What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is one of the major factors challenging us right now. The uncertainty makes any sort of planning extremely difficult—if not impossible. In late March, in the UK, advice and laws were changing daily, if not hourly. Thankfully that has slowed somewhat, and we have all got into the rhythm of social distancing, and as a business, working from home. The biggest concern for us, is, of course, the health and well-being of our staff and their families and of our clients. Following this is our concern of “how long will this last?”
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
We are closely following government guidelines across all of our offices, and we have successfully implemented our remote working plan across all 14 of our locations. I was impressed how quickly and able we were to make this happen. I was impressed myself! We continue to be agile and ready to adapt to change. Being a truly global business with a great deal of travel involved—we are well versed at working remotely and responding to clients’ and business requests—no matter how diverse. The global travel industry has had to deal with many significant challenges before and COVID-19 is yet another obstacle to overcome but we are ready, willing, and able to support our clients as soon as they need our expertise.
The global travel industry has had to deal with many significant challenges before and COVID-19 is yet another obstacle to overcome but we are ready, willing, and able to support our clients as soon as they need our expertise.
In the past few weeks we have had a couple of yacht sales, and charters go through, but this is the minority. The industry has mostly come to a grinding halt. Some shipyards in Northern Europe remain open for the time being, but we are spending our time talking to our clients and making sure we are in great shape for when travel restrictions are lifted. We are here to support crew, owners, and clients through this unprecedented time. We have introduced a new COVID-19 cancellation policy for any new charter bookings taken now—meaning that charterers and/or owners can cancel their fully booked and paid for charter without penalty in the need to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
We must all recognize that this situation will change our industry forever. However, our industry is here to stay. All of these yachts exist, and they need to be managed, insured, crewed, chartered, bought, sold, and refitted. It is up to the industry to ensure that change is for the better. We are already doing business in different ways, as the whole company is working remotely. We are constantly finding opportunities to support our clients with enhanced services such as our virtual yacht experiences. We are a strong believer that working hard in times of adversity will stand us in good stead. It is those brands that stand up to be counted that will be the ones that survive and ultimately thrive. We may not have the immediate answers to the challenges that we face but we will work with our clients, colleagues, and contacts to find the right solution, now and for the future.
I think that many business leaders are fully occupied at stabilizing their businesses to make sure that when we eventually come out of this pandemic we all still have businesses to go back to. On top of that – I think there will be a new “norm” once COVID-19 passes. The way we do business, the number of people we employ, the amount of office space we need, etc is all under review, and we will come put the other side of this crisis leaner, meaner, and hungrier than ever, but also well educated in how a large team can work efficiently together in a remote fashion.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
What we have learned over the years is just how important it is to have “fuel in the tank” when a crisis hits. This has not always been the case with Burgess. In the 1980s and 1990s, we were a small, fledgling company living hand to mouth in a cottage industry and we got ourselves into a tight spot on more than one occasion when business dried up and we had no cash reserves.
Today, we are a larger professionally run company. Our finance team has been very astute to ensure we have good cash reserves at all times, “money for a rainy day.” And that rainy day is today!
Also, the importance of diversification—both territorial, across the world—but also by discipline. All of these existing yachts still need to be managed, crewed and insured, and so these three divisions of Burgess are doing “ok” at the moment and provide us with good and reliable income.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
Up at 6:30am with my three little girls (ages 6, 4, and 3) for a family breakfast. The working day starts at 8:30am, and the morning is filled with Microsoft Teams phone calls with our strategic board, followed by heads of department.
During the daytime I have the TV in my home office and it will either be on BBC News or on Bloomberg, watching the markets. I like to keep on top of World affairs. In the evening, if time permits, we might watch a movie or a television series on Netflix.
Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons to my three little girls ages 6, 4 and 3.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
Spending a lot of time together as a family is a real treat for me, as I travel at about 220 days a year when we are operating in normal business times. We are all active together swimming, walking, playing tennis, and having family movie nights.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
A lot of swimming and dog walking.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
To our own sailing boat, Agapi Mas. We spend wonderful summers cruising onboard her with family and friends.