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“Don’t spit in the water”: Kateryna Kyslyak on forging success as a charter broker

“Don’t spit in the water”: Kateryna Kyslyak on forging success as a charter broker

By Georgia Tindale

In the latest in our ‘ship to shore’ articles, we meet the Ukrainian-born charter broker Kateryna Kyslyak. A former crew member, and now working as a Senior Charter Broker at Contact Yachts, in Turkey, we discover how Kateryna made the transition from crew to shoreside, how much you can really make as a charter broker in 2022, what to do about challenging clients, and her top tips for getting ahead in this highly competitive field. 

How did you first find your way into yachting? 

I initially worked as a hostess on board a gulet in Turkey. I didn’t have any experience in service at the time, but they hired me because of my personality. I think the owners also wanted someone who could actually speak to clients, as it happens on many gulets in Turkey that crew members don’t always speak English. 

For some owners it’s okay, for some it’s not. And not speaking English can obviously be an issue for high-profile clients. I then went off to media school in Kyiv and worked as a journalist for five years, which I loved, before feeling that it was time to move on. I wanted to live abroad, specifically in Turkey, and do something different.

I started off as an assistant for Cam Boz, the owner of Contact Yachts in Turkey after I reached out to him via email, helping him with interviewing crew, inspecting yachts, visiting charter shows and so on. Over the years, in this way, I gained client experience and became a professional broker in my own right. 

What was the hardest element of entering charter brokerage? 

The most challenging part was managing the level of responsibility. Some people who are very new to the business see it and say: “Oh your job looks amazing, I would love to do it!”, but they don’t realise how many different things you are responsible for. It’s not just finding the yacht and creating an itinerary, or talking to the captain, no, you’re responsible for every second of people’s vacation - and I believe that vacation is one of the most precious experiences in life. People are looking forward to it while they are working and feeling stressed and are trusting you with it. 

Talk me through what a charter broker does day to day

There is so much to the role: it’s certainly not just sending clients beautiful pictures of destinations and yachts. It’s about knowing the contracts, knowing their rights inside out, understanding how to work with crew, managing expenses during the charter and so on and so forth. You are the link with the client to so many different elements and you have to know it all inside out. There is no option to just turn off your phone and say: “Okay, I am not available now.” You have to love this job and really care about doing it well. 

How do you navigate difficult clients? 

Being frank, when it comes down to it, being a successful charter broker is all about creating and maintaining that human connection. I’m not called the ‘Mother of Yachts’ for nothing! You have to understand people and ultimately care about people. It doesn’t matter if some personalities are difficult to work with - they are people at the end of it all. I could also be a difficult client in certain circumstances I am sure, but as the broker, you have to care and make it work. 

How much can you earn as a charter broker?

It really depends. Some charter brokers just work on commission and don’t have a stable salary, but salaries can range from 1500-5000 euros per month, so it is incredibly variable depending on the company. You also can receive a percentage from the charter commission, but it is so different depending on which company you are working for, how the client came to you, whether it is your direct client or they approached the company, or your company brought them to you. 

It sounds like these numbers could potentially get quite big. Can it get quite competitive within brokerage, and does this competition ever turn nasty?

I have never encountered anything negative with other brokers. I like to believe that my piece of pie should stay with me, and equally, I am not going to go and steal someone else’s client. One of the most important things in our industry, and in human relationships in general, is maintaining good ethics and trying your best to be and act human with each other. In Ukrainian we say, “Don’t spit in your water source, because one day you might need to drink from it.” 

Finally, your top tips for success as a broker? 

It is said a lot, but it really is true: a lot of it does come down to both working hard and working smart. When something isn’t working, you have to be willing to stop and analyse what you are doing. If it doesn’t make sense, you need to be willing to admit this and then try other methods of achieving your goal. I have to say, I do like that about myself: I never stick to one way of doing something and I think that has led to my success as a broker. You can get the opportunities, but it is hard work that will bring you to success sooner or later. 

To find out more about the exciting range of roles offered within the yachting industry, visit our Yotspot jobs listings here.