This month we had the great pleasure of catching up with long-time client and friend Mike Gregory, Captain of M/Y Dragonfly and Fleet Captain to Butterfly & Firefly. We took the time to discover and discuss his thoughts on training, retention and development of crew along with his passion for charity work in all the furthest corners of the world.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I grew up on the quiet coast of the Romney Marsh, England. A Mariner from a young age, I joined a local fishing fleet first going to sea shortly after turning 14 after hearing tales of the ocean from my late Grandfather [Thomas] who sailed in the British Merchant Fleet. I also joined the British Merchant Fleet (P&O) at 18 and I have been in the yachting sector since 2007.
I hold my MCA Master Mariners Unlimited license and first served on M/Y Ice, Palladium and Polar Star before joining as Captain of M/Y Dragonfly and Fleet Captain to Butterfly & Firefly (the past 7 years). I have completed a circumnavigation of the globe and have spent these past 7 years exploring the most remote corners of the North & South Pacific. In my current role, I also act as an Owners Representative for all maritime affairs and aim to deliver the same unique style and standard of safety, service and experience across all of our platforms.
I’m a passionate advocate for altruism and have supported projects all over the world but I’m most proud of where it all began, Vanuatu - Cyclone Pam relief in 2015. We are now extremely proud to have a well-developed global program which utilizes the yacht and the crew to serve the communities which we visit.
With one of my most valued goals being to deliver the clients expectations, I developed a core value-based culture for the leadership and development of a superb team with exceptional longevity. My leadership style is based on insights from my time in the many sectors of the Marine industry, and is one of empowerment, education and opportunity.
I’m also a proud supporter of various global charities and earlier this year I hiked to the South Pole to raise money and awareness for the Brain Tumor Trust and Lewis Moody Foundation.
What aspects of your life have led you to where you are now?
All of the above, and in addition to this I have varied personal interests that all lend towards the spirit of both individual adventure and collective development. I have a passion for extreme Watersports and mountain biking, have played many team sports and thoroughly enjoy the study of leadership in sport and during physical adversity. All of these skills, experiences and attributes have me well placed to lead an international team to provide an incredible service in off the beaten track locations.
What is your day to day role within the company?
This is very much dependent on which ‘hat’ I am wearing, there is no such thing as a normal day, something which I very much enjoy. We have a number of very cool projects ongoing and I have varied roles in each of them, some as the lead and some as a coordinator with various crew members empowered to take the lead, to which I provide support and coaching.
I also complete all of the HR functions for the fleet in association with an excellent Maritime Operations Manager, Genevieve Smithers. This includes the recruitment, training and development of all crew members across the fleet. We are extremely passionate about our value lead culture and particularly the innovation and growth that we bring to the industry and how we develop the young men and women in our team.
With regard to crew retention/training….
We have a well developed crew training program and have appointed a Training Officer who is empowered and encouraged to engage with each and every crew member to understand their individual needs and wants. They align all of our development to put more skilled crew on our vessels and back out into society when they choose to depart the industry.
We have a significant training budget and engage in both team training and activities as well as individual support. We award each crew member with a generous annual training budget that they can utilise to upskill in any area, whether it benefits their role onboard or not. We genuinely believe that crew that are growing and developing are happier, more content crew.
We also push our standards in all areas of our operation to be better than the minimum industry standards (i.e. RYA and SM Medical). We have engaged teams from the absolute best in class operations to provide bespoke training for our crew, not just chasing industry certification but looking to have the absolute best in the industry standards, particularly for Watersports & Medical Safety, an area of interest due to our individual client needs (i.e. extreme Watersports in remote locations).
We use various tools to highlight these needs and opportunities, including environmental scanning and the use of KPI’s to measure performance and conduct of every team member, something that isn’t easy in an industry with no P&L to measure against.
What are the main problems you have found recruiting and retaining crew in Superyachts?
The industry has grown significantly and develops at an almighty rate in some regards and hasn’t in others. Our particular program is an outlier in the industry with remote cruising our normal and finding crew who are genuinely able to perform at such high standards whilst in remote locations requires specific personalities and skill sets. We have had to accept that we can’t find such crew on the shelf and have to invest in training and developing individuals.
What ideas have you used to help recruit good crew and retain them?
Word of mouth, building a brand and using our release of videos showing what we do to select outlets to increase awareness of our specific activities, thus attracting individuals to get in contact and show interest in the program, rather than chasing endless CV’s from agents.
How do you promote development of crew?We do our best to promote from within and reward with good conditions, training budgets, salary and rotations. As an example we have average longevity of 48 months across the team and 55months in the Deck Officer team of 12x, most of which are home grown talent. Crew that see others around them developing and progressing through the ranks with increasing conditions are more likely to strive to be better themselves.
How important do you feel continued investment in training for crew is?
I believe it is of incredible importance. In a sector of the industry (Private not Charter) that sells nothing other than ‘Great Feelings’ it’s extremely hard to get a true gauge of success. One of the best tools for measurement we have is crew retention, and continuing to build the experience and service delivery to our clients, something which they also see, hear and feel. It is my firm belief that investment in the development of the individual is the best motivator for long term growth and retention of great crew, great individuals make great teams.