CEO Corner: Learning All About That Boat Life With Fraser Yachts CEO Raphael Sauleau

Raphael SauleauPhoto Credit: Fraser Yachts

For our latest CEO Corner feature, where Haute Living goes one-on-one with the world’s top CEOs, we’ve featured Raphael Sauleau, the CEO of Fraser Yachts, a world-leader in yacht chartering, brokerage, yacht marketing, yacht management and new builds. With over 25 years in the private wealth and maritime sectors, Raphael has a well-earned reputation for delivering results through skilled people and operations management.

Born in Angers in France’s Loire Valley and a skilled footballer from an early age, Raphael considered a professional career in the sport before opting to study hospitality and tourism in Nice, France and London, England. As an entrepreneur he ran several businesses before the cruise line industry enticed him to sea where he completed several world cruises and met his future wife. Moving back on land, he embarked on what was to become a 15-year stint working for the world’s largest maritime services provider, V-Ships. As Director of Crew Operations, he was responsible for no less than 60 shore staff and up to 8,000 crew across the group’s cargo, offshore, cruise, yachting, hotel and resort portfolios. A rare opportunity to deploy his skills and experience for the benefit of a renowned UHNWI saw him leave V-Ships in 2013 to act as CEO for a Monaco-based Family Office managing leading luxury assets such as the Parkview Private Collection in St Tropez, Monaco, London and Beijing and yachts including the 69m (226′) M/Y SALUZI.

In 2016, Fraser’s search for a CEO with UHNW expertise and an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach to luxury yachting came to a successful conclusion when Raphael became only it’s 5th CEO in a history spanning more than 70 years. Since then Raphael has not only ensured Fraser continues to buy and sell more luxury yachts for clients every year than any other provider, he has also overseen the exponential growth of its Yacht Management fleet to almost 100 yachts, the opening of five new offices (Hong Kong, Phuket, TCN Palma and Barcelona), an increase in its skilled workforce of over 13%, and most recently, the successful purchase from longstanding owners, Azimut/Benetti, by the world’s most successful pleasure boat dealer, the American-based MarineMax.

A firm believer in the value of working together as an industry to better serve clients, Raphael is actively involved with two of the most influential associations in luxury yachting today – LYBRA (Large Yacht Brokers Association) for which he is currently President, and MYBA (Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association) as Head of the Communications Committee.

Raphael SauleauPhoto Credit: Fraser Yachts

What do you feel is the secret to your success?

Without sounding too predictable, I would definitely state hard work and belief. Nothing in my childhood nor education predestined me to become CEO of one of the leading yachting companies in the world. However, I have been fortunate to work at sea for many years in different capacities, traveling the 7 seven seas influenced my life, I also came close to true luxury whilst traveling and decided that it would be a world I wanted to grow within. Climbing the professional ladder within several companies applying principals such as hard work, respect of myself and others, teamwork, believing in myself and never taking no for an answer got me where I am today.

What is your number one business “do”?

Do respect everyone. Team members, associates and clients alike.

What is your number one business “don’t?”

Don’t take anything for granted.

How does one become a CEO? What was your path like?

I takes a lots of hard work, discipline but also the capacity to seize opportunities when they arise. I was fortunate enough to seize life changing opportunities that changed my career path. With the support of my family, especially my wife, we took decisions which were certainly risky at first sight and away from my comfort zone, but these revealed themselves to be the right choices. One needs to remember – always study the opportunities and analyze them properly but the train hardly passes twice in a professional life so be sure and not afraid to step on the right one. It will change your life.

What major moment in your career (business-wise) are you proudest of and why?

I do have a few milestones in my career starting with the day I decided to leave a comfortable life at a young age to discover the world. It took some courage at the time, but opened up so many opportunities. After cruising the World and meeting my future wife – I then stepped ashore to start from scratch on a very low income. A strong decision which allowed me to learn the corporate non scholar principals, finance and business ethics. These have been helping me all along. Years passing by – I climbed up the corporate ladder and reached a managerial position at the age of 30 with hundreds of employees under my team’s management. Then an Asian tycoon offered me my first CEO position to open and manage his family office and assets. This was a real accelerator in my professional development and yet a real eye opener on the UHNWI world. Of course, joining Fraser was another milestone and an opportunity to grow and develop a business in a very competitive environment, however still a relatively young industry growing at a fast pace. Exciting and motivating challenges within and outside our company.

How do you keep Fraser evolving?

Trying to stay ahead of the game without jeopardizing our company’s heritage (over 75 years in the business) and its’s strong business principles and ethics. It can be challenging however with the support of my management team, extraordinary staff members and associates, we exchange a lot and analyze the new and future trends including generational shifts, technology and others, to be at the forefront of the pack. Not only must we remain visible to the marketplace, but moreover ensure that we adapt when necessary, so that our existing clientele remains engaged and we also attract new customers. The pandemic together with the overall wealth growth have had a real impact on our industry, Fraser welcomed over 40% of new customers last year. We are definitely doing something right but the competition is tough and keeps us on our toes.

Raphael SauleauPhoto Credit: Fraser Yachts

What do you do when something doesn’t succeed?

We go back to its roots and analyze the possible reason for its failure. It is a team review and discussion – we however give it a chance to succeed but are not stubborn to carry on if all lights are red.

What new launches can you speak to?

We are investing in our IT and digital structure by launching a new CRM as well as developing a new web site. This comes in addition of many investments in Tech marketing. However, I still believe in the touch and feel elements, so we also kept and launched several printed materials. Last but not least, with the support of our shareholders, we are looking at possible acquisitions to ease and speed up our current strong organic growth.

What tips do you have for burgeoning business owners?

  • Important to keep or create your brand personality and develop a strategic business plan, organizational structure, and operational support systems.
  • Become connected to the community and put your employees first. It is key to analyze your competitors and protect your cash flow.
  • Last but not least, know what you stand for.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

Time, because it goes fast and cannot be bought.