How did 5 Star Marine Phuket Start
By February 13, 2023 5 Star Marine News Comments Off

How did 5 Star Marine Phuket Start

How did 5 Star Marine Phuket Start

Last updated on February 13, 2023 By

The Story of 5 Star Marine Phuket

I arrived in Thailand about fifteen years ago for a holiday. I was in a transitional phase of my life looking for a bit of a change, so it was either going to be at the Gold Coast or somewhere else in Australia. But when I got here to Phuket, I fell in love with Layan beach.

After I decided to stay here in Phuket, I started to go on some private boat tours, and I discovered that they weren’t what I was expecting. They were following the same route, as all the group tours I went on, and the only difference was that it was a boat with just us on it. So, I thought there was a gap in the market.

There were expensive yachts or group tours. So, I wanted to create something that was in the middle, something that wasn’t a group, something that wasn’t a yacht, but we provide yacht-like service, and that’s when we created 5 Star Marine.

Through this entire process, I managed to get married to a Thai lady, named Lisa, and she taught me so much about the tourism business in fact, her family’s been in tourism for three generations. Then we were lucky enough to have our son Lucus. Everyone tells you that when you have a child, your whole world changes, and those of us who have never had children before, don’t believe it, they say ‘No, nothing’s going to change, everything’s the same as normal’, but the very first time that I ever met Lucus my whole world changed, everything that I had planned for in my life immediately was ripped up, thrown away.  From that day forward, I decided I wanted to create a legacy for my son, something that as he grew older, he could have the choice of what he wanted to do with it, he could keep it, he could sell it, he could manage it, he could operate it, he could be somebody who owned it. And that’s why we put a huge investment behind 5 Star Marine, in both time energy, and money. And this has been the driving force for me at 5 Star Marine, I wanted to create something for my family, and I wanted to create an experience here in Phuket, that was all about the customer.

When I went on private tours before, the captains were always worried about fuel, they’re always worried about what time the boat needed to come back, they always worried about what time they need to be there for lunch. I wanted to break out of these concepts and say the only thing we ever worry about is the customer, is the customer happy? are they having an experience that they can remember? and they’re going to come back? and are they going to go home and tell everyone about this amazing 5 Star Marine experience that they had? That’s exactly what I’ve been focusing on, we threw out the concept of how much fuel to use with we threw out the concept of following a plan and we said to turn up to the pier our guide will take you exactly where you want to go and recommend some places that you’ve never heard of before, and that’s exactly what the 5 Star Marine experiences are.

5 Star Marine is a family business

We have built 5 Star Marine as a family business, I don’t know how many staff we are now, almost a hundred staff, but we have managed to keep that family feel because we wanted to invest, invest in what is the most important part of a team which is “The Team”. That’s the most important part of our company, and so we invest in them, we spend time with them, and we train them, but we do more than that, we care for them, they are our family. We have family dinners, we have staff parties, we have training events and everything that’s going on in our staff lives we want to know about, so we can help them to go on to the next level.

My goal in this business is not for me to be the leader, I want to build leaders in my business, Thai leaders, male leaders, and female leaders and I want them to step up and I want them to show them that there’s a new way that you can run a business in Thailand, that is customer centric focused, that is all about the experience. Our tagline is “Experiences the 5 Star Marine difference” and the reason is that 5 Star Marine is all about the experience.

Our team takes care of you all the time, they will be in the water with you pointing out the different coral, pointing out the fish, serving you fresh fruit, whatever you want, whatever you need, we have requests from honeymoons to proposals, to 50th wedding anniversaries, to 40th birthdays, we have post-wedding parties, you name it we have done it. We want you to go back with an experience that you’re never going to forget, that’s what to me is the goal of 5 Star Marine.

Why is it called 5 Star Marine?

When we were building 5 Star Marine, we were thinking about what should we call this entity, this company, and this experience. And everyone asked me, is there a big story behind it? It just naturally seemed that we wanted to make this big brand promise, we wanted to say to you when you come with this company, everything we do is about servicing you and making this the best experience. And the only way to do that was to make this big brand promise, which is 5 Star Marine. I say to my staff every day they wake up, today you wake up as 5 Star Marine, that means everything that you do today from the moment you wake up until the moment you go back to bed needs to be reflective of the name, we can’t be late ten minutes, we can’t forget to put something on the boat, we can’t skip a stop, we can’t miss lunch, this is what 5 Star Marine is, everything has to be at that level. In hindsight, it was the worst decision I made in my life because it puts pressure on us every day to wake up and act in this way, but with that said the great thing is that customers are constantly feeding back to us that this is the perfect name for our company in fact some people are saying we should change it to six or seven Star Marine, which is an amazing idea, but from my end, I would prefer to change it to 4 Star Marine because then I think someday I could wake up a little a bit later or sleep in or miss an appointment, but you know that’s not what we are.

There is this concept in Thailand that service is not as good as it should be, there is the expression that we are on “Island Time”, our business is all designed to not ever be on Island Time. If your schedule is to be picked up at 8:30, the driver has to be there 8:15. Even this morning, I was texting customers that their drivers were there and customers texted me back “You’re forty-five minutes early”, and I’m like, I would rather be early than be late, and that’s exactly what five-star service is all about, that’s what 5 Star Marine is, we want to be waiting for you, not you waiting for us, we want to be doing everything we can to make your experience exactly as you planned.

