By Matt Trulio
The Big Picture: Inside Wayne’s World
Northern California yacht dealer/broker Wayne D’Anna has a simple recipe for success: Treat customers like family.
No one has childhood aspirations of being a yacht dealer or broker. OK, there are probably a few exceptions—maybe you grew up with a yacht dealership as your family business and you really dug it—but for the most part it’s something you happen into along your merry way. Selling yachts is not one of those linear-path careers like medicine or law.
Take Wayne D’Anna, the owner of D’Anna Yacht Center in Oakland and Bethel Island, Calif., for example. Since he was a boy, D’Anna wanted to be a veterinarian. He even went to college for it and was headed for graduate school. A native of San Jose, Calif., he saw himself caring for horses. He couldn’t imagine a better way to make a living.
But to borrow from John Lennon, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.
“I was working my way through school, helping people handle their boats at a place in Redwood City (Calif.),” says D’Anna. “One thing led to another and I was able to get a percentage of the company I was working for. I aspired to be veterinarian, but I also thought, ‘Wow, I just really enjoy the whole yachting thing.’”
That was 30 years ago. Today, D’Anna Yachts Center is the exclusive Northern California dealer for Carver and Marquis yachts, as well as a broker for numerous brands of vessels from 20 to 200 feet. The company also has a complete service department, offers dockage at both locations (as well as in nearby San Francisco) and provides hands-on, on-water training for new yacht owners.
To be sure, selling yachts has been good to D’Anna, who formed the company with his wife, Trish. (They have three children and still work together, but are amicably separated.) They own a waterfront home in Discovery Bay on the Sacramento River Delta, and docked in front of it are Marquis 72 and a Marquis 50.
No one is better aware of his good fortune than D’Anna, and he believes wholeheartedly in giving back. His “cause” is an unlikely one: He wants to support, encourage and promote the positive contributions of teenagers. (I find this particularly amazing given that I have a soon-to-be 16-year-old son who routinely works me into a lather.)
“I want to make teenagers aware of the good things other teenagers are doing in their communities,” says D’Anna. “I want them to see that they can make a difference, that they have a lot more power than they think they do to make things happen. I thought that if we could get newspapers to focus the good things teenagers were doing in their communities we could get the ball rolling.
“I’ve taken some Sea Scout and Boy Scout groups to my house and shown them my ‘inspiration room,’ which has pictures of the different inspirational people I’ve met over the years,” he continues. “Then I take them down to the boats and I’ll tell them, ‘I came from nothing. If you can focus and stay focused, you’ll succeed.”
D’Anna says he “aspired” to start something he calls the “You Make A Difference Foundation,” which would help teenagers learn how to publicize their positive contributions and get them into the media. Unfortunately, the current recession forced him to table those plans and focus more on his business. (Recall the words of John Lennon.) But he vows to return to the project when business improves.
And how is business?
“It’s a rough environment out there, but through (dealership) attrition traffic is starting to come up,” says D’Anna. “It’s tough because people are still thinking that prices are going to be unrealistically low, and the financial markets need to open up again. But people are saying they’re getting tired of just singing the blues and are ready to have some fun.”
To this end, D’Anna Yacht Center continues to sponsor its “Yachts of Fun” cruise series. This season those cruises included a late-spring trek to Sacramento for the Sacramento Jazz Festival. a July 4 jaunt for the Mandeville Island fireworks display on the Sacramento River Delta and a cruise to San Francisco Bay for Fleet Week. In September, D’Anna Yacht Center hosts its annual Petaluma Wine Country Cruise.
“It’s all about keeping people excited about boating,” says D’Anna. “We’ve always returned a lot to our customers in terms of trips and activities.
“To us, this is a family business,” he adds. “So we treat everyone like they’re part of our family.”
Editor’s Note: Boats.com bi-weekly columnist Matt Trulio is the editor at large for Powerboat magazine. He has written about boats and boating for almost 15 years.
- Matt Trulio is the co-publisher and editor in chief of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site with a weekly newsletter and a new bi-monthly digital magazine that covers the high-performance powerboating world. The former editor-in-chief of Sportboat magazine and editor at large of Powerboat magazine, Trulio has covered the go-fast powerboat world since 1995. Since joining boats.com in 2000, he has written more than 200 features and blogs.
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