Enquire

Team Talk - Interview with Holly Bottau

A STORY IN MOTION

Holly Bottau, Managing Director of Y.CO, says the superyacht industry is continually evolving. But the biggest change, she says, has been the shift in emphasis from the asset itself to the people that bring that asset to life, and the extraordinary experiences that are enabled by it.

Holly Bottau, who joined Y.CO a year after its official founding in 2004, grew up with the company. And she has helped the company to grow. It’s a time-honoured relationship that began when Holly was a fresh-faced graduate living in the Côte d'Azur and working her first post-uni job at Sunseeker. By chance, she saw an ad on angloinfo.com for a PA position at a new yacht management company, in Monaco. And when Charlie and Gary appeared to interview her wearing T-shirts and sunglasses, and seemed more interested in who she really was than what her CV looked like, she instinctively felt it was the right job for her.

There was something about the two founders – their warmth, energy and ideas, not to mention their office next to the Monaco Automobile Club, right on the Grand Prix track – that felt full of promise. Charlie and Gary wanted to shake up the industry. That much was clear. And Holly hoped she might be able to help them. She didn’t know then that 20 years later she’d be working for the same two founders, now in a much bigger office, and helping to lead a team of well over 100 people in the position of Managing Director.

Of course, in that time, Holly has learned a lot, grown a lot, and seen both Y.CO and the wider superyacht industry evolve a lot, too. But the one thing that she’s felt since she first saw that job ad is that Y.CO is a company that stands for progress. Progress for its employees. Progress for its industry. And she now knows that that will never change. Here, Holly shares a little bit about her experience at the company, her experiences of a changing industry, and what’s kept her in the Y.CO family for so long.

It all began in 2005, when I got the job as Charlie and Gary’s joint PA. My experience of yachting was limited at that point to a first post-graduate job at Sunseeker, but Charlie and Gary made sure I was exposed to different aspects of the business very quickly. Soon, I started working for Gary as his Executive PA, looking at broader business interests and given my own ad-hoc client projects to run with. In 2014, when the business was growing significantly, I was promoted to Chief Strategy Officer, and then to Managing Director in 2017. I didn’t really see that last promotion coming, if I’m honest. But it’s typical of Charlie and Gary to push people out of their comfort zone. Some might call it being thrown in at the deep end. But in fact it’s about allowing people continual opportunity. And if at first you don’t know how to do something, you work it out pretty quickly!

Over the last two decades, we’ve grown from a fledgling start-up to one of the most established names in the yachting industry. But while we’ve formalised some of Charlie and Gary’s founding visions into deliberate company strategy, we’re still that same company we were in 2003, at heart. Down to earth. Collaborative. Responsive. Creative. A company that combines a strong work ethic with a definite sense of fun. A company that can throw the beach party of your life one day and be up at dawn to achieve the impossible the next. And that knows, ultimately, that relationships with each other, our clients and our wider partners count for everything.

The highest point of my career? There have been too many to mention. Definitely some of the best times though have been winning new clients when you’re up against so much competition. We dig so deep as a team, putting not just time but our everything into it. And the moment that new relationship begins is always hugely rewarding.

“Opportunity is everywhere at Y.CO. Luckily we tend to attract the type of people who want to really go for it. And that’s why we now have an incredible richness and diversity of expertise in-house.”

Sometimes, though, the quieter moments can be just as rewarding. The ones when you’re just watching your colleagues going about their day, and you reflect on how much they’ve grown as people since they started at the company, how much responsibility they’ve taken on, how much they’ve achieved.Opportunity is everywhere at Y.CO. Luckily we tend to attract the type of people who want to really go for it. And that’s why we now have an incredible richness and diversity of expertise in-house.

At Y.CO, our values aren’t just words. They’re things we live and do. Every day we’re working for causes we care about, demonstrating respect for the people we work with, and taking accountability for everything we do. As a company, we take accountability for each other’s wellbeing. Accountability for the communities we interact with. Accountability for our environmental impact. And accountability for leaving our industry in a better place than we found it. Our partnership with Yacht Aid Global is a good example of this, enabling Y.CO team members to work on the ground providing aid in the areas that need it most, as is our work with pioneering owners to use yachts as floating research vessels, platforms for scientific exploration, or opportunities for social cohesion. Members of our team have also trekked across polar regions and soon will row across the Atlantic to raise money for causes close to our heart.

There’s a lot of talk about sustainability in yachting. There has to be. But to us sustainability means more than simply offsetting carbon emissions. For us, sustainability is about the future. About respect for each other, and the planet. Aboutsupporting people in remote destinations that we’re privileged to have access to, and understanding what teams and crew members need from the places they live and work. It’s even about compatible hiring, and maintaining an environment that nurtures and empowers that employee through the long term. And it’s of course about helping to minimise the industry’s footprint in whatever ways we can – from helping to research plastic pollution in our oceans, to supporting pioneering new energy programs in the destinations we sail to, to helping our fleet measure, understand and improve their operational efficiency.

“For us, sustainability is about the future. About respect for each other, and the planet. About supporting people in remote destinations that we’re privileged to have access to, and understanding what teams and crew members need from the places they live and work.”

How has the industry changed in the two decades I’ve worked within it? A million and one ways. But perhaps one of the most significant is it has become less about the asset itself, and more about the people that bring that asset to life. The values that those people put into practice. And the life-defining experiences they help to create. It’s now pretty much universally recognised that there’s no ‘super’ in superyacht without a motivated, inspired and responsible crew. Owners have become increasingly altruistic, using their yachts for greater purpose. And inclusive hiring practices have meant that the yachting industry is no longer the male-dominated, socially confined world that it used to be. There are some extraordinary women working as shipside engineers and captains, now, and many brilliant people have progressed through the industry that might not have had the opportunity to otherwise.

What about the future? We’re excited about it. And we’re busily working out how to help build a future for yachting with a net positive impact. And every yachting company, every employee, every client, every supplier, every crew member, has an important role to play. Mostly, we believe in continuing to all work together to create something to be proud of for the next generation. And of course, still having plenty of fun in the process.

It’s now pretty much universally recognised that there’s no ‘super’ in superyacht without a motivated, inspired and happy crew.”