He started young. Very young. Though the scope of his work might have changed since Dick van Lent gained his first grounding in the shipyard, his focus on providing exceptional, hands-on service hasn’t. The head of Feadship’s Royal Van Lent shipyard – one of the two yards that are the driving force behind Feadship – talks size, quality and moving into new markets.
“Five years old,” he tells us, when we ask Dick van Lent for the point where his career started.
Starting out cleaning the waterfront, boats and bilges, a young Van Lent soon learned that greater rewards came through interaction with people. He’d race to help clients refuel, with his brothers, all quickly grasping that to be service-driven not only provided greater satisfaction, it also came with a tip.
By 13, that enjoyment gained out of the interaction with clients of his father’s shipyard had solidified into a more formal weekend role. Van Lent would cruise the canals that had been the backdrop of his childhood with English customers and their 50 to 60 foot yachts, fresh from the yard.
It gave him that all-important grounding in dealing with clients, the technical knowledge he needed to solidify his start in the family business and, of course, first-hand experience of what the customer liked when sailing, what they didn’t and how to use that knowledge in the next stages of development.
His current workforce means that in the last five years, he’s been able to step back and be strategic about spending time strengthening his team and reinforcing the company. Though of course, he’s never forgotten that early lesson about personal interaction.
“I am very much involved in the sales process, but even more on the hosting side. I show my face, show my clients that I am involved. When a client visits, I’m there, I tour the yachts with them and I’m there for lunches, dinners. I still pick up customers from the airport myself. In some cultures, they say that is not done, but in our culture you show your service side to the customer, and I always think that it’s the only time you can have a private conversation with them. It’s always valuable time.”
Read the full interview in the latest issue of our iPad magazine Superyacht Experience, which you can download for free here.