This is an article I wanted to do for a long time. And I originally wanted to call it “I am fucked”. Now, ending my series on Boot boat show Duesseldorf 2024 I will finally be doing it. You may have read the article that I´ve called “I am blessed” where I am kind of rhapsodizing about working in the boating industry. It´s a true thing and I mean every single word. But it´s a bit one-sided as I focus on the good sides, the sunny side, the highlights of my job. I´ve received quite some nice feedback on this article and I regularly do when posting about my adventures in social media. Well, of course, there isn´t always just sunshine. There´s a Yang to the Ying. This article is about a lesser spoken-of perspective. And it fits perfectly as the closing article on Boot Duesseldorf boat show, the world´s leading venue.

10 days of high pressure!

It all comes together when on a boat show like Duesseldorf. That´s a 10-day high-pressure mega event. The stress levels are through the roof, both for us working here as for the visitors being totally overwhelmed. Working on the exhibition is very demanding. You have to keep up a great portion of motivation, always show fresh interest for your guests as well as openness and curtesy to our visitors. It´s our most important boat show: For a majority of the later customers, their journey to becoming a boat owner (hence: buyers of a yacht) starts here. Ten days. Eight hours opening time per day. Two weekends and a full week. Great battle day!

Ying and Yang of working in the boating industry

My dad used to be a pilot. I have friends in so-called “dream jobs” like surgeons or rocket engineers. Fascinating professions, some glamorous, some legendary. Most of them very well-paid (I will dive deeper into this later in the article). From my childhood and youth, growing up in an airline Captain´s family I know for sure: There are downsides and even dark sides to every job. Maybe that´s even more valid for the so-called “dream jobs.”

From oilskin to suits

Do I have a deam job? Well, for many of the people I talk to, many of my non-sailing followers and “friends” in social media platforms it seems so. Of course, most of the material I am posting feeds this narrative. Palm trees, dream locations. A life from the Croisette in Cannes to the high seas. Yachts and boats, nice people, good food and a lot of variety. Nice people being happy looking at, testing, buying and finally receiving their yachts. What a great job, isn’t it? Yepp, that´s what I do on a daily basis. And here´s my Top 5 “honest behind the scenes facts” about working in the boating industry which are rarely spoken of …

Not a nine-to-five job at all

The picture below shows my calendar of 2022. Red means work. It´s a bit misleading since the main event, the said 10 day Duesseldorf Boat Show, got cancelled due to Covid. So there should be even much more “red”. Anyway, you may get a feeling of what I mean by just looking at the red marked periods. This is neither a nine-to-five job nor a regular job Monday-to-Friday. Out of the some 50 weekends a year has I have to work at more than half of them. Overtime? Is not counted. Seriously.

Red means weekend-work

It is this way because boats are products for spare time use. People don´t buy a boat on a Wednesday at 11 a.m.. They usually don´t want to sit down for a consulting session to determine a boat´s specification on a Thursday morning. They don´t want to get their boats handed over on a Tuesday either. Also, most of the boat show events take place, of course, during weekends. So, as a boat dealer, a yacht counsellor, you have to sacrifice your weekends. A lot of them. More than half of my yearly weekends is regular working-time. Family life? Seeing your kids? A rare occasion, sadly.

A life underway

Top 2 of the most not-spoken-of details of my dream job is the travel. I often get comments and feedback on social media from people kind of envying me. Of course, handing over a boat must take place at a marina or harbor somewhere. Of course, these are mostly nice places in nice areas: Cote d´Azur, Spain, the Atlantic Ocean and even my hometown of Luebeck has very beautiful areas. People pay a lot of money to have their vacations there – for me it´s a regular thing to travel to these places for work. Well, I travel for work. And travelling is as bad as f***ck these days: Flights are constantly delayed, lately even cancelled without any notice. We are stranding regularly. Going by train? Just google “Deutsche Bahn” (german railway) and you know it. So, essentially, I am going by car. Still the best, most reliable, most accurate and convenient way to travel. That´s a 1.200 km trip from Germany to Saint Gilles at the Atlantic. Even to the Lake of Constance, the southernmost German sailing area, is an 8-hour drive from my home town.

