Northrop & Johnson spotlights Senior Charter Manager Shawn Z. Laird who has two decades of experience as a charter manager and has been with Northrop & Johnson for over ten years. Shawn is a powerhouse Charter Manager who is dedicated to her clients and has the experience and valuable insights to serve her owners and captains.
How did you get into the yachting industry and what lead you to where you are today?
I was fortunate enough to grow up in the Caribbean and always wanted to go back. I met a couple at a restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina who had recently chartered a yacht and told me I would be a perfect stewardess on a charter yacht. Four months later, I was on a plane to the Caribbean and began working as a stewardess.
I spent five years traveling the world, living a charmed life as a stewardess and working my way up to chief stewardess before deciding to transition to being land-based. Meeting a lot of good people over my time as a stewardess, I knew Fort Lauderdale was the place to go. Soon after getting my first land-based job in the industry as a receptionist for one of the most well-respected firms of the time I was recruited for a charter management job in 2001.
What do you think makes Northrop & Johnson special?
There are so many elements that make Northrop & Johnson special — our “cult-like cool” culture, longevity and professionalism to name a few. We are a family and attract good, ethical people to work with us. We all have serious passion, that burning desire for this industry like no other and for me it’s a “labor of love.” I felt that immediate affinity the day I stepped into the role as crew.
What is the best thing about your job?
There is truly no other business like yachting. The glamour of the yachting lifestyle is not real life, but at the same time it is real life, and it’s a massive part of my life – I am married to my career. I’ve been in the industry for over two decades and I’m consistently star-struck in this industry with all it offers in terms of destinations, innovativeness of the yachts and glamor. I also, love all the great clients I get to work with. I pinch myself every day, really, I do.
What accomplishment at N&J makes you most proud?
My longevity and the respect I have gained through my hard work. I am a student of the game, a player with more heart than ego and I revel on the daily grind of this business. I am proud of how far I have come and the awesome team and charter fleet I have built. Hands down, we are the leading charter management team in the industry, our ability to exceed the expectations of our owners every day, says everything! We take great pride in our client partnerships, we are obsessed, we are relentless with everything we do as managers. It’s that simple!
What is your favorite cruising destination and why?
Having grown up in Puerto Rico, I love the Caribbean, specifically the British Virgin Islands. That’s where we vacationed when I was a child, so it holds a special place in my heart. Alaska is also one of my favorite destinations. I did two seasons there and I was consistently amazed by the beauty and wildlife. I also love the Mediterranean as it is absolutely lovely and has so much to offer. My bucket list cruising destination though is French Polynesia. How could you not fall in love with those idyllic waters? I just need to win the lottery so I can afford to charter a yacht!
If you had a yacht what type of yacht would you have?
I’d have a pedigreed motor yacht with a sprawling sundeck and have it decorated with a “Malibu beach” home style. I’d want the yacht to not be too big as I still want to be able to easily find dockage, so possibly between 150 feet and 180 feet. But definitely, one that is ocean-going and capable of navigating all waters around the globe.
If you had a yacht where would you spend all your time aboard?
I love being outside in the sun so naturally, I would spend my time aboard on the sundeck, hanging out at beach club, swimming and playing with all the water toys and going out on my tender.
What is one fun/unique fact about yourself?
I’m an absolute straight shooter, honest and 100% transparent and I think that is why people gravitate to my business style. I tell it like it is. I tell it like I see it. I tell it like I live it.
What is one tip for first-time clients?
For owners who are entering a yacht into the charter market for the first time, I would say make sure you assemble an all-star captain and crew. New owners need to also really focus on realistic expectations on what they want to achieve with their charter success. If the owner and captain are not on the same business stature, the relationship more than likely will not last. It really is unfortunate that some owners are misled by so many people in this industry and can get fed the wrong information. Managing the owner’s expectations is one of the trickiest elements of my job. It is a global fact that owners must have that “dangerously good” crew who will pull out all the stops as they can either make or break you as a charter yacht.
Northrop & Johnson is one of the world’s leading charter management firms. Our professional charter managers offer years of industry experience and are backed by industry-leading tools. To speak to Shawn about entering your yacht into the charter market with Northrop & Johnson, click here. To see our full selection of yachts available for charter, click here.