CEOs tap executive-search firms to help fill their senior ranks, since they have insight into professionals not always immediately identifiable. Furthermore, many businesses arrange mentors to work with rising stars. So why doesn’t anybody do this in yachting, especially to identify and support captains? Malcolm Jacotine and Brendan O’Shannassy asked those same questions, and answered them by creating OnlyCaptains.
Jacotine and O’Shannassy (below, left and right) are captains themselves. They have collective experience exceeding 60 years in yachting and other maritime sectors, too. More to the point, while running megayachts, they helped recruit and mentor fellow captains and crew.
OnlyCaptains embraces executive-search techniques due to Jacotine’s personal experience with it. While he was working for a computer-services company, a headhunter approached him. While ultimately he stayed put, Jacotine never forgot it. In fact, he felt the same approach would work in yachting, particularly given the significance of the captain’s duties.
O’Shannassy’s personal experience with mentoring weighs heavily in OnlyCaptains, too. While serving as a marine pilot, he received mentoring as standard procedure. “Whilst my mentoring was focused on ship handling, I found the learning extended far beyond the bridge,” he explains, in a blog post on the OnlyCaptains website. “Weaving the lessons into my wider Captaincy responsibilities also improved my performance, enjoyment, and efficiency.” Furthermore, he says:
Often, Captains, are just expected to ‘get on and do the job.’ We have the ‘ticket’ after all; shouldn’t that be enough? However, the reality is that whatever the perceived experience level, we cannot know everything, and it is a dangerous Captain who thinks he does. We are learning all the time and regularly encounter situations never faced before, where the decision making could benefit from confidential counsel with someone who has ‘lived’ experience and can add value to the decision making process and personal development.
OnlyCaptains’ commitment to our mentoring role was created in response to my experience and that of my fellow Captains who, when I spoke of my journey, asked ‘”how do we access a mentor?” We provide an answer by making sure command is not a solo affair by providing our Captains with support and mentoring that can help them grow and develop their skills as Captains and leaders.
Therefore, as consultants retained by owners or their representatives for a minimum of a year, OnlyCaptains provides multiple services. First, it researches captains who tick the right boxes for the clients’ specific needs. “We are not recruiters searching CVs—we actively identify and target known Captains for the roles we are briefed on,” Jacotine explains. Additionally, the team uses psychometric tests tailored for captains and senior officers, to evaluate their work-skills style, problem-solving skills, and stress-coping skills, among others. Finally, OnlyCaptains can evaluate senior officers stepping up to the captains’ role for the first time. Simultaneously, OnlyCaptains can assist captains taking command of larger-tonnage vessels. Furthermore, the team can provide personalized training and mentoring.
The bottom line: Finding the right hire is only the beginning. “Yachts have increased in value, size, and complexity over the past decade, as have the expectations and responsibilities placed on captains,” O’Shannassy says.
Jacotine adds, “We remain personally invested with our captains and clients through support and mentoring to ensure that this most important relationship maintains good health and flourishes.”