Catering to the luxury market can present a unique set of challenges for business operators. Superyacht manager Cameron Bray, founder of Bray Management, talks about his experiences on the open seas with beautiful boats and famous faces.
“I originally left Australia with a business degree and went overseas to follow that path and do a bit of travel, have a bit of fun. By chance I came across superyachts in the south of France, and did that for a season, and thought ‘I’ve got to put boats and business together, this makes a lot of sense and sounds like an amazing life’,” explains Cameron.
That chance encounter led Cameron to work on board some of the world’s most luxurious boats, serving the rich and famous – including Saudi royalty – initially as crew and eventually captain, as well as undertaking onshore duties including sales, brokerage and charter management.
Along the way, he developed a keen sense of what highend clients do and don’t appreciate, and how best to cater to the particular demands of high net worth individuals.
“We all know how luxurious superyachts are. Whether it’s watches, whether it’s cars, whether it’s handbags; whatever it is, I believe the product is what it is. What differentiates it is the service that the clients receive,” he says.
“There is a level of expectation – a huge level of expectation. You really need to make sure that you deliver on every single opportunity that you do get, because you just don’t know who knows who or who you’re dealing with, and whilst it might be a small transaction, they might know somebody who is looking to do something on a much larger scale.”
It was this mindset that led Cameron towards establishing his own business in Australia.
“I saw there was a bit of a niche in Australia where nobody was really offering those exclusive management services to clients, it was all potentially being managed inhouse or by a captain or a wealthy individual’s PA, and there was just no specialist knowledge being applied for something that is an incredibly valuable asset and quite a big business.”
Four years later, the business has continued to notch up strong growth: Cameron has recently agreed to a merger with international brokerage Northrop & Johnson to become its dedicated Australian office.
Cameron is adamant that key to his firm’s success has been the continued focus on providing a first-rate service, and acknowledgement of the lower-volume, higher-yield nature of the luxury market.
“Trust is probably the number one element with dealing with the clients of our database. It gets to a point where it’s not about money; it is about trust and it is about that experience in the relationship,” he says.
“You probably just have a lot less margin for error, because we are dealing with clients that I suppose are probably quite unforgiving, and so you can’t afford to have that one bad experience.”
He adds: “You have to ensure you really focus on every single one. So whilst what we sell or what we do is lower-volume higher-yield, you’ve got to make sure that every one of those ones counts.”
According to Cameron, building a business catering to the luxury market is no more challenging than starting any other type of business, but it does require something of a different focus and mindset in order to be successful.
“It is a very niche market, and one of the questions we get asked all the time is: where do you find your clients? How do you find your clients? Because they are such a small percentage of the public,” he says.
“Whilst, yes, you do need the product knowledge […] it’s more about having the right strategies in place to be able to represent your [brand] well, have your marketing collateral and your marketing strategies all very specific and targeted to these markets. So it probably does require a lot more homework and a lot more preparation than, say, a business that appeals to the broader market.”
Cameron continues: “It’s part referral but also part relationship building, networking. I think the key is to get in front of these people, and constantly represent yourself and represent your brand; build that level of trust that makes people come back or go and tell their friends or their colleagues about you or what you do, and again it comes back down to that experience.
“It’s all experience driven and it’s all about how that makes them feel.”