Thinking all was good to go and having already booked our first event, I was confident that Papagallo Yacht Charter would soon be off and running. Not so fast, Chef Len! From the Papagallo’s galley I looked toward shore. There, coming across the parking lot and heading for the gangplank with an official clipboard in his hand, was a Coast Guard Inspector. I knew he wasn’t making a social call. But I honestly didn’t know why else he would be coming aboard. Certainly not another inspection. We had already been cleared in San Francisco Bay. What else did we have to do?
Well, it turns out that we did have to pass yet another inspection. This one was called “Change of Zone” and is mandatory when you move an already inspected vessel from one operational zone to another. In this case, we were relocating from San Francisco Bay to Morro Bay.
In last week’s blog, I discussed the stringent maintenance requirements and safety standards of a commercial vessel with a COI. Never having owned a yacht before, my learning curve was almost as high as Mount Everest. Very steep to say the least. But I was willing to climb it. So, before purchasing the Papagallo, I had talked with other boat owners to glean what information I could to help me prepare for this new venture.
In listening and asking questions I soon discovered that many of the same principles I had learned in the restaurant business would apply to this new venture as well. These experiences can be labeled as “OJT” (on the job training) or learning by doing. It means that the guy who does the work gains the knowledge. Sometimes this is called “Baptism by Fire,” or the “College of Hard Knocks,” but whatever you call it, the desired result is that you get better and better at what you are doing. Throw in a good dose of passion, enthusiasm, and faith and you will naturally accelerate the process. Passing inspections was proving to be an important part of my OJT, another aspect of commercial yacht ownership I needed to understand and master – FAST!
A very valuable business exercise I learned early on when dealing with people in positions of authority is to try and build a relationship with them. A good place to start is to find out more about them. You can do this by engaging them in conversation. It’s quite simple, but a lot of folks miss it.
You should talk more about them and less about yourself.
Show a sincere interest in such topics as their family, the hobbies they enjoy, their favorite sports team, various aspects of their job. The list can go on and on. What you are looking for is their “Hot Button,” what they react to and are interested in. Everyone has one. When you identify it, you will now have a topic that you can begin the process of building a relationship with.
Since this technique had worked for me many times, I decided to employ it with the Coast Guard Inspector. My goal was not to avoid any of the COI requirements or skirt safety issues, but rather to have the inspection go smoothly. What I hoped to accomplish was to avoid the calling out of minor infractions that had little or no bearing on operations.
Let the conversation begin! After several minutes, the inspector mentioned that he had just begun trading stocks and was excited about it. “BINGO!” Hot Button identified! Luckily, in my past life, there was a period where I had been a Day Trader in the stock market. I could relate to him on this level. Before long we were engrossed in a friendly conversation that included trading stories of wins and losses. And from that point on, the inspection moved along smoothly. The inspector issued a couple of minor 835’s to be corrected before we could begin cruising.
Great lesson here . . . it’s better to develop a rapport with people in authority than it is to challenge them with a confrontational or adversarial approach. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
In your business relationships and in your personal relationships as well, it’s good to remember:
“Big people monopolize the listening, small people monopolize the talking.”
Next week’s blog: We Finally Set Sail