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The Fabric of Flourishing

Baxter Underwood, CEO of Safe Harbor Marinas, on the the importance of looking after superyacht employees…

Baxter Underwood, CEO of Safe Harbor Marinas

Few if any industries can compete with superyachts for lifestyle appeal. The proposition is unbeatable: shimmering images of smiling people floating above crystal clear waters on feats of engineering. What more could one want?

Recent journalism has highlighted the socially responsible side of our wonderful business. Last October, CNN published an insightful article at the Monaco Show titled, “How the super-rich are saving the seas.” The article referenced a number of technological advances and innovative ideas that are increasingly characteristic of the industry’s desire to steward our planet. Anyone who has spent time in boating recognises the fundamental responsibility we have to our environment. Stewardship of our waterways is existential for boaters, boat builders, and marinas. As yachting continues to evolve, we are wise to keep this silent stakeholder in the forefront of our minds. But there is another critical resource that we sometimes take for granted, and it has garnered less attention than the environment recently. That resource is our people. If you didn’t pause at the title of CNN’s article about the “super rich,” you either don’t consider yourself wealthy, or haven’t been paying close attention to the news lately. Our industry must begin to grapple with the inherent asymmetry of “super-yachting.”

At the marina company I represent, we’re extremely grateful for our employees. In fact, we spend just as much time wrestling with how to care for our own people as we do with how to care for our members (our boaters) and our environment. Just as the superyacht industry is in a constant state of improvement around stewardship of natural resources, our organization is in a constant state of improvement around stewardship of our people. Our “innovations” on this topic currently take the form of (among other things) broad equity participation, extensive healthcare and retirement programmes, significant financial and procedural emphasis on skills training, and frequent internal promotions. We want our people to improve, advance, and build wealth. Yes, we want them to build wealth. That might sound aspirational, but we believe it is also firmly practical.

It’s tempting to think of employment in the superyacht industry as inherently rewarding. If I had another life to live, I’d spend at least 6 months working on some glistening yacht. You wouldn’t have to pay me very much to do it, either. But there’s a trap in this. Just because our industry might be able to get away with paying our employees less, doesn’t mean we should. Just because our people might be comfortable in their routines, doesn’t mean we should settle for a job environment that allows people to remain unchallenged. With resource comes responsibility, and it’s our job to lead the way toward a better tomorrow for all our employees; even when we are employing for the pursuit of leisure – perhaps especially when we are employing for the pursuit of leisure. For our part, Safe Harbor Marinas works hard to offer memorable service to employees of the superyacht industry, those critical and irreplaceable resources, who cross the threshold onto our docks. We’ve made a decision to treat every guest of our marinas as if they were our most important guest. That means we receive a world-famous athlete with the same appreciation as we receive a seasonal crew member. The reason for this approach is simple: as with the natural resources on which we operate, stewardship of our industry’s people is critical to all of our success.

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The Fabric of Flourishing


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