The white-glove treatment comes to the boat business
It really began as an idea I had about a month before the Toronto Boat Show last year,” said Derek Mader, President of Executive Yacht Canada. That was Derek’s response to my first question as I stood in what will be their new downtown Toronto Offices on the Lakeshore interviewing him for this story. Driving down to meet him, prepping for the interview, I reflected back in my mind on what Executive Yacht Canada has done over the past year, their speed of growth and accomplishments are extraordinary.
Brad: “Derek, let’s go back and share with our readers your background and how you got here. Who is Derek Mader, how did you arrive at what many would describe as an incredible, and perhaps enviable, career position in the marine industry?”
Derek: (Laughs) “Well, I was twelve when I built my first boat with my Dad. I’m proud to say that I’m a Georgian College Marine Tech grad from 1996 – I think that’s important. It’s a great program and I’m glad it’s still going. From there, Dillon Cove Marina gave me my first job pumping fuel and I’m very grateful for that experience. Then I worked for a marina up in Grand Bend where I was fortunate to get an opportunity in the sales side of the business. I spend some time working with Kimpex and Barclay’s in the marine sup-ply side of the industry, before I moved onto Skyline Marina where I opened their Orillia store for them, and Pride Marine where I worked as a sales and location manager. I’ve spend my life in this great industry.”
Brad: “So take me back, where and when did the idea for Executive Yacht Canada come from, and what’s the vision behind what you are doing here?”
Derek: “Well the relationship with one of my partners who has a corporate background began when he was a customer of mine. He really liked how I treated him, and the experience he had in buying a boat from me. He’d never had that level of service and attention to detail before when buying a boat and he really liked it. So a few weeks before the Toronto Boat Show last year, together we saw an opportunity to bring the ‘white-glove treatment’ he had experienced to others in the yacht business.
My other partner, Ron, comes from a franchise and service industry background where customer experience is paramount to his success. The three of us met and knocked out the idea to be different. If we were going to be the same, and to do it the same, we wouldn’t have done it.”
Brad: “What do you mean, to be different, to do it differently?”
Derek: “We saw that the traditional model of the boat selling industry was to sell the cus-tomer what was in front of them – what was in the inventory of the dealer. We didn’t like that the customer was limited to the inventory on hand. Our design centre here is built to be different. We want to allow the yacht buyer to build the boat that they want, so that they own and enjoy the yacht that they want, and realize the dream they’ve been dreaming for so long. A yacht is like a finely tailored suit. Our buyer’s homes and offices are not ‘buy what you see’ from a cookie-cutter builder. They aren’t built that way – why should their boats be built that way?“
The office here – with all the fabric samples from all the brand partners we have, and the 70” TV screen on the wall – it’s designed for the buyer family to be able to interact with the factory right from the beginning of the process and all the way through to final delivery. To choose every aspect of their new yacht, it lets them be truly involved in every detail. My idea is to help them see their dream coming together exactly as they want it, and at every stage.”
Brad: “Who are your brand partners and how did you get them all to cooperate in one dealership?
Derek: “We position our brands to meet the yacht buyers’ demands. We want what is best for our client – and so do the manufacturers. In fact, we are the very first dealership in the world to represent Azimut and Sunseeker together. So we have Azimut Yachts, Benetti, Carver Yachts, Everglades, Marquis, Sunseeker, and Wajer and Wajer all represented by Executive Yacht Canada.”
“My mantra is ‘we are all in this together’. Our team takes a long term view of both the sales and the service of our clients and in building relationships with them. Our brand partners understand that – none of our brands really compete. They are as different and as separate as car manufacturers are, buyers love one company’s way of designing a car or a boat over another company’s and they are loyal to that. So it was relatively easy, once they saw and understood what we were doing, they were all in.”
Brad: “This is for sure a different experience! But is it a once-in-a-lifetime experience with each client?”
Derek: “Somewhat surprisingly no – our early buyers are already beginning to look at upgrading or changing yachts. They turn their cars over every two or three years, so it’s understandable that they’d do the same with their boats. So we will take care of selling their current one for them, while at the same time we help them to enjoy the process of designing and building their new boat.”
Brad: “Earlier you referred to the ‘buyer family’, tell me more about that.”
Derek: “Well, we are seeing families make decisions together. It’s not just the husband, but the couple, and quite often their kids and grandkids who come to buy the family yacht. Rather than just looking at a small screen on a laptop – which is difficult for more than one person – we can look at design options on the big screen so everyone can see. We can connect via video into the plant and watch the yacht being made. Some of our customers want to visit the plant and we can facilitate that for sure. Others don’t have the time, or the availability to get away even for a couple of days. This lets everyone in the entire family feel like they are there at every stage of their yacht’s building process, without the expense of a half-dozen plane tickets to the factory. We are seeing the grandparents ask the grandkids for their input and what they like, and the very small, if any, incremental cost in getting it ‘just the way they want it’ doesn’t even factor into the conversation.”
Brad: “Tell me about your other locations for serving your customers.”
Derek: “Well we have this 3,000 square foot head office location. It’s got easy access to the island airport, to downtown businesses and Bay Street, the boat show of course, and we are open seven days a week for their convenience. It makes shop-ping for a new yacht easier than travelling south of the border. In addition we have our locations at Starport Marina in Orillia and at their Port Severn location, for quick and easy access up the 400 or 404 to get out on the water. We have our Bronte Outer Harbour location in Oakville as well. We only have three boats in inventory – all of our current orders that we are working with clients on right now are all custom boats. But our locations all over Ontario let our customers take delivery of their new yacht whenever and wherever is convenient for them.”
Brad: “Any final advice for anyone considering a career in the marine industry?”
Derek: (Laughs) “Boating is a lifestyle. You’ve got to love it, and I do love it. I love meeting people and serving them. So I guess my advice would be to get involved in every aspect of the business to learn it from every side that you can. Find a mentor to help you, I’m really grateful to the people who gave me a chance. Then go do what you love and it’ll never feel like work.”