Richard and Donna Morris featured in Ocean Magazine Industry Profile
Richard and Donna Morris are both superyacht industry leaders in their own right, with combined industry experience that spans more than 40 years. Now they’re bringing that together in a “one stop superyacht shop” on Sydney Harbour’s Jones Bay Wharf housing their two businesses under the one roof.
“As far as I’m concerned, Sydney Harbour is one great, big superyacht marina,” Richard says. “It’s home for us. I love driving over the harbour bridge every morning.” And it’s from here that their two businesses, Richard fronting Australian Superyachts and Donna, Superyacht Crew International, have flourished, with the next step already underway – joining them together under one roof in the ultimate superyacht one stop shop.
It hasn’t happened overnight however – together they bring over 40 years of experience in the industry, and it’s out on the water, Richard as a superyacht captain and Donna as a chief stewardess, where they first met.
A Master Mariner, Richard has been in the merchant navy, cruised the world as a superyacht captain of yachts as large as the 96-metre Vava II, and was one of the youngest ever superyacht captains, given command at just 27 years of age.
As a husband and wife team they travelled the world, eventually settling back in Sydney after seven years at sea. So the concept of working together is certainly not new to them.
Donna says her superyacht crew business has grown steadily along with the industry since she started in 2009. Superyacht Crew International is a dedicated crew training and recruitment company placing staff locally and throughout the world.
Richard’s Australian Superyachts has until now been run from the Sydney Superyacht Marina in which he was significantly involved in the build process for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The service and technical side of the business stays there “and will always be there,” says Richard, whilst his administration has moved to new offices at Jones Bay Wharf in neighbouring Pyrmont.
So why bring the businesses under the one roof?
“We needed more space,” says Richard. “Now, if anyone comes through that door, be it a yacht owner, a captain, anyone, they have come to the right place because they don’t need to go anywhere else as far as superyachts in Australia are concerned.”
That right place is packed with cutting-edge technology to aid the superyacht service experience. Australian Superyachts handle everything from yacht sales, purchase, Australian commercial survey upgrades, importation and maintenance, to charter management, crew, catering, technical and new builds supervision.
“We are creating an office of world-class technology,” Richard says, and that also assists ease of communication with their office in Dubai for Gulf Craft, of which Richard is the exclusive Australian agent.
It appears the very design of the new office is made to encourage “cross pollination,” as Richard puts it, between all the different offerings of the two “super” businesses.
“We have a service for every component. We believe we have no competitor who competes with us in the “one stop shop” concept but we do of course have competitors in each specialisation, such as charter agents or brokers,” he says. “But none of them really do it all, or with the experienced staff that we do,” says Richard.
A strong team is clearly an integral part of the Morris model. In Donna’s case, it’s about finding the right crew members for the right boats. “It’s long term,” she says. “They want to see the same people again, the same crew.”
Richard has also built a strong foundation of experienced staff for Australian Superyachts with major investment in a diverse team that combines more than 100 years of yachting experience.
Richard and Donna’s model is not new they say, but it works, and has been very successful in Europe. The concept is aimed to smooth out the entire process for yacht owners from beginning to end, with the expertise to take them full circle.
“It’s about a connection with our clients, we’ll take them to the next level if that is where they want to go,” says Richard. “We know that we are improving their experience, and they get to like their yacht again!”
“Clients pay us to worry about their boat, so they are not going to,” Richard continues. “I’m a worrier. And then there’s my general manager Sean Anker, he’s another worrier. I’ve got about four or five worriers. But guess who’s not worrying? The owner,” he adds.
“It’s so appealing to take the worry away,” adds Donna. And that is being combined with their passion to do a top job and make their clients happy – “and that’s the difference,” adds Richard. “We don’t think of it as a job. We love it. We love helping people, making it work and we enjoy every moment.”
Donna Morris’ Superyacht Crew International was awarded the Australian Superyacht Industry Awards Business of the Year Service Provider last year. She says that good service spreads good words, and it’s mostly ‘word of mouth’ that brings in new clients.
“I’m the type of person who repeats what works and discontinues what doesn’t,” Donna says. “I really listen to feedback.”
“People want to be listened to, they don’t want their time wasted. It’s amazing how many referrals there are, it’s the best type of business.”
Donna has gone one step further in her super service offering with the addition of another branch to her business called Elite Domestic Staff. This division places experienced superyacht staff into the homes of wealthy individuals, some yacht owners themselves, and this provides a transition for senior crew into what Donna calls “their post-yachting career.”
“I’ve had clients come to me and say they want the quality of staff in their home that they have enjoyed on their yacht. So it was a natural follow on. I’ve even had people come here from overseas who are renting homes here in Sydney for a month or two and they’re looking for a chef, three stewards and a nanny.
“They want the same type of person. And generally – and we are very pleased to see – they want the superyacht stewardess, because they consider them the best.”
Richard is a leader in understanding the importance and complexities of commercial survey requirements for superyachts. He says he has an affinity with the MCA Large Yacht Code having worked as build captain on the first superyacht ever built to that standard – the 50-metre Tigre D’Or from the regarded Amels yard. It’s the same reason he is the exclusive agent for Gulf Craft in Australia. They build top of the range yachts to strict standards, which Richard says “are all about safety.”
It’s that kind of advice and experience that could save owners a lot of time and money because they may one day like to run their yacht as a charter vessel, in which case it has to be built to strict survey standards.
Keeping up with all this while working as a husband and wife team?
It’s something most couldn’t do. “But we learnt well at sea on superyachts. Twenty four hours, seven days a week in the same cabin for seven years,” they both say, “that is more like 10 years for most people. And that’s through the rough weather, the charters, the hard work and the home sickness,” Richard says. So, working over the water on Jones Bay Wharf is a relative breeze in comparison!