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How do we recruit C-suite maritime professionals?

We’re often asked ‘how’ we go about doing what we do, a question which, in truth, we find quite difficult to answer. We’ve been recruiting C-suite maritime professionals for over 20 years and in all that time, if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that there are no shortcuts or substitutes for good old-fashioned market knowledge and legwork.

One of our earliest assignments was recruiting a Chief Operating Officer for a global tanker owner in about the year 2000. They were ahead of their time and open-minded about recruiting outside their own familiar nationality. As is often the case with search assignments, we agreed to provide a dual shortlist, in this case of the local and non local candidates, and we are pleased to say they hired a person from Norway, and not their traditional local. This would be relatively unusual in that geographical location, even today. One of the greatest skills we learned from this assignment was how to pronounce Hadjieleftheriadis correctly and quickly!

What that assignment taught us was the benefit of a professional and engaged client. The school of hard knocks has shown us that it is important to walk away from assignments where clients cannot up their minds what they’re looking for. This is a real risk with ‘committee’ recruitment where a number of stakeholders from a variety of organisations come together to recruit – for example – for a membership organisation. Our job is to make sure the decision makers focus their minds on reaching a consensus early on in the process on what they really want, rather than working out that they all want something different at the stage of a final shortlist. Eleven years ago, we represented a membership body in their search for a new Managing Director. All bets were on the recruitment of a middle-aged man from an oil company or tanker owner. Instead, the Board opted for someone who brought an environmental and marine biology background to the role. It was another bold decision by a client that was a pleasure to work with. That makes all the difference.

Speaking of which, it isn’t always that way, but there was one occasion when we recruited a Chief Executive for a shipowner when we felt that the committee of NEDs who were handling the recruitment, were out to catch us out or trip us up. Every stage of the process felt like a test rather than a partnership. There was a formality that seemed out of place in the modern world and in hindsight we could see that permeated the whole culture of the business.

Times and people move on of course and that brings to mind the dry bulk sector which, in the case of the modern true operators, is almost unrecognisable from its former self twenty years ago. We are particularly active in dry bulk and have recruited CEOs, CFOs, COOs, heads of fleet management, crewing, risk, operations and communications. Dry bulk, you are the gift that keeps on giving and we are hugely grateful for that.

The really lovely thing is that in that sector, as in the shipping law and marine insurance sectors, we have been working with some of our clients pretty much since Spinnaker was set up in 1997. We don’t take for granted that level of repeat business – it has to be worked for anew with each assignment – but what those long-term relationships give us is a deep understanding of our individual clients and the markets we work in. This is worth its weight in gold when we approach candidates – it means we can properly sell the sector to candidates from outside (increasingly requested by clients, especially with roles in sustainability, risk and data) and speak authentically about our clients, their cultures and their people.

Give Teresa Peacock a call on +44 (0) 1702 480142 if you’re an executive ready for your next move or if you just want to be on our radar… and course if you need our services to find the next key hire for your organisation.

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