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Icons & Innovations: Feadship: Customer Service

Jim Moran

I’ve always felt that boats represent the wishes, desires, and personalities of the people who build them and, even more so, the people who own them. The effort that goes into designing and building a boat is usually a labor of love for everyone involved.
 
The first Feadship I owned was an 87.4-foot vessel that was delivered in the spring of 1985. It was a memorable year for me, because it launched the beginning of what has been a great, 20-year relationship with Feadship. Since that first purchase, I have owned six more de Vries–built Feadships, each named Gallant Lady, and construction on number eight, a 168-footer, is under way.

I always have appreciated that Feadship, specifically the de Vries shipyard, is a family-owned and family-oriented company, as is my company, JM Family Enterprises. In my experience, family-owned businesses often value and treat their customers as if they were members of an extended family, looking out for what is best for them and offering exceptional service. Time and time again, Feadship has proven this notion to be true. 

In addition to a commitment to service, Feadship has a reputation for building world-class yachts. After owning seven of the company’s yachts and looking forward to the completion of the eighth, I have found that its reputation for excellence is thoroughly deserved. In doing business with Feadship all these years, I never have been disappointed. Most of the de Vries family members who we worked with early on are gone now, but the next generation has taken over, and they continue to build on the customer-first philosophy that always has set their company apart. I’m sure there are many excellent, qualified yards that perform good service, but I haven’t tried them because I’ve been happy with the de Vries yard in Holland. That is why I buy Feadships.

Many friends and business associates have come together on my yachts, sharing wonderful experiences and forming lasting bonds. We use our boats throughout the year as a way of showing our appreciation and saying thank-you to our customers and all the great people we work with. A Gallant Lady cruise creates friendships and a level of camaraderie that just can’t be achieved in other settings. We strive to make every cruise an experience of a lifetime. 

Ideas about what a great yacht should be, and how it can meet a person’s preferences and needs, change over time. It is therefore important for yacht builders to keep ahead of the trends and stay on top of progress in technology. My concept of an ideal boat is our 172-foot Feadship (hull number 651) that was delivered in 1996. Our new boat, hull 672, closely resembles hull 651 in profile, style, and accommodations layout. That we are counting on de Vries to incorporate the latest in technology, while holding fast to the design that works well for us, demonstrates our faith in the company’s commitment to innovation. This new ship will showcase how well Feadship brings together outstanding creativity and the most advanced technology.

I have been involved in the design of all my boats and find that the profiles, the power package, and the wheelhouse dashboard are the most challenging and interesting parts of the process. One of my favorite features is the rake of the bow. Each of our boats has a 23-foot-to-24-foot bow overhang, lending it a sleek, streamlined silhouette that has become a Gallant Lady signature. My wife, Jan, is thoroughly involved in planning the interior configuration. If you look inside any of our boats, you can see how the profiles and interiors complement each other. To help blend the profile and interior of hull 651, Jan came up with the idea for the pronounced two-story windows—a feature that has become very popular in new boat designs.

Every item for a Feadship is custom made and is a reflection of the owner. You build it from scratch and put all the staterooms, salons, etc., where you would like them, and they become an expression of your personality. You can’t find that kind of expression in a semiproduction boat. Everything on a custom boat is built to order: Its length, the beam, the draft, the hull, and the rake of the bow all are the owner’s choices. Even the material used in the construction—wood, steel, aluminum, fiberglass, or any combination—is your choice. All of these decisions, even down to the type of showerhead you prefer, are what make a custom-made boat unique.

It takes tremendous effort, dedication, and planning by many people to build a custom boat like ours. To do it right requires at least one year of preparation on the owner’s part, working closely with the captain, the architect, the builder, and most of the suppliers. I have found that the months and sometimes years of planning a custom-built boat have been well worth the time and effort, because that first time you step on the deck after the boat has been completed, you will enjoy the satisfaction of having created something extraordinary and original, something that no one else has. And there is no other feeling like it.

 

Inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in October 2005, Jim Moran is the founder and honorary chairman of JM Family Enterprises (JMFE), a diversified automotive company headquartered in Deerfield Beach, Fla., that employs 4,200 associates nationwide. Last year, a survey in Fortune magazine ranked JMFE as the country’s 25th-best company to work for.

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