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Interview with Jan Jaap Minnema of Fraser Yachts

Business

Jan-Jaap Minnema is a broker who has taken the time to learn the craft of his profession from as many angles as possible, and has taken great pleasure in doing so. Starting within the industry as a charter skipper, and going on to oversee the complete rebuild of a 40-metre schooner, Minnema turned a degree in economics acquired from his student days at the University of Rotterdam to good use in 2000 with a brokerage role in Antibes.

Minnema is proof that at its core, the superyacht business, like any other, is one that is built on good relationships, trust, and passion. We sat down with the broker who sold the biggest superyacht ever built in China, the 88 metre Illusion, to hear from Minnema how that skill at building relationships has consistently made him one to watch in the industry.

The broker credits much of his skills to the seven years he spent selling yachts in a much smaller LOA range; over 30, 40 or 50 ft. “That’s where I learned the boats, the techniques; the basics. That’s the solid foundation it’s all built on.”

“I realised then that the amount of money someone will spend on a €300,000 yacht is a much greater percentage of their net worth than that of a billionaire buying a €10,000,000 yacht. So the responsibility of informing your client and the responsibility to get someone the best deal took precedence over anything else. Negotiations were different and I was tasked in those early days with convincing the prospective buyer that the yacht was worth 20 or 30 per cent of his net worth!”

In 2007 Minnema moved to Fraser Yachts, where he’s been honing and constantly calibrating his already impressive skill set, since. Though he’s driven a plethora of successful deals in his time with Fraser Yachts, he’s quick to point out that he’s no lone wolf broker. The strength of his achievement lies in the full service delivered when questions of crew, management, refit or any other aspects of ownership can be picked up and competently answered within house. He is completely dedicated to saving the client time, cementing trust, working in a team and, perhaps most importantly, ensuring that the process of buying a luxury pleasure yacht is nothing but, well, pleasurable.

“At Fraser Yachts it’s about complete teamwork. We have 135 people working at here and we have disciplines across all facets of the industry. The business side is of course, serious, but everything around it is airy, cheerful and a joy to be a part of.”

Disciplines of teamwork, efficiency and an air of lightheartedness are all concepts a broker should have a decent grasp of, whilst also pulling together all the different strains of the yachting world and explaining honestly what entry to the industry means for the buyer, he continues. “A lot of people are disappointed, for example, because they weren’t told they would need a crew for the whole year; not just when guests were onboard. A broker needs to add value at all times, and that requires making proper use of your resources.”

This is an ethos that comes into play in his work over and over again and makes Minnema such a successful player in his industry. But this is no easy feat. It takes constant hard work and a real enthusiasm for adjusting your own mode of working as well as learning from brokers around you. This is exactly what our broker in question does. Despite vastly different character traits and approaches, he takes the time to be interested in the work of colleagues who are genuine, interested and successful - key ingredients to accomplishment.

“Everybody has this perception that brokers take the money and then off they go, and many think they can sell a boat just from the comfort of their office. I’m glad that we’re living in the economic times we are in, because the few brokers who do work like that will not sell anything - or at least not enough! Attrition will quickly sort them out.”

Minnema uses negative experiences in the industry with opportunistic or incompetent people to help push positive reflection on those who do know the business and ensure the continuation of the brokerage industry as a fair and enjoyable business to be in. He also prides himself on not taking himself too seriously, noting that a good sense of humour is key to an open mind and the ability to listen to others - an essential skill when dealing with clients.

“Even if you have a lot of knowledge about a subject, the real beauty of it is that you will never know everything. That’s what keeps you going, because there’s always something new, something interesting, something you’re seeing for the first time. The more you know, the more you realise there will always be more knowledge to gain and therein lies the motivation to keep improving.”

We talked with Minnema about the recent sale of the 88 metre Pride Yachts’ Illusion project. For many, being the first buyer of this ground-breaking new precedent in Chinese-built yachts would be a gamble. We ask if there is enough confidence in China as a nation capable of building high quality yachts, or if this particular sale was a 'lucky shot'? "it all depends on the yard and the people who are building the yacht. We have seen a lot of projects all over the world going down , because the picture wasn't completed. A yard is not just a shed , or a person with money. A good and healthy shipyard consists of much more , and alll the ingredients needs to be there: people, knowledge, infrastructure, financial back-up etc. Like i said before: this is not a lucky shot, but a game changer! We are finetuning our next build together with great names in the industry, so watch the next MYS for more intersting news...."

Minemma’s zeal for the industry is contagious, and it’s easy to see where the roots of his success have grown from. This broker is tasked with taking on the, to some, daunting challenge of selling Illusion. However, with years of experience under his belt and an attitude that exudes positivist and success, Jan Jaap Minnema is not intimidated by the project and leaves us with one final, bright note. “I can do what I do without having a heart attack, because it’s so nice. Pleasure yachts are called pleasure yachts for a reason!”

By Maarten Janssen & Ilsa McKechnie

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