How Katarina from Euronautic Turned 107 Check-ins into a Completely Ordinary Work Day

She joined the company as a receptionist, and now she is owner and director. This may sound unbelievable, but it is the career journey of Katarina Vujević Babara. She was employed by Euronautic, a yacht charter company, in 2004 when there were only two other employees and eight boats. She quickly fell in love with her work and the industry, and the rest is history. 


You Cannot Lead a Company While Living 400 Kilometers Away


She quickly befriended the owners of the company, and helped them to set standards. They lived in Slovenia, and as the business grew, it became clear that it is impossible to lead a company while living 400 kilometers away from it. That is why they gave Katarina their full trust. In the beginning she was a procurator, then an unofficial executive director, and finally an official one in 2011. When she first came to Euronautic, her partner worked as a driver, but two years later he joined her as a diver, and then as a skipper.

“I think that this is the biggest strength that we, as the owners of the company, have – there is no job we haven’t done ourselves”, says Katarina.

They became owners spontaneously. The former owners could not dedicate themselves to the business due to personal reasons, so they thought rationally, keeping the company’s best interests and growth in mind. That’s why they offered 50 percent of the company to Katarina and her partner, and the other half to their own son and his partner who already owned a charter agency in Slovenia. Although they had not known each other well before, they decided to take the risk and accept the offer. The risk paid off, because they quickly clicked with their new business partners and found it easy to negotiate and understand each other.


Saturday – the Worst Day of the Week


Just as in any other industry, there are issues, and Katarina stresses that in hers there are plenty. Nautical tourism is quite different from other branches of tourism, such as camping or hotel management. It is interesting that nautical tourism in Croatia is not regulated by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport, but by the Ministry of Sea, Traffic and Infrastructure. That, Katarina says, affirms their specificity. 

At Euronautic, they have to take care of many factors – the safety of sailing, capabilities of the client operating the boat, the technical condition of the boat and all of the equipment on it, and, along with all of this, fine details adjusted to the client. Katarina explained the problem of Saturday, the day with the most check-outs and check-ins.

“Imagine you have a hotel with 107 rooms, or apartments. And for all the 107 rooms, on the same day – all clients are leaving – and on the same day, new clients are arriving – for all of the rooms. In the meantime, in five rooms the clients broke the shower doors, in two rooms pipes have cracked, in four rooms the furniture is damaged, and in another two something is wrong with electricity”, she explains.

“And you have to evaluate all of it, replace it, come up with spare parts, because, well, every room has a built-in shower from a different manufacturer, the pipes are different and so on. And in addition to all that, all 107 rooms have to be thoroughly cleaned and the bedding changed. And you only have a couple of hours for this.”


How Do You Service 100 Boats in 60 Days?


She highlights that the clients are becoming more and more nervous and demanding. The human qualities of empathy and understanding are long gone. On vacation, she says, people transform completely, as if politeness is mandatory only for the provider of the service. This creates additional pressure.

When charter managers complain about Saturdays – the day when the demand for charters is the highest – they get advised by the Ministry to offer boats not only on Saturdays but on other days too, for instance Wednesdays. That is easier said than done, Katarina stressed. In order to do so much work, you need a small army of people. Where can you find that many for one more day? 

Katarina explained that nautical tourism is not seasonal, but the seasons do differ. 

“There is a season when boats are operational – which is, let’s say, from 1st of April until the 1st of November. Because of global warming, we begin renting in March already. There is a season for service, too, which shortened as the other season expanded – instead of at least six months, we now have four months to service all the boats. During this period we also need to give our employees vacations, so they can get some rest. A big chunk of time is lost on bad weather conditions in which you cannot work. And there you have it – operationally also a big challenge – how do you service over 100 boats in 60 days?”, explains Katarina.

Recalling the early days, Katarina says that Euronautic was always one step ahead when it comes to digitalization. In 2005, they implemented the first online ERP which enabled remote work. The ERP did not work well, however, because the Internet was too slow and the connection kept breaking.


The First to Digitalize the Business


In the competition “Informatisation of business by implementation of modern ICT technological solutions into operational business processes” in 2013 they received funding. For Katarina, she says, it was like a dream come true. She could finally put her ideas about systematization and automatization to work. Later, they decided to implement Salesforce and began adjusting the platform to fit all their business needs. They were the first in the Adriatic region to have a digital check-in with tablets and a digitalized service with work orders. 

When it was time to choose an implementation partner, LeverUP was not their first choice. At first they decided to go for a cheaper option with a different partner. For who knows how many times, the expression “not rich enough to buy cheap things” proved itself true. They lost two years of their lives, spent a whole lot of money, and received nothing in return. 

“LeverUP seemed the most serious to me. They also communicate in a very kind, simple, transparent, and – most importantly – understandable way. To me, programmers often sound like they are speaking a foreign language; when they start bringing up all those abbreviations I get lost immediately. I really liked this about LeverUP, how they were able to explain the problems and possible solutions in everyday vocabulary”, she explains. 

The application they have created together allows the Euronautic team to keep things straight, and operations automated. The 107 check-outs and check-ins on a Saturday cannot function without good quality software which is here to make everyone’s lives easier and to provide the correct information at the right time. 


The Queen of Nautical Tourism


Euronautic also uses Nausys as a booking system for boats, ERP by a Rijeka-based company Prijavi Se for accounting, inventory, staff management and tracking of profits for each boat, as well as Doc.Doc. for digital archiving of invoices and other documents. Their online reception for clients is flawless as well, developed with their website’s CMS. In this way, the clients can complete the entire registration process, from paying the deposit to submitting documents, on their mobile phones at home. All of these systems are interconnected. 

“We make sure that everything is as integrated as it can be, to reduce the amount of manual work. It’s utopian to dream about one system that would cover absolutely everything, but it’s not something that’s needed. If a system is up-to-date and of good quality, the communication with other softwares should not be a problem. If it is a problem, then the system is not good.” 

Digitalization helped them to establish themselves as a serious competitor on the market. The clients like it because it makes them stand out, and the owners of the boats get insight into the business and know what is going on with their investments, which gives them control. 

Croatia is an absolute queen of nautical tourism, according to Katarina.

“The standard that has been set throughout the years, when it comes to boat equipment, service and everything else is, well, in my humble opinion, even too high. Just so we are on the same page, it is not the competition in the Mediterranean that has set it, but the competition in Croatia.” 


Created and originally published by Women in Adria

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