b'I n 1990half a lifetime agoI worked on excursion and diningnumbers, you know something about it. But when you cannot measure boats at the base of the Eiffel Tower. After a month, I went backit or express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatis-home to buy such a business for the French parent company. Thatfactory kind.Attributed to Lord Kelvin.serendipity changed my life and led to a terrific adventure among the great U.S. ports. Our careers are the envy of cocktail party chatter asGet the right key metrics. In the old days, we looked at in-bound many would eagerly swap places. Yet we understand the real challengesphone callsgenerated by the now-extinct Yellow Pagesand daily involved, while loving the voyage. And sometimes we get paid in thebank account balances. Now, metrics are far more detailed and easily coin of a different realm: magnificent sunsets and sharing special mo- available. Decide what really matters about your business for safety, ments in the lives of our guests.sales, costs, operating ratios, customer and crew satisfaction, bank interest coverage, and so on.Develop and refine metrics with your After eight years and 60 columns, Ive decided to go off deadlinesteam. Create scorecards and relentlessly follow-up. Be like the ham-for my next adventures. Although my core messages have been docu- ster on the exercise wheel, spinning on what matters most. If I had mented, I hope youll humor me as I use my final column to recap thea Shaws Iron Law it would be: if you start measuring something key lessonswhat I call planks and reflectionsthat Ive learned in thethat wasnt previously tracked, you can increase (or decrease) it by a passenger vessel business. third through focus. Scott Thornton, the COO of NYC Ferry, dis-tills that spirit as believing that you can be better tomorrow in each THE PLANKS area of your business. With the proper metrics, and gamification of I have often written that business boils down to three key planks: business, you will achieve steady improvements that compound to 1. Get your culture rightspectacular results.2. Relentlessly build your farm team3. Focus on your key metrics THE REFLECTIONSHere are, in my eyes, the most salient tidbits Ive learned over the years:Get your culture right.I love the bumper sticker culture eats strategy for lunch. I learnedSafety is your sacred, number one obligation to prevent a bad Blackabout culture as the son of a U.S. Marine and, better yet, as a youngSwan event. We owe our guests and crew the opportunity to come officer long ago. Our business isnt about selling boat rides that offerhome better and happier, with hopefully a smile on their face from meals, entertainment, service, orgreat memories. Make safety your jaw-dropping skyline vistas. It ispersonalresponsibilityandbe about creating special memoriesvigilant. The U.S. Coast Guard andamazingexperiencesforOur business isnt about must be your partner as we have our guests. To do so, we need athe same safety objectives.hospitality-oriented culture thatselling boat rides that offer everyone joins, is modeled by allEntrepreneurshipisdefined leaders, and is reinforced daily bymeals, entertainment, bymybusinessschoolprofes-the enthusiasm and creativity ofservice, or jaw-dropping sorHowardStevensonasthe an empowered front line. Ninetyrelentlesspursuitofopportuni-percentofbusinessleaderssayskyline vistas. It is about tiesbeyondresourcescurrently culture is important, yet only 16controlled.Weallknowabout percent believe theirs is right. Wecreating special memories maximizing limited resources. Al-have plenty of work to do on thisways remember Charles Darwins never-ending journey. and amazing experiences forlesson and adapt to the changing environment. PVA members per-Relentlessly build our guests. To do so, we need sonify this entrepreneurial spirit your farm team. a hospitality-oriented cultureand instinctively understand the AfterWWII,companiesfilledscrappiness needed.positions internally 90 percent ofthat everyone joins.the time; today they consistentlySales and marketing will cause lookexternallyfornewtalent.90 percent of your stress. Hiring from the outside is a crap- Strong revenue is like altitude in shoot; we have a specialized business and newbies want to change oura plane: with it you have options, without it the puckering starts. This business practices. Relentlessly promoting from within gives your teamtakes a disciplined sales team, working hand-in-hand with marketing a future while creating dynamic, ambidextrous teams. Dont hire some- and your operations crew. Focus the sales team only on sales and relieve one unless you can envision them a level or two above that position. Wethem of other duties. And remember, a good salesperson will take 10 have hundreds of examples of former front-line crew operating at theyears off your life! PHOTO: IGOR DERNOVOY/UNSPLASHvery pinnacle of the organization, including several PVA presidents that Ive seen rise through the ranks. Your hourly and seasonal crew are yourPositive word of mouth is your best marketing. farm team for the future seasons. Invest in them, make them supervi- Increase your customer satisfaction scores to ensure repeat business sors the next season, help some get their license, and watch them thrive!and effusive word of mouth. Fix dissatisfaction issues immediately and systemically. Yelp, Trip Advisor, and other social media ratings are as Focus on your key metrics. serious as a heart attack. By the way, the next best marketing referral is When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it insaw the ship, so make sure your location is primo.15 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2023'