last updated 09/09/2019
last updated 09/09/2019
BoatSmart HQ’s franchisees help make boat ownership a joy, not a chore
Based in London for 35 years during a career that saw him working at board level with Sony Europe and BBC Worldwide before establishing his own brand consultancy, Jeff Taylor still had his roots in Auckland. When he bought a launch to use as a floating apartment during trips home, he discovered a problem – and an opportunity.
‘When you own a boat, you want it to be safe, secure and ready for use whenever you want it – but trying to get a boat maintained remotely was a nightmare,’ says Jeff. ‘Marine servicing is a very fragmented industry and there’s no-one co-ordinating the various suppliers. I was therefore reliant on a friend, Scott Richardson. Scott is a fellow boatie whose day job was in app development, which made us think there must be a better solution.
‘We looked into it and discovered that while older boat owners have a do-it-yourself mentality, about half of new boats these days are bought by people who’ve never owned a boat before. Also, while we haven’t had the compliance regimes here that they do in Australia, that’s coming. It all added up to a changing market in need of new ideas.’
Jeff and Scott’s solution was to draw together people with experience in both the technology and marine industries to create an app-based service supported by trusted and reliable suppliers, and managed by locally-based franchisees. They launched BoatSmart HQ with a test group of 15 boat owners and, 15 months later, the company is looking for its first franchisees in Northland, Auckland and Tauranga.
Making it simple
‘The service is quite simple,’ explains Zach Du Burgess, GM of Operations for BoatSmart HQ, who has many years’ experience in the marine industry. ‘Franchisees – we call them First Mates – conduct a 50-point check each month on every member client’s boat. They enter the results on to an app, which shows up as a traffic light system on the client’s phone, PC or tablet – green for all good, orange for attention needed soon, red for action required. Once the member authorises the work, the franchisee arranges for it to be done by suitable suppliers.
‘The service is covered by a monthly subscription service, ensuring a regular cashflow for First Mate franchisees. Another revenue stream comes from planning and managing annual maintenance schedules, and a third from managing upgrades and repairs.’
BoatSmart HQ is predominantly focused upon marina-based vessels of 10 metres or more. ‘Most marinas are more than happy for us to offer the service, and franchisees will work with local suppliers and feed them business. There’s a streamlined process for getting quotes from the suppliers in our growing directory, and we are talking to insurance companies about offering rebates for BoatSmart HQ clients. We’ll be adding online claim management, too.’
For practical people with people skills
The BoatSmart HQ franchise is ideally suited to someone who has been a marine engineer, a boat builder, a commercial skipper or a mechanic who knows about boats, suggests Scott, now Sales Director. ‘You need a practical head on your shoulders to see what needs doing and arrange for it to happen. People and communication skills are essential, and you need to be personable and trustworthy. In return, you can work at your own place and your own pace.’
There are two different First Mate opportunities available. The first is suited to someone who has been in the industry for years and now wants more lifestyle, less hard graft. That involves managing a fleet of 20 boats, which Jeff reckons takes around 2.5 weeks per month. ‘The investment is $25,000, and income once established can be over $100,000 per year.’
The second is more full-time and would probably suit a younger person able to manage 40 boats. Both the investment and the return are doubled.
‘In both cases, you can build up your business by adding an extra First Mate licence as you grow and take on employees,’ says Jeff. ‘Somewhere like Westhaven could easily have 200 boats under management with several First Mates.’
Room for growth
In addition to representing BoatSmart HQ on a local basis, each First Mate will be supported with national advertising in boating publications and digital marketing. ‘We provide full training in our systems, and work with you to get your first members across the line,’ explains Zach. ‘Setting up the checklist items for each boat takes some 3-4 hours, then it’s about building the relationship and managing the process to create hassle-free boat ownership for our members.’
It’s also about growing the business. ‘As technology – and regulations – change, so we’ll work with our franchisees on the ground to develop more services and build their businesses even further,’ promises Scott. ‘We are launching in Australia, too, so we expect to grow fast and build up real market awareness and buying power quite quickly.
‘Although we are targeting the Upper North Island initially, ultimately we are looking at appointing up to 30 First Mates all over the country, with 600 boats under management in the first 3 years.
‘To be a part of that, and find out more about BoatSmart HQ, get in touch with us today.’
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