Northrop & Johnson is a full-service yacht brokerage house, offering everything from sales and charter to crew placement and charter management. Our exceptionally knowledgeable and skilled charter management division offers clients bespoke management programs perfectly tailored for their superyachts. With charter managers located in our Fort Lauderdale, South of France and Asia offices, Northrop & Johnson is able to provide top-quality service around the globe. Charter Management Director Shawn Laird opens up about her position at Northrop & Johnson, the charter market and charter management trends, and she shares advice on entering the charter market.
What is your background within the yachting industry and how did you come to be a charter manager?
I’ve worked in the yachting industry since 1996 when I started my career as a chief stewardess on large motor yachts, which lasted five amazing years. Fortunately, I was able to make a smooth transition from sea to land when I moved ashore to work at Bob Saxon Associates in Fort Lauderdale. Three years later, I was recruited by another yachting firm to assist in the charter management division — that’s where I learned the ropes. I have been a charter manager for 14 years now, and I’m still going strong.
What is your best advice to a new charter yacht owner?
The best advice I can give to any owner new to the charter market is to invest in a sophisticated marketing portfolio, with regard to everything from employing the best crew to excellent photography. Owners need to give their marketing campaigns one-hundred percent. It’s all about building and continuing to rebuild the brand on a global level. It goes without saying that our charter management division is committed to making all of our fleet yachts famous — my fellow charter managers and I are obsessed with it, quite frankly.
What is the most important facet of a successful charter yacht?
The most important facet to a successful charter yacht is the crew — it’s that simple. They can either “make it” or “break it” for owners. All crew must be passionate about their jobs and charters and willing to do whatever it takes. They also must be happy and have a positive attitude. Additionally, having a flexible owner on all fronts is critical, as it all starts at the top. Owners who relinquish the yacht for a charter (especially during peak times) and are generous to repeat business by offering special rates and/or extra nights definitely have an edge. Once you add flexibility to the equation, it all organically comes together to form a seamless, successful charter operation. The yacht is the first thing the client notices, but it’s the crew who make a lasting impression.
What is the best part of your job as a charter manager with N&J?
The best part of my job as a charter manager is the constant “buzz,” which never stops. It’s a highly energetic (to say the least) career and industry, and I thrive on it. I compare our charter management to the “nerve center.” There is always something going on. There’s just no other business out there like charter management.
What, in your opinion, are the biggest trends happening in the charter market?
The competition is really tough right now and, in order to stay in the race, having your yacht equipped with the best, latest and greatest amenities is key. Zero Speed stabilizers, high-speed Internet, towable tenders and a massive water toy inventory all rank high on the must-have list.
Where, in your opinion, do you see the charter market going in the next five years?
Over the last few years, I have seen an uptick in the market — not a fast one, but a nice, steady incline — and I see this continuing for many years to come. It is a good sign when you are booking charters almost a year in advance — what a sigh of relief for the industry!
What makes N&J stand out among other charter management companies?
Northrop & Johnson charter managers, including myself, Amy Wachman (N&J Fort Lauderdale), Fiona Maureso, Andrea Pothier (N&J South of France) and Lies Sol (N&J Asia), are positioned as experts at the top of our field. We constantly have our pulse on the market and our competition; we always take great initiative to keep up with industry trends. We take great pride in offering personal service to our fleet owners and captains. The reason we can offer bespoke, personalized service is that we prefer not to “supersize” our exclusive fleet. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. We have devoted a huge part of our lives to this industry and remain extremely passionate and tenacious on every level. Our clients could not be in better hands than with Northrop & Johnson charter management.
What are your five must-have features on a yacht?
Massive sundeck for entertaining, along with plenty of lounge areas for sun 2 – Tricked-out towable tender in the 30-to-35-foot range 3 – Cinema 4 – Gym 5 – Beach club
Where is your dream charter location?
I’ve always been obsessed with the South Pacific, namely Bora Bora — it’s on my bucket list