Yachting Pages spoke to Douglas McFarlane, CEO of Lomond Yachts, about his humble beginnings in Clydebank and his journey setting up a start-up brokerage company with big ambitions, right through to working with award-winning designers to create a Lomond Yachts branded superyacht.
Tell me how Lomond Yachts was founded?
Lomond Yachts was formed in the winter of 2012. It was the end of a tough year; I had been commuting to Portsmouth daily from my London base and the second hand car I had bought specifically for the long journey broke down on me. The insurance company and garage I had bought it from six months earlier wouldn’t reimburse me for it, resulting in a £12,000 loss.
After a lot of internal analysis on what I wanted to do to change my experience in the following years, I realised that it was staring me in the face. My father was a shipbuilder in Clydebank and was part of the launch of the infamous QE2 in 1967. He told me that no son of his was to work in the yards, but I had a real passion for sailing and motor yachts (one that had consumed a lot of weekends around the West Coast of Scotland and on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond). My great great grandfather was also a captain of a merchant ship, so somehow it was in my blood and it all came out with a passion when I was soul-searching. I decided I wanted to setup a yacht brokerage and one day build my own yachts. Lomond Yachts was formed and I set out to learn the ropes.
How would you describe Lomond Yachts and its development?
The last two years has been a baptism by fire. There’s nothing like jumping in at the deep end and understanding what clients are seeking, finding partners to meet their requirements and working out the processes and how the brokerage business operates. I visited the London offices of most of the major brokers to find out how they dealt with customers and how they operated. I worked with a select few who were the most helpful. I researched the online tools available to brokers and selected a few to invest in. I hired a few key people to help me cope with the client enquiries to do the search and shortlisting of the best yachts for sale or charter to meet their exact requirements.
What makes you different from your competitors?
As a start-up company, we were formed as a digital company first and foremost with everything revolving around the chosen technologies we adopted, as opposed to having processes and organisations, which have to adapt to the way the world is shaping up. Much like an Amazon to the book business, we look at things totally differently from our competitors, and as a result we’re talking to more customers than we had anticipated at such an early stage in our evolution.
Are you working on any new developments at the moment?
We are constantly looking at ways to grow and improve and reach out to new customers. We’re very hungry for success and keen to try new approaches and ideas. We’ve grown our global team in America, Canada, Russia, India, France, Spain, Germany and China. Some of those have worked better than others and we’ve changed our approach where appropriate.
In China for example, we learned that all our media had to change into the local language and we had to use different tools and techniques and ways of connecting. We’ve just recently selected a new team with a great track record to open doors and connect in new ways and we’re hopeful of an increase in business activity in 2015.
We are also working with a film production company to offer services to owners who want to showcase their yachts using the latest CGI and 360 degree technology, which really helps to drive charter customers and potential buyers. We’re calling that Super Yachts TV.
Is there anything that people don’t know that you would like to announce?
We were recently contacted by award-winning designers, Sterling Scott who liked what we were doing and they suggested they create a Lomond Yachts branded superyacht. It was that simple. I loved the idea immediately after seeing their work at a recent design awards ceremony I had attended. We agreed a range of yachts in our new fleet, contacted our shipbuilding partner Nedship, who we’d been working with for a while with other client enquiries, and within a short period we had named our new range ‘Caledonia’ - The Roman name for Scotland.
Who is your key target audience?
For obvious reasons our products require individuals who are already part of the global high net worth community. We’ve been fortunate enough to connect with billionaires and multi-millionaires through social media, yacht shows and various networking events we’ve attended.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?
Getting our company established in the industry is the thing I personally want the most out of the next three years. We have started at a great time as the recession is behind us now, and like many other brokers we had a really busy summer. We now want to grow our global team to be equally successful as our London team, and that’s an exciting challenge with lots of hard work. I’m looking forward to looking back at the end of next year and seeing what has been successful and what hasn’t.
How is business? How have you been affected by the recession?
We’ve been fortunate enough to be working with a lot of the top brokers, builders and service providers who have embraced what we do and help us deliver our clients’ requirements to the tight deadlines we set ourselves. We had a really busy spring and summer as a result. We largely missed any recessionary period and as we are a lean and mean company, we are well prepared to cope with any seasonal lull ahead of us.
What are your top tips in your industry?
Be human, be pleasant to deal with and have fun, it’s an amazing industry to be part of.
What is the most bizarre client request you’ve received?
I prefer not to discuss details about specific clients as no request is too bizarre. Those clients who require helicopters or sports cars on board, can be the most challenging as they require expert design analysis for new-build work, and careful selection for charters. Their requirements can take time to turnaround in order to ensure the specific request can be met and we ensure we get clear and accurate advice before we revert to the client.
What are the current trends in your sector at the moment?
We’re seeing a lot of interest in toys. I guess it’s not enough just to be moored off a deserted shore in a beautiful ocean on an incredible yacht, if there’s nothing to do in the water. A selection of jet skis, slides or even a submarine are starting to become the standard.
Who would be your dream client?
My dream client would be the first buyer of my Caledonia range. I’m very keen to start building next year and have one of each of the fleet of yachts being delivered in subsequent years. That would certainly put Lomond Yachts on the map and perhaps one day we may start building in those infamous yards in Clydebank and resurrect an industry that recently saw the last commercial yard hitting hard times.
For more information visit Lomond Yachts