Why are all the boats called Lucus?

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When Lucus was born, it was the first night that we were in hospital, the nurse came to us and said to me we’d like to move Lucus from the room back down to where the new babies stay, and I looked at her in shock, it’s like I can’t imagine a day of my life without this boy. And so, I said no, I’ll take care of Lucus, and the Thai nurse seemed shocked, she’s like oh, but your wife has had a baby, are you sure she can do it? I understand that my wife has been through a very big experience and she’s recovering, but I can do this, I can take care of him, I’ve never done it before, but I felt this overwhelming sense of love for him. And for me, that’s when the whole world reset, it was all about how I build something that is for him and it made so much sense to me that I’m building this company for him. As he gets older, whether he keeps it, he sells it, or manages it, who knows! I don’t have any set expectations and I’ve said the same thing to him, you don’t have to follow me, but what I wanted to do was to create the opportunity for him to have a choice in his life, which was if he chose to come and work at 5 Star Marine, then he can do it, if he chose to sell 5 Star Marine, then he could do it, he can chose to sell 5 Star Marine and use the money to go and do something else in his life, he could do it.

And so, it made sense that I centered this whole concept every single day around these thoughts, and what better way to remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing every day than to have the entire fleet named after him? Where’s Lucus one today? where’s Lucus five today? whereas Lucus eleven today?, what’s Lucus six doing? and it creates these conversations at home as well where I’m talking to Lucus and I’m so, how’s your day, he was like oh I just want to know dad, where was the Lucus one captain today? What did the Lucus five boat boy do today? Where did Lucus eleven go? And he comes down to the pier and he has a sense of pride in that. This is his and he knows it, when the boat goes to water, the first customer on the boat is him, today he’s out on a boat fishing, he knows that this is something that is his, he is only ten I’m sure he doesn’t understand what that means right now, but I can imagine in ten years’ time that he’s going to have a sense of pride. So, naming the boats reminds me on a daily basis why I am doing what I am doing, and what is the end goal.

I listen to a lot of business mentoring podcasts and they say once you connect your passion and your purpose toward your financial goal, that everything becomes easy I think the same thing when I have to get up at four o’clock in the morning and check a message or an email or prepare a boat or reply or whatever it is I need to do, I don’t feel sad about it, because I’m like well I’m waking up and I’m preparing that customer to go onto Lucus six and I’m like that’s a reminder, an everyday reminder of why I’m building this company.

The 5 Star Marine Experience

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For us as a company, one of the cool things that we liked to think about is how we build this sense of team and a sense of pride and a sense of responsibility within our team. From our guides to our captains to our engineers to our mechanics to our admin team, all of them, realize that this company is different. It sounds weird and arrogant by saying are we better? I’m not saying we’re better, I’m saying that we’re different and we’re different in the essence of when you come here, you’ll see our team they’ll be talking and playing and having fun and if Lucus’s on the pier they’re kicking the football with him, they’re fishing with him, I say to Lucus when he’s having his birthdays, who do you want to invite your birthday party? and his answer always is the crew, I want them to come. So, every year, we do this big birthday party at the pier with food and toys and fun and whatever Lucus wants it to be, and we’ve never forgotten that even though our business has gone from 1 boat to now 15 boats we are still a family business, and this is centered around the concept of really caring for our staff, really caring for our customers, really caring for the experience that you have on board with us.

I built this entire company, with my wife Lisa selling the tours, and I would go on the boat and I would operate them, and not only that, if the boat broke down, I would fix it, fuel it, and I made fuel lines, I painted boats, I’ve done everything from the ground up. And you know, it’s like what Lucus’s path can be.

I said to him, at fifteen he can go and throw an anchor, at eighteen he can learn to fix an engine, at twenty-one he can drive a boat, that’s the path for him. I have this old-school mentality of, you have to work up the ladder and it’s the same way we get a new captain who wants to work with us tomorrow. That doesn’t mean tomorrow they can drive a boat, they have to start at the back again, they have to start throwing the anchor, working the engineering job, after the engineering job, then they can become a captain because we want them to learn that we to do things differently. When a guide comes here, the very first thing that I ever say to them is, welcome to 5 Star Marine, forget everything that you’ve ever been taught, and we’re going to start again because what they’re taught at other companies, are you go step A, step B, step C, step D and you do it at this time, this time, this time and this time and we’ll see you back at the pier at four o’clock. For us, we’re going to break that all apart and say you can go wherever you like, whatever you love about this backyard that is yours; that is your country, you know it better than anybody, take people and see and show them what you want to show them, not what the brochure says. And that’s the key, it’s like when you travel to a new country, you shouldn’t travel with this preconceived idea of what you want to do and what you want to see. Try some local Phuket curries rather than having a Pad Thai, and experience the culture of the location that you’re going to that’s the same when you come to a boat tour, don’t come to the boat with the idea of I want to go here, here, and here, come to the boat and say to the guides, what are the best places to go in your experience, you’ve lived here your whole entire life, take me to the places that you love.