YATCO’s Broker of the Month series examines the influences and catalysts that brought these brokers into the wonderful world of yachting, who influenced them, and what they seek to change in the industry.
Everything You Need to Know About YATCO’s Broker of the Month Robert Shepherd:
How did you get your start in yachting?
In 1982 I was working at Versailles Restaurant in Stamford, Connecticut. It was my day to work the gourmet takeaway counter and woman came a bit frantic as her yacht chef had just quit and she had guests coming for the weekend. After seeing that it would be impossible for me to prepare enough food for 6 guests and 4 crew for 5 days and it be fresh, I suggested I go for the weekend and prepare everything onboard. She loved the idea and Chef Maurice agreed that I could go if they paid for my time and the food all came from the restaurant. I went, and that would be my last day at Versailles…
Is there anyone in particular who influences you – someone in the industry that you look up to, and why?
There are quite a few influences that I have had.
- Stuart Larsen, for one. He was the first yacht broker I ever really worked with; I met him in the early 90’s when he was kicking ass and taking names and he’s still doing it today in a way that only Stuart has perfected.
- Jan Henry is another one of my influencers. Jan was one of the first charter brokers that I worked with. I learned a lot from her; she was one of the best at getting all the info we needed to make her clients’ charters go smoothly and they always did, and her clients kept coming back for more.
- Dick Van Lent – Dick had the trust and faith to agree to do the 60m Paraffin build without an interior designer and me as an owner’s interpreter.
- Gary Wright – he hired me without even having a position and allowed me the opportunity to make a name for myself in the industry.
- Nick Edmiston – he had the trust and vision to move me to NYC and mentored me to take on Gotham City, which ultimately lead to me being the President and a partner of Edmiston USA today.
- Paul Allen and Michael Kittredge (RIP) both gave me the best opportunities and experiences of my life/career.
What do you enjoy most about the yachting industry – and what do you wish you could change?
I truly love the travel aspect of my career; it’s something I love to do. I also love being creative with other people’s holidays. Coming up with itineraries that are bespoke to each client, and having them come back with memories shared with their friends and family is something I get tremendous satisfaction from. As a yacht lover and seaman, I am connected with something I love and enjoy daily. As far as changing aspects of my job, I wish I could change some clients desires to go to the same places all the time as there is a big world out there to be explored best by yacht.
Tell us about your greatest brokerage accomplishment.
When I started in 2004, I attended the Genoa charter show and several yacht brokers were very surprised to see me at a brokers’ lunch. When I stepped away to take a call, a few of them were overheard by a stewardess I had worked with saying “good luck, he’s never going to make it”; I think perhaps now I have made it and proved them wrong, but little do they know how their words of doubt gave me the push to go and get it.
What are some of the challenges you come across at work, and how do you approach them?
The ever-changing VAT regulations – they’re not easy to deal with and keep up with.
Also, the COVID addendums are challenging; I work with them rather than against them – you have to hedge your luck. I also find it challenging to work with CAs that are inexperienced and don’t have direct contact with the owners. I specialize in large yacht bookings and I was driven to start my own large yacht CA fleet so I was able to negotiate with myself and make deals happen quickly, which has inevitably helped me build a very strong large yacht CA fleet.