Resilient Knysna builder says teamwork is the key to success

Like everybody else Vision Yachts co-director James Turner has watched 2020 storm over the horizon like an intergalactic horror show.

However rather than batten down the hatches the Knysna builder is using the rupture in the global economy to his advantage – by entrenching a new workplace roster and building staff morale.  “We have been very proactive (in response to Covid-19), even before lockdown,” Turner tells SABBEX. “We spend a lot of time investing in staff, and we’ve been lucky enough to keep them on full pay during lockdown.”

Adjustments to work schedules, required in terms of Covid-19 safety protocols, have prompted a move away from ‘conventional’ working hours. The ‘shift work’ approach allows staff time off with their families; they work either from 7am to 3pm or 11am to 7pm, an adjustment that has found favour among the workface. “The dual shift…is about adding quality of life,” Turner explains. “It’s about quality time with one’s family in the morning or afternoon. The big benefit will be in summer.”

The new work roster is one example of what Turner calls “finding a positive out of a negative”, a habit he learned the hard way by surviving hard knocks in his own career. He has also learned the value of building a close-knit team by investing in education and training. He says Covid-19 has underscored the importance of having motivated staff who buy in to the business strategy and vision. “We’re more of a family team than a team – we have a very good trust relationship, and I don’t dictate to them,” says Turner, who makes a point of getting involved in physical chores on the factory floor.

As much as Turner promotes a team approach, he also encourages staff to invest in their individual careers to get ahead: “We push self-investment really hard; I say to staff, you are not here for me, you need to invest in yourself, whether you stay with me or not,” he said. “It made a big difference, having that attitude and then going into Covid.”

During lockdown Turner has also ensured his staff receive the necessary assistance to reduce the risk of infection, both in the factory where they receive ongoing training, and at home in the form of sanitation packs.

Innovative management is matched by innovative design at Vision Yachts; the company is surging ahead with a new E-series catamaran buoyed by surging interest in green technology. Says Turner:  ‘“I believe it is the future – 50% of my enquiries are now (about) electric because we have been promoting it.”

“The stuff that they are developing around solar technology will blow our minds. They are even testing special flexible solar panels that go onto the main sail,” he says.

“I did an electric hybrid about seven years ago, but it was too early. Now the technology is there.”

“There is a lot going on. It is exciting,” Turner concludes.

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