In conversation with Princess Engineer, Leon McGregor.
How did you become a Marine Technician at Princess Motor Yacht Sales?
I did a four-year apprenticeship with Volvo Penta straight from school, before working at a Volvo Penta dealership. Then nearly five years ago, I moved to Princess and I’ve been here ever since.
What do your daily responsibilities involve?
They’re amazingly varied. I do a lot of the routine maintenance and servicing on engines, gearboxes and drivelines, as well as hydraulic systems and steering systems. But in addition to commissioning the engines for new boats, I also bridge over into technical handovers for customers, as well as retrofit work. One day I’ll be re-siliconing a toilet, fitting a new telly, working on upholstery or looking for scratches on wood as part of an audit. The next, I might be carrying out a sea trial, flying overseas to service a client’s boat or attending an international boat show on behalf of Princess.
You have quite a lot of interaction with customers?
Absolutely. When a customer buys a new boat, we do a technical handover. We have a couple of days to familiarise ourselves with the boat, and then we spend between one and two days talking the new owner through the boat. Every single door, every single panel, showing them where every breaker is, going through ways to keep the boat healthy and working well, showing them how to troubleshoot and remedy any issues. Then we go through the servicing with them, explaining what is involved in our extended warranties – and if the customer wants us to, we’re happy to fly anywhere in the world to service, maintain and repair their boat for as long as they like.
Your work involves a lot of travel?
It certainly does. We have a team of engineers who will go just about anywhere in the world, depending on where our customer’s yacht is. We go down to the South of France a lot too and again, the jobs vary. It might be the routine maintenance and warranty work, it might be fixing things that need attention in the middle of a cruise or it might be adding retrofit equipment like stern thrusters. There are obviously challenges related to the type of job and the location in terms of which parts you ship, what you carry with you in hand luggage and what you source locally – but it just means you have to work more efficiently.
In what way is Princess different to other places you’ve worked?
What’s particularly nice here is that our first job is to keep the customer happy. Everything else can be worried about afterwards and that’s a really enjoyable ethic. But of course, the fact that the product itself is so good, so current and so refined also makes a big difference. Even though we’re engineers, you can easily come to work in a white T-shirt and go home looking much the same. The bilges are all clean and illuminated and the engine spaces are all lined and perfectly arranged. In fact, the level of detail that goes into a Princess engine room is exactly the same as the level of detail that’s lavished on the owner’s cabin – and that’s the way we work. It’s all very clean, efficient and civilised – exactly as you’d expect of a high-end builder like Princess.
Do you think that customer focus is what makes Princess special?
Yes, that’s certainly part of it. But it’s also about the level of detail; the will to get it absolutely right, and of course the fact that the product itself is genuinely world-leading. As an engineer, I feel like I’m at the forefront of the industry here at Princess. The design and the technology that’s being incorporated now is really exciting – and it’s all done for the right reasons. It’s not done for the sake of experimentation. It’s done to make each and every Princess yacht look right, feel right and perform right.
What are the chief challenges of your work?
Trying to make sure you stay current with the technologies on each boat can be a challenge. But having a good team around you means we can bounce ideas off one another and between us, there’s literally nothing we can’t fix.
What’s the most satisfying element of your job?
When you hand over a new boat in perfect condition, with a nice bottle of Champagne and a big bouquet of flowers, and you see just how happy the new owners are. That’s amazing. To be able to share in the excitement of that customer’s experience makes it feel like quite a personal thing – and every time you see them after that, you do feel a genuine connection.
We also offer a helpline to our customers, so they can call us out of hours and that makes it feel even more bespoke. We have a 24-hour call centre with engineers on rota so the call can be filtered directly through to the technician that owner knows. The fact that they get to speak to the same technician who originally showed them around their boat is not something they generally expect.
So would you say you’re quite in touch with the lifestyle side of things?
Absolutely. We might be engineers but what we do here at Princess is all about the yachting lifestyle. We don’t feel envious of the people who buy these boats because we’re fully conscious that we have the best job in the world. We get to sea trial boats that most people will never get the chance to set foot on and we often get to do that in some of the world’s best boating regions. For me, what I do here is very much a lifestyle rather than a job and I never take that for granted, even for a second.