Hotel breakfasts …

Traveling means living in hotels. That may sound nice and exciting, but in reality it isn´t so much. Over the past years I´ve managed to find out the best hotels to stay for most places I go – from Italy to France, Spain and Germany – but often we have to seek new hotels. Of course I cannot book the nice 4 to 5 star resorts to keep expenses down, our travel budget is restricted. Most places are nice, but imagine sleeping out of your own bed, your perfect home-mattrass, having to eat the same (often very “sparse”) hotel breakfasts, drink the same watery hotel coffee … nope, that´s really not the biggest fun. Even for Duesseldorf boat show, where we usually stay in better 4-star-rated hotels because work is hard anyway, after the fifth day your stomach simply won´t stand the breakfast buffet any more …

Always on, always reachable, always and at any time

I don´t want to whine and whim around. It´s the job I chose and the job I love, sure. But this is the other side, the non-social media-approved side. Being underway all the time also means that in this job, you need to be very flexible. And I mean it! Dates and appointments constantly get blown. Be it the boats which are for some reason late in production and finishing dates are postponed, be it truck transports or pre-commissionings behind schedule, be it cancellations due to bad weather or strong winds at the handover locations. I am constantly juggling due dates. And I mean it: A plan that might look just as perfect on a Friday for sure will be blown on Monday, latest Tuesday. Imagine the communications behind it, as well as your private life being affected. Constantly.

Overtime? Common sense.

Another aspect of this is the „always on”-mode. For my clients, prospect buyers, but also our partners we have to be reachable always. There´s literally no time around the clock at which I haven´t been contacted by people yet. Of course, if a prospect client asks me to join a Teams-meeting at 2 a.m. because he happens to be in San Francisco, I´ll be on! I have to be available. Because, if I am not, others will. After a long 10-hours boat show day on the stand talking to literally a hunderd people, of course I am up late to write emails, answer requests, set up even more new appointments. Always on …

People are people

The last – and most annoying – aspect of this job are the people. A special kind of people. I mean, as with any job in the world that has to do with people, there is a certain (luckily, very low) percentage of literal assholes you have to deal with. It´s the same everywhere. The Gaussian distribution: Not so many at the extremes (nice and bad) and most of the people you deal with are just the normal guys, like myself. This is not what I mean. The award for the “Most annoying People” in my business goes to two groups of guys.

Whom will I meet next?

That´s the „cancellors” (it´s a made-up term, I know). These people enjoy getting the whole treatment, the full consultation, the evening dinners and the big colorful playhouse we arrange to make our clients feel good and well-treated. They do sign a contract indeed and everything looks bright. They close a deal legally binding. But then, after a few days, mostly under dubious circumstances and made-up causes, they cancel it. This doesn´t happen often but when it does, it is really annoying. Not just have those imposters eaten up so much of our energy, time and efforts, cost a lot of money and attention, they made us believe we´ve sold a yacht. Now, those guys usually don´t buy a small sized boat, it´s always the big units. It happened to me twice in my career in boat sales within the last 7 years and although the last incident was years ago, it still hurts. I regularly hear from dear colleagues they got busted as well. Protection against those scammers? Literally none: They are good actors. Why do people do this? I have no idea, honestly. Idiots.

You never know …

The second group of annoying people, much bigger than the latter but still not all too many, aren´t imposters or scammers. That´s the dreamers. Those people have dreamt themselves so deep into a life as a boat owner that they simply ignore the facts of their lives. Facts like that they don´t have the money at all, that they are too old or weak to sail, that their families don´t approve – the “no-gos” are various, but the outcome is always the same: These people successfully convince boat dealers that they are real potential clients. And so we pull off our magic. Only to be getting revealed afterwards – usually shortly before signature of a contract – that all is in vain. Days, weeks and for some literally years of counselling, talking, answering dozens of emails with elaborate technical questions … just lost. I have a few of those each year. Again, you cannot identify these people, there´s no checklist – dreamers are very good actors as well because they themselves believe they´d one day buy a boat. They never do.

