in the yachting industry and I decided to head out and give it a go. I was on board yachts for six years and it was during the second year that I decided I wanted to start my own business.
OO: So what was the idea behind the company?
SC: I’ve had an entrepreneurial side from an early age and I’ve always been keen on new ideas and opportunities. It was when I was looking for work in 2008 that I became increasingly frustrated with having to go through agencies to find a position, and I saw an opportunity to create a tool for Captains and Crew to interact directly. I wanted to make the process easier and to change the way people find work, and that’s what inspired the creation of Yotspot.com.
OO: What were the main challenges you faced when trying to set up a business?
SC: Finding time was my biggest challenge. Working in yachting is demanding at the best of times so it was a huge juggling act. You can’t leave and the next day have a business, so I knew I would have to start it alongside my existing job. The next difficulty was how to actually explain your brainchild on paper. You may have an idea in your head but, believe me, putting it into words and conveying it to others is more difficult than you think!
OO: How did you go about it?
SC: People always have this assumption that if they share a good idea, somebody else will run away with it. The truth is, probably only 1-2% of people actually act on a good idea. By discussing it with others and getting positive feedback I gained the confidence to proceed. Fundamentally, I followed my instincts and gave it my all. I saved hard over the season and took time off over the winter. I found a developer that shared my vision and it took six months (with a lot of meetings, emails and phone calls) to make it happen. It was then a case of building my client base one by one over the next few years.
OO: Four years on, what have you learnt?
SC: When the business started I had one foot in the industry and one working on Yotspot. It’s a safe way to go and the only way I felt I could get Yotspot started but, the truth of the matter is, in a service led industry you can’t leave a business on autopilot. There comes a time when you have to get behind the driving seat full time, or it simply won’t work.
I have also learnt that the vision you have when you start can change a lot! I thought traditional crew placement was a dying game and that technology and social media would replace it. In reality, I think there will always be the need for traditional methods of crew placement, and we feel we have the right balance at Yotspot. As an MLC 2006 certified agency we offer a great traditional service where we source the best crew through thorough referencing and recommendations, but we also have the Yotspot 24/7 Account.
OO: What’s the Yotspot 24/7 Account?
SC: The 24/7 Account gives Captains/Representatives unlimited access to our entire crew database, search engine and intelligent ranking system. Clients use it to find permanent crew, temporary crew or even day workers, whenever, wherever, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It gives our customers the ability to set out their recruitment budget for the year, with one price and no surprises. It’s become our most popular service and the feedback we get from the yachts is great. They are saving time and money, and that’s what it was always about: giving them control over the process, and giving crew a place to deal directly with Captains. That was the vision from day one.
OO: If you could speak to yourself four years ago, what would you say?
SC: In all seriousness, it’s been quite an emotional ride. You have to keep enthusiastic about it but at times you will face huge challenges that can test even the strongest of wills. I would say, work harder and always listen to your clients. Oh, and think of a better company name. It’s a nightmare spelling it over the phone!
OO: What advice would you give to a crew member wanting to start their own business?
SC: Reduce the risk and start planning while you’re still onboard. It will involve hard work, sleepless nights and lots of coffee but, in the end, it will be worth it. There will come a time though where you will have to make the decision, and take a leap of faith to go full time.
Don’t be scared to take on a business partner. Find someone whose skills are complementary to your own. Having a partner to bounce ideas off is not to be underestimated. They can provide a fresh perspective, bringing new passion and ideas to the table.
Look after and respect ALL your customers. At Yotspot we try and help crew in every way we can. That green deckie will be a Captain one day, and we always remember the people who helped us at the start.
I would say: give it a go! I always think back to a conversation I had with a charter guest when I first had the idea. He used the same analogy he was given when starting his own company.
“If you don’t swing the bat... you’ll never hit the ball"
Steve Crawford is the Founder/Director of Yotspot Ltd
More information for Yotspot Crew Placement