This article on racer, broker and all-around man extraordinaire first appeared on Yachtworld.com. But Dick and Dianne Simon of Simon Yachts are such good friends, I had to bring them to Talk of the Dock as well. Enjoy their story…
Everything around Dick Simon seems to be perpetually in motion. There’s an audible hum that surrounds the man, a palpable, vibrating energy that screams possibility. Who else but a guy whose enthusiasm is so contagious would even think of buying and reviving a boat brokerage business in the middle of the worst economy of our lifetimes – and be excited about it? But in May of 2009, Dick and his wife Dianne, moved back to Dana Point, California and started Dick Simon Yachts, today a busy brokerage with a half dozen agents and a reputation for superior service that could only have come from someone larger than life. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
When I first met Dick and Dianne Simon years ago on a sea trial of their brand new Cabo Rico 56 sailboat, we were heading out to test hull #1 of that design. Dianne stood on deck with Charlie, their Papillon puppy in her arms. She pointed to a group of Sabots by the jetty and said, “See Dick, maybe we should learn to sail on one of those first.”
Having heard about their plans to go cruising on this 60 footer in the very near future, I thought, “Oh jeez, these two are gonna die.” I thought maybe they would end up spending years getting to know the boat and learning about cruising or maybe they really wouldn’t go on that ambitious cruise after all. But they did go. And they didn’t die.
In fact, they sold their successful boat dealership, Dick Simon Marine, and went cruising to Mexico. It was to be the idyllic retirement, meandering about the world at seven knots. But if you know Dick, meandering is not a word in his vocabulary. Having spent nearly 30 years racing fast cars, life at seven knots was a bit out of focus. Retirement seemed like the next logical step so they sold their boat and moved to Idaho. They lasted less than one year.
Under the pretext of going to visit their 20 some odd grandchildren in Southern California, they took a road trip and looked at a few boats for sale as they drove down the coast – “You know, just to look at them because they’re pretty,” says Dianne. By the time they reached San Diego they had bought a 1972 Chris-Craft Roamer 60, moved aboard and started thinking about real estate sales again. Retirement, huh?
Once back in Dana Point, Dick was approached by a local boat broker who was transitioning out of the business and offered to sell Dick the office and slips. The brokerage staff came on their own once they found out the Simons were back in the harbor and back in the business. Seems everyone wanted to work with them again. Dick’s reputation for integrity, open communication and an unbeatable work ethic got the attention of the marine industry personnel as well as the public and soon Dick Simon Yachts was managing more boats at the local boat show than any other brokerage in the harbor. There was hardly time for Dianne to get to her watercolors.
Besides a tremendous amount of energy and drive, the first thing you notice about Dick is his innate ability to talk to anyone about anything and get to the heart of any matter quickly. Watching a family eating ice cream outside his office one day, he walked up and said they looked like people in need of a boat. The father made an offhand comment that they were waiting for the market to settle down to start looking. Dick jumped in and pointed to a Sea Ray 39. “You can get a boat like that for $50,000 under market these days so it might be time to start looking.” He got their attention, and then he got them to buy a boat, and then he got two more referrals from them. He’ll probably get more referrals when the family comes back in a couple years to trade up.
Everything seems possible when Dick is in the room, laughing and sharing stories from his life. A graduate of the University of Wenatchee in Washington and the University of Utah, Dick Simon has a history that reads like a Hollywood script. Like a character out of a novel or maybe a guy on the lam, Dick has had more incarnations than seem possible in one lifetime. In 1960 Dick was an alternate on the US Olympic ski team, in 1966 he won a national sky diving championship and a few years after that, he qualified for his first Indianapolis 500. Thereafter, Dick qualified in 19 Indy 500s and competed in 183 Indy races.
Somewhere in there, Dick also became an insurance broker, ascending quickly to become the company’s president and chairman of the board. He met Dianne when the two found themselves running the same Tarbell real estate office and bringing it from 70th to 2nd in regional sales revenues. In 1983, they founded Dick Simon Racing and managed Indy teams for nearly two decades. It seemed like a natural transition for Dick to go from go-fast cars to go-fast boats and soon he built a boat dealership in Southern California selling fast power boats – in fact, at one time, almost 25% of all the boats that passed hands in Dana Point harbor were sold by Dick Simon Marine.
Today, Dick Simon Yachts is really a continuation of the Simons’ success in the boat business so it’s no wonder it’s flourishing even in a recession. Their brokerage boat mix is about 10% sail and 90% power from 25 – 75 feet. “Dick likes to say that between the two of us we have 60 years of experience in sales and customer service,” says Dianne. “That makes me feel old. But he’s right and if you add our sales agent to the mix, you could easily double that number. As a group, we do know this market and these boats like the backs of our hands.”
Dick’s focus truly is on service. He believes you’re always on call with a client, always keeping them updated, always learning about the market and marketing trends, always talking to people because that’s how things get done. There’s not a time he doesn’t answer calls from clients or his brokers, he listens to people and learns what boat will be their dream, and constantly works the harbor to keep DSY boat inventory top of mind with anyone walking the docks. Buying or selling, there never seems to be an unhappy customer – they’re more than excited to go along for the ride when Dick’s energy swoops in and describes the possibilities of buying, selling, owning or enjoying a boat.
It’s impossible to be sad around Dick Simon. I wish I could bottle his optimism and energy. The last time we spoke about pictures to illustrate this story, it was his birthday, and he was finishing his cake and rushing back to the office. Maybe rushing isn’t the right word. As usual, Dick was just in motion, just like everyone and everything around him.