Not so glamorous at all?

Well, you might think that this is the usual toughness of any job. It is indeed! This is the Yang to the Ying in my world of boating. Just as my dad as an airplane Captain had his and you will most certainly have in your job. I wanted to show these things and openly talk about them just because normally you wouldn´t read or hear about them in yachting. Cleaning toilets? I do this all the time!

A frequent task in my job

Just as I clean the boats for handover myself meticulously (I do it because it is the only way to check every furniture, every floor board and the function of each installation. Including the toilet.) I also put up sails, do installations out in pouring rain, sometimes the freezing cold or under a relentlessly burning sun. It´s far away from being a nice lush summertime job at the Croisette. Mostly, it´s hours of cleaning a boat with a sore arm, aching backbone and lungs battered by chemical odors of the cleansing agents.

All for a perfect handover

I am not complaining about this. Not at all. Any job has its downsides. Any treat will have to be earned. Everything comes at a price. The permanent pressure, the round the clock availability, the travels, the stress, the strange people … all this is the price I pay to finally be able to enjoy the things I have described in the previous article where I listed all the nice things. But of course, “it´s not always sunshine”, as the saying goes.

Getting paid in boating

Paying the price – for receiving some money. In the end we all have to pay rents for our flats, pay our bills, try to do some savings and accumulate some budgets to be spent on things. So how´s the payment in boating, you might ask? Well, as usual, it depends. I personally won´t complain as I work for a fair company and I am getting paid reasonably. There are boat dealers which pay very high commission and provision for sold boats. You sell a handful – literally just a handful – of yachts and you are done for the year. That is possible, sure. I´d say there aren´t too many trades where you can make a year´s wage by just selling three, four or five items. In boating, you can.

My job has it all

But there are only a few people, very few, who actually pull this off. Most of my fellow colleagues just have an average income, many even less than that, because at the top, of course, there is only so much space for the few top dogs. For the rest, we have to make a living out of the Gaussian “bell”, the middle class, the normal people buying “normal” boats. And guess what? The middle class is under pressure: Inflation, recession, just name it. It´s a tough job, it´s a job that requires a lot of stamina. I´ve had my first career in advertising. Made good money. The job was far easier than what I do know. But as I put it: I am paid in endorphin.

A realistic view

So, is this something for you? I can´t say. But what I can say is what it takes to be successful in the boating industry as a boat dealer, I think. You need to be persistent but also polite. You need to be very skilled, straightforward and competent – both technically (it´s a lot of tech-talk!) and in sailing (it is your very own experience with the different yachts that makes you a good counsellor). This competence cannot be taught or learned – it must be earned. Years and years of experience creates credibility. Both as a sailor whom people trust but also as a businessman who closes contracts. I´m doing this in my eighth year now and I am still learning so much. Each day, each boat show, each delivery and with every single boat – there are always so many new things to learn. Easy fast money? Not at all! Go and get a lotto instead.

I truly love what I do!

I hope that this article helps to shine some light on the lesser talked about aspects of my job. I don´t want to repel you in disgust. Or do some scaremongering. I just want to provide some inside into the lesser attractive details. Still, this is the job I love. I love to travel, I love to talk with people about their dreams and how we can make them come true. I´ve made so many great friends in this industry, met so many great people. I love the exciting hustle of boat shows, the stressful perfection of a handover, the yard visits and Teams-meetings. I love the huge variety of people I am meeting: From bus drivers to brain surgeons. It´s the job I chose, the job I love and the profession I think I am good at. Maybe that´s my point here: If you choose to do what you truly love doing, the downsides just become “mild accessory symptoms”. Details you accept because in the end, it´s not a job for you, it´s simply the stuff you love doing.


You may also like to read these articles:

I am blessed: Working in the boating industry

A happy man – finally receiving my new boat 

Buying my new yacht: Great day!