Friday, February 23, 2018

Blending Boating & Business

March 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Plenty of boaters take refuge on the water with family and friends, leaving stress behind on the shore. However, some share their boats with clients, co-workers or even bosses as they build strong workplace relationships or create new moneymaking opportunities.

We asked readers about their business entertaining experiences, and asked social pros for their takes on how to best blend business and boating. Judith L. Ritterman, a licensed family therapist in Holbrook, recognizes why people mingle what they do with what they love. “For as long as there has been business, there has been the sharing of recreational activities that foster that business,” says Ritterman.  “How many people do business on the golf course?”

“I love to impress new prospects by taking them to Fire Island by boat,” boasts Kate (some readers chose not to have their full names used). “People always say ‘Wow.’”

C. jumps at the chance to substitute boating for golf. “My job requires me to entertain potential customers. In the summer, I invite them on my boat. I hear how impressed they are that my family makes such a big effort to show them a good time, but the reality is we’d be having fun on the boat anyway. I’m just happy to not miss a day of boating!”

Robert Zingale, a partner in a project management company, builds new business and develops long-term customer relationships.  He enthuses that boating is “a much more productive and enjoyable way to spend an entertainment budget than hosting golf outings at an expensive club.”

Bill is all for inviting customers and business acquaintances to go boating only after getting to know them. “Over the years, I have had some good times (including one big commission) and some bad times mixing boating with business. My manager got squeamish when I caught a fish, and a buddy at the marina called me a vulgar name in front of sort-of uptight clients.”

Jay Remer, “The Etiquette Guy,” agrees with Bill. “It is unwise until a business relationship has evolved to include social activities as well. As our relationships develop, it is not uncommon to ask a business associate to the club, golf course, favorite restaurant, or any other activity such as sailing or racing. What is most important to remember is that even outside of the office or other business environments, you still are a representative of your company and should behave appropriately.”

An advantage to entertaining on a boat is that sea breezes and spectacular scenery do a lot of the work while you reap the benefits. Zingale loves to take business prospects on a water cruise around New York City. “You have all the people you want to spend time with aboard.  Now add in the backdrop of the New York skyline and some good food.  Result:  a relaxed client who no longer has most of the distractions that keep you from grabbing his full attention. It is amazing how many issues and opportunities you can work through in an afternoon.”

In business, competition can be fierce, but Mother Nature can also be a foe. You can reschedule family or friends, but what about out-of-town prospects? Nicholas J. Agro, a Port Jefferson attorney, says, “I’ve considered entertaining for business purposes on the boat but always opted not to. Every time we try to entertain friends on the boat, the day turns out to be rainy, or we have gale force winds! Being stuck at the marina with bad weather would not make the impression that I was hoping for, and would not further my business interests.”

Zingale has some practical advice. “It takes a lot of planning and coordination to host an event of this type.  With a 50/50 chance of having good weather, that needs careful consideration. Getting people to clear their calendars for any significant amount of time is hard.  Doing it with the risk of a rainout is dangerous and can actually be counterproductive to your goal.  Be smart and plan your event.  Have a contingency plan, possibly a back-up date in mind while planning the event.”

Are there other risks besides weather when it comes to conducting business onboard? Oh, yes, say our readers! E. advises ambitious boaters to avoid bringing “chatty kids” along unless you want a repeat of his son’s loud complaint, “Why do you say ‘work is lame’ and then make us boat with work people?”

Sal’s story is also cringe-worthy. He says, “We once took my wife’s boss out on the boat. The boss got seasick and threw up, over the side, which is not so bad, right? Except our 3-year-old saw the boss barf and he did, too, all over the boss’s beach bag and shoes.”

Should you bring your kids along on a business boating day? Ritterman advises, “It’s really important for the host to be clear on who the employer/colleague is, and if the event being planned is appropriate for their stage in life.  It probably wouldn’t be wise to invite a 60-year-old boss onto your boat if you have small children who could disrupt the day.  On the other hand, if your colleague or employer also has young children, a disruption by your kids would more than likely not make you look bad.”

Adds Remer, “If someone vomits, this is of concern and needs to be handled quickly and in a comforting way for the sufferer. This also is common sense and anyone, business prospect or not, will see that you are a compassionate person. Think of compassion as an asset!”

One boater had a wonderful day planned for three co-workers last summer, and everything would have been great except “I should have stopped after three beers.” He didn’t share more, but the details aren’t hard to imagine!

“If you are conducting business on your boat, treat it as you would your office,” says Remer. “You would not have your drinking buddies or children in your office whilst conducting business. You shouldn’t see your boat any differently. I always say, avoid the avoidable!”

By employing common sense, a boating-business outing can make everyone happy. Robert Zingale highly recommends it. “If you need to spend time with a current or a prospective client, doing it on a boat can’t be beat.”


“The Etiquette Guy,” Jay Remer, has advice to keep you afloat when mingling your personal pastime with your work time.

  • Civility is the rule of the day. Resist getting drunk, swearing, or telling jokes which others may find offensive.
  • If there is an extenuating circumstance and an embarrassing moment arises, downplay it with light laughter; then change the subject. Calling further attention to it is not recommended.
  • In or out of the office, you are still a representative of the company employing you.
  • Do keep your word when it comes to meeting up. Respect for other people does not stop when you leave the office.

By Lita Smith-Mines

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