Super yachts have become the ultimate symbol of wealth.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is reported to have spent $500 million on his yacht, which combines privacy and luxury.
Somebody who knows more about super yachts than most is Craig Hopwood, CFO of Voly. The software company was created in 2016 after identifying a specific gap in the global super yacht market.
Voly is the only real-time multi-currency accounting software with a fully integrated prepaid Mastercard and FX payment platform designed specifically for the yachting industry.
Based at Cheadle Royal Business Park, it was founded by former professional tennis player Ian Flanagan, who famously beat Mark Philippoussis in the Stella Artois Championship at Queen’s Club before injury forced him into business.
Voly’s turnover has doubled every year for the last three years and Hopwood compares the role of a captain on a super yacht to being the CEO of a small business.
The company has produced an app to give its customers live visibility – and the amount of data that people want is growing all the time.
“Technology has been fundamental to Voly, both in terms of initially breaking into the market and then expanding our offering,” Hopwood says.
“Our in-house developed software product addressed a significant gap in the market [as] existing products were generally spreadsheet or paper-based.
“We developed our software to be able to be both real-time and multi-currency, using either a laptop, tablet or phone app and it could be used both on- and off-line. This was effectively a game-changer in the market and established Voly despite us being a small startup.
“Technology remains key to the business and around half of our team work in software development. It is a core competency and we prefer to keep the skill set and experience in-house whilst also out-sourcing niche areas of work such as graphics.”
Hopwood has a number of rules for growth.
“Have a clear business plan and set of financial forecasts to keep you on track and continually manage this,” he says.
“Make sure you are generating the right data and KPIs to be able to make the right decisions at the right time.
“Cash is more important than sales and profit in the short term. That’s where things usually go wrong: have a back-up plan.”
Hopwood says hiring the best people is crucial.
“Be clear early on about your goals and objectives,” he says. “ How will you grow? Who will help fund you? How and when will you exit?
“Hire the best people you can, quality rather than quantity – and good salespeople are priceless.”