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Behaving professionally in this business can be difficult. Get in right and it goes unnoticed. Get it wrong and the consequences can be severe.

A few years ago I remember hearing about a yard’s marketing manager being fired for over-familiarity with a client. The tale comes secondhand, so there’s no vouching for its authenticity, but for sure it has a ring of truth about it. There’s a message there and, if the particular person I heard about wasn’t guilty, there will have certainly been many, many cases of similar crimes over all the years that yards have been building pleasure boats for an elite clientele.
As far as I recall the guy in my opening example went too far with either a slap on the back or an arm round the shoulder. Whichever it was, it was about the crossing of a line and the fact that offence was taken. The sacking of the offender is I guess understandable. Implications could have been severe. What if a contract was lost because of it?
The stakes in this industry can be very high indeed, particularly once crew cabins start appearing on GAs.
Let’s face it, the world of client hospitality in this industry can encompass everything from the sublime to the ridiculous – from the gentile family supper to naughty (and possible really nasty) nightclubs.
Any unwelcome chumminess is bad news, whether it’s a too-casual remark or the ‘full monty’ of getting drunk and propositioning an owner or members of their family.

“Client contact is a potential minefield, when one considers such things have the potential to impact order books...”

But over-familiarity can cause problems the other way round too. What if an owner is making the inappropriate plays and expects their yard friends to join in, to reciprocate. For some going with the flow comes naturally. For others the wrong reaction could just as easily cause offence.
Client contact is a potential minefield.
When one considers such things have the potential to impact order books, does the industry pay enough attention to staff training issues in this regard?
The answer is a definite ‘no’.
As far as I know only a few of the very best builders have put key staff through the sort of etiquette courses that were once the preserve of ‘finishing’ schools. For the purposes of this article it serves no purpose to name names, to identify who’s benefited from that extra polish. Such things are delicate.
One likes to project such confidence as innate, inherited.
But really such things should be considered as ‘vocational training’. The idea is to not only deliver the very best in modern manners, but also the skills to perhaps avoid compromising situations.
Food for thought.
What we’re talking about here is not merely how to hold your knife and fork, what to do with a bewildering array of fine-dining tools, or how to eat spaghetti without slurping and whip-cracking sauce across a room. Do your people know about appropriate forms of address? Know how to dress appropriately? Know how to enter a room? Know how to leave a room?
I’m not suggesting I know all the rules, you understand; far from it. It’s just over the past 20 years of exposure to this industry I’ve seen some of the best at work; and for some I know it’s not all been about blue blood. And I’ve also witnessed some really inappropriate behaviour that, if deals weren’t lost, they deserve to have been.
Getting people trained appropriately for front-line client contact ought to be about ‘best practice’. It’s not just about teaching sales techniques either. The ‘how to behave’ issues should be about all those with significant client contact.
Good manners are not simply about making individuals look good, but about putting people they come into contact with at ease. And that has to be good for business!

© Phil Draper