Every week I try to walk by the water, even if I can't get out on it. And when I travel, I look forward to finding new places to walk. This photo, from not long ago, shows a still, quiet lakeside morning. The air is chilly but with barely a breath of breeze. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me where this is. Or share your equivalent picture for next week's quiz. I'll find an appropriate prize for whoever comes closest.
This week I'm in another venue that's full of talk about the waterfront but in fact we're inside a conference center. The event is the International Conference of Professional Yacht Brokers in Baltimore Maryland, an event organized by the Yacht Brokers Association of America, also known as YBAA (yah bah). The professional organization for brokers has been around since 1920 and aims to raise standards of professional and competence and ethics among yacht brokers. For the average boat owner, this may seem of only passing interest, but YBAA is working for you, having developed a certification program that now includes hundreds of brokers (CPYB) who have received training and successfully passed the certification test.
After one day of the conference, I've realized there's plenty that the average yacht broker ought to know about everything from yacht design, to marketing, to contract, to sales tax and insurance issues. What's the different between ABYC standards of boatbuilding in North America vs CE standards, which apply in Europe? When is your broker just a broker and when is he an agent? Can he legally represent both buyer and seller? My head was spinning by the end of the day.
The keynote speech for the event was by Sgt. Matt Eversmann, retired and well-decorated Army Ranger, who was played by Josh Hartnett in the film Black Hawk Down, which is based on Eversmann's experience as part of a U.N. peacekeeping operation in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993. His was an engaging, even riveting story that seemed to have little to do with boats or yacht brokerage until he began wrapping it up, pointing out that, as in his situation, where he wasn't in charge of strategic decision, brokers are in a specific environment (think "tough economy") with different types of competition they have little control over. Their job, as leaders, is like his was in the Rangers, setting an example and having an absolute commitment to getting a job done right.
His winning formula, he said, was as follows:
1. Be a selfless servant, putting the needs of others in front of yours.
2. Be courageous, especially when nobody's watching. Do the right thing even if it'll hurt.
3. Be committed. Do the hard right always, not the easy wrong.
He didn't need to add that this formula applied in business, but later in the day, talking with Mary Lynn Hollan, YBAA's manager of the CPYB program, it occurred to me that when Matt had talked about winning through creating values-based organizations, he was focused on the same kind of professionalism and ethical behavior that the certification program espouses. Not that every yacht broker is called upon to be heroic, nor, hopefully that many sales and purchases of boats are going to be any kind of firefight, but I suspect that like me, while listening to Matt's understated story of his experience, some of the yacht brokers around me today sat a little taller in their seats and mentally recommitted to being the best they can at representing their clients. That should be good for everyone involved.