CEO Connect recap: How Galati Yachts keeps smooth sailing through rough waters


he Galati family relocated from Westchester, New York, to Hollywood, Florida, in the late 1960s. 

The family ended up on Anna Maria Island, which is where the family’s business, Galati Yachts, is still based today. 

With the passing of Michael Senior (the patriarch), in 1992, the business was passed down to his five children, Joseph, Carmine, Fran, Michael Jr. and Chris. Now, entering its third generation, the Galati children have their own children stepping into the business. 

Galati Yachts has 15 locations, including two international locations, generating more than $200 million in revenue.

Bridgette Bello, chief executive officer and publisher of Tampa Bay Business & Wealth interviewed Fran Galati, an owner who also serves as human resources and information technology director, at Galati Yachts, in front of a live, sold-out, audience, at Jackson’s Bistro, Bar & Sushi, in Tampa. 

View more photos here.

What has it been like being Miss May 2023 for Tampa Bay Business & Wealth?

It’s been a pleasure meeting Bridgette and everyone else at TBBW. They’ve really made me feel special. It’s a great place to advertise because I was shocked at how many people reached out to me, because of the article in the magazine, and I’m really impressed. You’ve done a fabulous job.

I appreciate that very much. You share that your brothers, and many of your team members, couldn’t be here because, and she said it very much like I should know what she was talking about, ‘Well, it’s tournament season, Bridgette.’ And I was like, ‘And?’ Tell us about tournament season and what that means.

Tournament season means they’re all out there with customers and clientele, not just Galati customers, but customers from all over the world doing fishing tournaments. There are tournaments in Costa Rica, Cabo, Orange Beach, in Texas, and right here, locally.

She sent me a picture of a large fish that was caught …

It was 776.6 pounds. It was caught in our Orange Beach Billfish Classic. And that was one of the records. If you haven’t seen a 776.6-pound blue marlin, you need to go take a look at that.

Fran likes to fish. She made that very clear.

I love to fish. If I had a second job, it would be a captain on a boat and just fishing. I love it.

How does the seasonality of what you do apply to how you continue to grow your business and continue to be successful, even when it’s not your busy season? 

We’re lucky to live in a very beautiful place, here in the Tampa Bay area. I mean, you could travel the world and you come home and this place is gorgeous. We’re very fortunate that this area isn’t very seasonal. I look at it as a blessing for sure. 

But we do have boat show season and tournament season. And you know what? Just so you know, anything that you can do to get into the boating lifestyle, I mean, look where we are, look at this view out of Jackson’s right here, this is amazing. To get into the boating lifestyle, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a lifestyle that you’ll become very accustomed to and it’s a lifestyle that you’ll love. And we’re just happy to help people get into that lifestyle.

In your business, you had 2007 and 2008, and then in 2010, the BP oil spill. Tell us how you guys pivoted and how you thrived while making a big difference in that season that was going on for all of us.

That was a very hard adversity that we had to overcome, just like every other business when that recession hit. We had 17 locations at the time. And right after the recessions hit and then the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf [of Mexico], which our locations surround the gulf from Texas all the way down to Naples, not including the international ones. But you know, that’s our home and this Tampa Bay area is our home and up in the Panhandle is our home. And it was the first time in the history of our company, which is now 53 years old, that we had to shut down locations and we had to lay off some team members. 

That was really one of the hardest things that we had to do as a company, which I’m sure probably a lot of you experienced during the recession, and then to get hit with the oil spill. I do credit a lot to my brothers for coming up with the idea. During the recession, people were struggling to keep their homes and keeping their yachts and it wasn’t working out well, they were losing everything. The banks repossessed all these yachts and they didn’t know what to do with them. They didn’t know how to maintain them. They didn’t know how to resell them. They didn’t know how to do anything with them. So we built our relationship with the banks. And we started selling the bank-owned boats. And that got us through the recession. And then when the oil spill hit, unfortunately, there were so many water companies, like restaurants on the water and charter boats and just everything that has to do with the boating lifestyle, that were struggling and suffering. We were fortunate enough to be able to move our boats out of the locations where the oil spill was affecting and relocate them to other locations. 

You basically saved your own company and saved the banks at the same time. And then, not too much longer, COVID-19 hits. A lot of us were struggling to keep our businesses open. Unfortunately, a lot of people lost their companies and couldn’t stay open. But boating during COVID-19 was a thing.

Which just goes to show you’ve got to get in the boating lifestyle. Boating with your family and going out on the water was something you could do while you were staying safe and not putting yourself at risk of catching COVID. We were able to keep all our team members and work through that adversity as well.

You have some impressive longevity with your team. And a big issue that a lot of us are dealing with, in in the business world these days, there is a tendency to change jobs, like quickly, to the next big paycheck. You shared a statistic with me of the people who have been there for 20-plus years. Share that statistic. And then tell us what you think the secret sauce is.

Well, this statistic is from Mauldin & Jenkins, our CPA firm for over 20 years, which states that 37.4% of our team members have over 20 years with us. Treat people how you want to be treated. We’re all about family. All 12 of our kids are in the business plus some of the spouses. And if you want to see the Prestige Yacht, I’d like to introduce my son-in-law, Kyle Butler back there, but he’s like a son to me, is the No. 1 Prestige dealer for several years. I’m very proud of him. I’m very proud of all the kids in our family. 

I’m very proud of our team, and our culture, as human resource director, I really don’t have to do a lot because us five siblings, me and my four brothers, are there every day in the trenches with everybody else. And I don’t have to spend my time sharing our culture throughout the company, because it’s already there, it’s already a given. 

If you were to ask any one of our 200 team members what our mission statement is, any one of them could tell you it because we live and breathe it every day. And that’s to consistently exceed the expectations of our customers. And that’s what we live for. And my father always said, if you treat the customer, right, and you treat them like family, they will always come back. 

What was your return-to-work policy? What advice would you give the rest of the people in the room that are trying to get their employees to come back to the office?

We are a firm believer that you need to have that in-office bonding. We do have a lot of hybrid positions, or certain departments that can be hybrid positions. But it’s very important that they come to the office, they work with their other team members and they socialize with the other team members. 

And you notice I say the word team members, that’s one thing I want to share, we don’t have employees at Galati Yachts, we have team members at Galati Yachts. It doesn’t matter. If you’re painting, selling yachts, doing accounting, or marketing, it doesn’t matter, that position is important. And that position is valuable. And that’s how we make every team member feel, because it’s true. 

You’re only as strong as your weakest link. So why don’t you make all your links strong and then you can be a strong company. ♦


TBBW’s “CEO Connect” series is an exclusive, invitation-only, event that brings together the Tampa Bay area’s top business leaders to meet and mingle. CI Group, CoreEx Legal and Maudlin & Jenkins were presenting sponsors. The host sponsor was Jackson’s Bistro, Bar & Sushi. 

TBBW’s video partner is Empowering Creative.

The evening begins with a cocktail reception for about 120 guests, followed by an interview with that month’s cover CEO.

Partnering with TBBW on future editions provides an opportunity to network with the area’s business elite, generate new business opportunities and increase brand awareness.

For information about event sponsorship opportunities, email Jason Baker at
[email protected].

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