YATCO Broker of the Month: Zehra Aksu, SCALE

Zehra Aksu, Wave Yacht Sales, about yachting, who influences her, and some of her greatest accomplishments.

YATCO’s Broker of the Month series examines the influences and catalysts that brought these brokers into the world of yachting, who influenced them, and what they seek to change in the industry.  

Zehra Aksu is a yacht broker and founder of SCALE (Superyacht Consulting and Luxury Events LLC).

How did you get your start in yachting? 

As mentioned in previous YATCO interviews (Women in Yachting, Next Generation in Yachting), yachting was already a part of me as I had spent eight years on superyachts, as a licensed captain and marine engineer. 

Why did I become a yacht broker is the bigger question?

Because I love CHANGE and I wanted massive growth. My life was perfect two years ago while I was living in Hawaii. I was running my own consulting company in construction and real estate development fields and I was developing my luxury travel company which was involved in yacht charters as well. For that reason, I was traveling to the boat shows in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Palm Beach. 

Tony Robbins says, “Your life changes the moment you make a new, congruent, and committed decision.” I always believed that opportunity is all around you. You just need to look for it and you will find it. Your success is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of your choice. 

The opportunity and, “new, congruent, and committed decision” arose in the form of an invitation from a very prestigious yacht brokerage company to become a licensed yacht broker and I chose to accept it even though I had to let go of my well-designed lifestyle in Hawaii.

It took me eight months to make the decision to move! So far, I am grateful for my choice. Even though I have not yet achieved my goal of a 100-meter (328’) listing or $100M of listings held as a solo central agent or as a buyer’s broker who closed the deal of a 100 meter or $100M sale, I am well on my way with the 60-meter (197’) 32M EUR Brodosplit KATINA as my CA listing. 

KATINA 2015 196' 11" BRODOSPLIT CROATIA Motor Yacht for Sale
KATINA 2015 196′ 11″ BRODOSPLIT CROATIA Motor Yacht for Sale

Is there anyone in particular who influences you – someone in the industry that you look up to, and why? 

I don’t seek external influence, but rather admire and emulate excellence within the yachting industry. I respect those who push boundaries, elevate standards, and shape the future of this magnificent field. Their success inspires me, but I never lose sight of my own unique path. I believe in building a life that’s true to who I am, both in business and personally. That’s what makes someone irreplaceable, right? 

Think about it: people love you for who you are, not just what you do. Your skills and knowledge can be learned, but your essence, your values – that’s what makes you, YOU. We all have our own stories, our own sparks. Every interaction is an opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to this extraordinary community and the world around us. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who you are speaks so loud I can’t hear what you are saying.” I love that quote. It’s like saying your energy shines like the sun. As I strive for excellence and exceed expectations, I remind myself to be the sun, drawing people in with genuine energy, integrity, and a passion for unparalleled yachting experiences. 

What do you enjoy most about the yachting industry and what do you wish you could change? 

Boat shows are my adrenaline rush, a concentrated burst of industry brilliance. New builds gleam under the sun, diverse brands jostle for attention, and the air crackles with the shared passion of yacht enthusiasts. These dynamic events are more than just work—they’re invaluable insight into the industry’s pulse, a chance to reconnect with colleagues, forge new connections, and witness innovation firsthand. It’s an exhilarating rhythm I live for, especially when it takes me across international waters to immerse myself in the global yachting scene. 

Visiting shipyards to see new builds is also something I truly enjoy. This summer I have seen beautiful yachts being built over 50 meters (164’) at Turkish shipyards. I must say yachting is growing incredibly fast in my home country of Turkey. 

But alongside the thrill, there’s also a longing for change. While healthy competition fuels the industry, ruthless tactics can leave a bitter taste. Imagine if we had buyer agreements, mirroring our Central Agency Listing system, to protect everyone’s time and effort, fostering smoother transactions and a spirit of true collaboration. It’s a simple shift, but one that could transform the landscape. 

