Close to bankruptcy just a few years ago, Ferretti Group is riding the crest of a new period of commercial energy (think 34 new model launches from the various brands in its fold, which include Riva, Pershing, Ferretti Yachts, CRN and Custom Line). So how, from such perilous waters, did it become one of the world’s most buoyant yacht builders? How does the group stay ahead of the curve? We asked the man at the helm, who joined the company in 2014 and was tasked with turning things around – a task he’s achieved with impressive aplomb…
Ferretti’s business fortunes have taken a massive upturn – what would you put this down to?
People. Women and men. Companies are made of people and products: new people, young people, a lot of women now in key positions in which they’re very good, and the line of command is very short. We make mistakes, like others, but we are pretty quick at reacting to them and fixing them. It’s not a complicated company, it’s not a political company, anyone has a chance to grow there and improve in their position. The secret is that we are quick, we – or they – are young, are driven by an enormous passion. You can’t do this job without passion, and all of our team is totally passionate.
How has the digital revolution changed yacht design?Completely. We have 3D design Computer Aided Design, Computational fluid dynamics [ensuring greater efficiency], we are investing a fortune into the design. Everything is quicker and the data is more reliable. We’re Number One in digital not only with R&D but in terms of being on Instagram and other digital social platforms. We believe in digital a lot. I might be from the 60s, but the company is most definitely digital.
How are luxury tastes and demands changing, in a broad sense?
To answer that we need to divide the world. What they think of as luxury in Europe is not what they think of in China for instance. But I’d say it’s definitely getting a little bit less flashy: big luxury is maybe a little bit more about sharing moments of joy – such as time on the boat. Spending time with the people you like, far away from the crowds and everyday problems. Luxury now could be wearing shorts and t-shirt for one week and being in the middle of nowhere. It is not all about being seen or showing off [any more].
Does that philosophy affect your R&D?
No, it drives it. We have to be quick – I keep saying that in today’s world, it is not the big fish eating the small fish, it is the fast one that eats the slow one. The world is going in that direction – you have to be quick. It is different in China than it is in America – but be quick to the needs of the customer no matter who or where they are. And you can’t ignore trends – whether that’s having more silence, more privacy or more space for parties then you have to follow the trend. We have to please our owners and they’re different to those of the 70s, 80s or 90s, and the owners of 2020 will be different again. When millennials are potentially owning boats, they will be completely different boats to those of their fathers. It’s a moving target and it moves very fast. Same in all the car industry, the watch industry – you have to be very flexible.
There seems, in yachting, to be an erosion of the barriers between a boats’ indoors and its outdoors: do people want their yachts to be more of a social hub now than before?
There is a big focus on it being a social hub. At the end of the day, the place an owner spends the least of their time is the master cabin, no matter how big it is. The owner stays on the decks. You wake up, brush your teeth, go and have a coffee, then it’s lunch on the deck then an aperitif on the deck, then party on the deck. It’s extremely important that they become more and more social.
Who inspires you as a businessman?
Warren Buffet. I met him and found him extremely wise. Also Enzo Ferrari because he started his company at the age of 50 and never gave up. When I think of myself at 53, and I feel I’m at the limit of my physical capabilities, It think of him, get dressed and get on with it. A good friend of mine is Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana – very wise, very sharp, and he sees things before things happen. He has vision – it’s a gift. So those three guys, all very different to each other… If there is a god, we should pray for a mixture of these three men.
Where do you get your best creative ideas?
Everywhere. From contemporary art, from architecture, from furniture; inspiration might be driven by the automotive business, or a plane, an image of these things – we are inspired by everything, and then we go to the designers who say “You have to do this, this and this. Sometimes the best ideas seem impossible at first. I like contamination between different styles and different thoughts.
Where do you see yachting tastes going in perhaps 10 years’ time?
Tastes will be different, boats will be different. I see more displacement yachts; I see more comfort, more space, more open spaces, perhaps hybrid propulsion. I don’t believe electric [will play a major role] in this business. All we know is, it will be very, very different.