- 8th November 2023
The Hollies X Flibs
Last week, our two resident Hollies, Hollie Smith, Operations Director, and Holly Noonan, US Recruitment Consultant, hit Florida for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show! We caught up with the jet-set duo to find out how they got on…
Was this your first FLIBS and how is it different to other Boat Shows?
This was my first time to FLIBS. I was amazed at how much bigger it was than other shows. I also felt it a little more relaxed to some of the recent shows I had been to in Europe. The boats are all much bigger than their UK/European counterparts, which I didn’t appreciate until I had seen them with my own eyes!
It was my first time at FLIBS too and it was incredible, I have never seen such a large scale boat show and the variety of boats on offer.
What preparation did you do before the show?
In preparation for the show we worked hard to book meetings with set times and days, and researching in to the potential aims of each meeting. We could then fill the gaps in our schedule with other potential clients we had managed to confirm times and days with. I also set up a new podcast series called ‘Breaking America’, which raised awareness of Navis in the American marine industry prior to our trip. View the latest episode with the incredible ‘Boat Boss’ Kim Sweers here!
I reached out to arrange meetings with current clients with USA teams, as well as new clients that had roles/projects already ongoing, knowing I had suitable candidates to send across to them and be able to discuss these with them at the show.
I looked into what I wanted to learn more about around how the USA structures its market. We also ordered branded tops to take with us, and wearing these really helped start up conversations.
Who did you meet? Any previous Boatbuilding News guests?
We made some incredible connections. Our network grew considerably and we have come away with industry friends in America for us to build on! I met with Ken Clinton and Bob Denison who have both been on the Breaking America series of the podcast.
Meeting with Ken was fantastic! He was so interesting and it was great to see some of the quality boats he produces. I built on relationships with clients I’d been struggling to get hold of, discussed terms and exchanged direct contact details.
How important is networking in the boating industry, and what advice do you have for others attending similar events?
It’s essential. Our industry is events focussed with the majority of business and connections being made at a show. My advice is that “preparation is key”. A boat show, especially on the leisure side, can be so easily wasted as a great day out if you don’t focus on the business outcomes you wish to achieve.
Networking within the marine sector, especially the leisure/luxury, is key. You need to get your face and reputation known. The marine industry is huge but a very small world, everyone knows everyone, everyone talks and word gets around. Marine clients like to buy and sell face-to-face, and they appreciate it when you make an effort to learn about their products, what they do and the culture of their team.
What was the most exciting new product you saw?
It has to be the Intrepid Panacea 51. The $2.2 million centre console. What a machine!
There were some incredible yachts worth $100 million, I have never seen anything like it before, even though most of these are made in Europe. I also really enjoyed seeing the recreational side of the industry, with some very high-tech fishing boats – they were the size of the yachts here in the UK! This is a huge part of the Florida’s economic growth within the marine sector.
Did you have a chance to explore Fort Lauderdale outside of the boat show?
On the first full day there I had a client meeting with a Naval Architect company that designs yachts and commercial vessels. Our contact Will was so knowledgeable about the marine sector and treated us to a lovely lunch at a marina overlooking some beautiful yachts. He then drove us home, showing us all around Fort Lauderdale, the best places to go and some history on the new constructions in progress.
We also managed a whistlestop tour on the last day, visiting the Everglades and spotting some alligators from an airboat, then a quick shopping trip en route to Miami airport for our flight home.
How has this trip affected your enthusiasm for boating and the boating industry?
My enthusiasm is always sky high for this industry. I adore it. However, it has made me realise how special the industry is in the States and I can’t wait to explore this further.
The trip has given me the insight I needed and I can now see the direction I can take my desk in. I want to be able to make this show a regular thing, visiting clients and building those relationships. I can now set myself targets to make sure I am taking the right steps to success.
What’s your top learning/take-away from this trip?
Always be networking, not just at the events but when out for food/drinks, airport, taxis; you never know who you are going to meet. Ask people questions and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself just so they know your face in the future.
Absolutely, plus stay longer than you think you need to. 2 days at the show just wasn’t enough for a show this size!
I also learned that Hollie and I are very similar. We have the same energy levels and enthusiasm for meeting with clients, and I have learned a lot from her at the Boat Shows and networking events.
What’s next on your Boat Show calendar?
METSTRADE in Amsterdam next week for me!
FLIBS again for sure! But Cannes and Monaco are of interest as most USA clients come from a European base. With regard to the UK, I’ll be at Southampton Boat show again next year and hopefully Boatlife as well.
See you there!