Another area calling for evolution is access to new builds. Some brands, understandably driven by internal sales targets, inadvertently create bottlenecks for external brokers like me. This limits the reach of these vessels and ultimately hinders overall sales. By embracing collaboration and tapping into the expertise of experienced external brokers, builders can unlock their full potential and reach a wider audience, a win-win scenario for all. 

Finally, I envision a future where professionalism reigns supreme. Implementing a system of worldwide broker licensing with mandatory exams, similar to real estate licensing, would elevate the industry, attract dedicated individuals, and ensure ethical practices across the board. This wouldn’t stifle the competitive spirit, but rather refine it through mutual respect and a focus on collective success. A thriving yachting industry benefits everyone – brokers, builders, and most importantly, the clients whose dreams we fulfill. 

Do you have any advice for someone wishing to join the yachting industry? 

Buckle up, because it’s a rollercoaster ride unlike any other! It’s not all champagne sunsets and celebrity clients, let me tell you. But if you’re ready for a challenge, a chance to build genuine connections, and to be part of something truly extraordinary, then buckle up and listen closely. 

First things first: your reputation is your golden anchor. In this business, trust is everything. Approach every client, every deal, with honesty and integrity, even when commissions get tempting. Remember, their trust is your most valuable currency. 

Next, become the ultimate yacht whisperer. Clients come armed with their own research, so you need to be the expert navigator, exceeding their expectations with your knowledge and insights. Stay ahead of the curve, devour information, and make comparisons like a pro. 

Now, let’s talk about branding. Build yourself a strong personal brand, like a shining lighthouse in the sea of brokers. Share valuable insights, publish articles, even create yacht videos! Clients want to work with successful, well-known names. 

Remember, discretion is your life vest. Keep client details and deals confidential, close to your chest. Only share information when absolutely necessary, and even then, consider if it aligns with your brand strategy. 

And finally, learn to walk away. Not every deal is worth the effort. Know when to drop anchor and say no to things that drain your time or jeopardize your well-being. Your peace of mind is priceless. 

The yachting industry is a beautiful beast, but it demands dedication, integrity, and continuous learning. Embrace the challenges, stay true to your values, and you’ll find your own unique rhythm in this thrilling world. It’s not just about selling yachts, it’s about building relationships, creating experiences, and being part of something magical. 

What are some of the challenges you come across at work, and how do you approach them? 

Patience – patience is a virtue! Recently I have been working on elevating my patience level. I find if you stay calm and be silent for a while, things sort themselves out with time and little to no effort is needed. Some things and situations are out of our control as much as we want to control them! That’s nerve racking though I must admit!

Tell us about your greatest accomplishment. 

My CA listing of KATINA is by far my greatest accomplishment thus far and close behind is the opportunity to be featured in YATCO for a third time this year! Thank you! 

My greatest accomplishments are yet to come – the eventual sale of KATINA and I am honored to be nominated in the upcoming IYBA awards. After achieving the listing of 60m 32m EUR KATINA during my second year as a licensed broker, I am currently up for Broker of the Year and Outstanding Young Professional categories. If you are a IYBA member and wanted to show your support, please feel free to vote here

What is your favorite yacht currently for sale and why? 

KATINA. I know it sounds cliche as she is my CA obviously and my first big super yacht listing at this young age and within my second year as a licensed yacht broker after 11 months of persuasion not the mention she made me the first woman from Turkey that has been able to achieve such exclusive and prestigious listing as a solo central agent.

60m (196' 11") BRODOSPLIT CROATIA Motor Yacht KATINA - Yacht for Charter
60m (196′ 11″) BRODOSPLIT CROATIA Motor Yacht KATINA – Yacht for Charter

KATINA is also a thriving business! A true investment asset operating as an extremely successful charter schedule. Being built by Brodosplit as a strong vessel which is comparable to cruise ships keeps her annual maintenance cost low which creates profits and positive ROI.

Her unique yacht design layout allows both private and charter operations as well as her deck space that is well suited for expansive gatherings up to 150 guests on board. She is one of the most sought after charter yachts for the F1 Grand Prix Series as she attended the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November and next year she is already booked for the Monaco Grand Prix.

She is currently cruising in Maldives for the holidays and very soon she will be well known with a new surprise in 2024.  

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