Transcript #05 – How MCC became market leader in shipping – an Intra-Asia Success Story with Tim Wickmann former CEO of MCC Maersk Part 2 – Talent and Recruitment

Time stamp Speaker Answer
00:0 Radu So moving on to the second segment, which is the people side of things.  So typically shipping, logistics, and supply chain.  Okay.  The shipping.  Let’s talk shipping.  It’s typically not seen as sexy, so what’s your thoughts?  I mean how did you attract the top talent in Maersk and MCC.  What did you do to get top talent in MCC?
0:21 Tim Well, I always thought it was sexy.  You know, from the first moment that I went to Maersk in 1990 and had the first presentation of what shipping was, I thought wow!  What a fantastic industry and what difference do we make in the world
 
0:36 Tim To be part of shipping.  The vision of Maersk Line has later been made into actually, we created opportunities in global commerce, right?  And actually adopted because, I mean, that is what shipping does.  Without shipping, I mean, you know, people in China couldn’t eat equatorial bananas, right?  I mean, it is really, we are facilitating that more goods become available to everyone around the world.  When I was in Argentina, I remember we have a customer who suddenly found out that in China they like chicken paws, so this guy is a huge chicken producer, but he has always just thrown out these paws.
 
1:29 Tim He has always thrown them out.  So waste, you know, just waste and somebody realized that because of the refrigerated container and the temperature could be kept all the way to China and he could then sell it out here.  Not so much, but definitely better than throw them out.
 
1:46 Tim And I always thought it’s was such an interesting thing that something that was a waste before, because of shipping actually facilitates trade and facilitates movement of goods.

 

So hey, I always thought it was sexy, but I mean, look at Singapore as a place.  I don’t think shipping has the most highest paid jobs, so how do you attract a graduate, for example.  I mean, of course, your own people have to be heavy and this is something that really, I think most people in MCC is aware, is very close to my heart.

I want all my staff to actually be happy when they come to office.  I have been very lucky.

 

I’m not exaggerating when I say that for 27 years, I have looked forward to going to work every single day and it’s not because I hate my family or dog smells, or anything like that.

 

No.  I seriously enjoyed coming to work.  I’ve had 14 different jobs.  I’ve had 24 different managers in, you know, five different countries and hey, I always enjoyed going to work and I’ve always wished, a wishful thinking maybe, that all my staff would think like that, and if they don’t, then why not?  If people just come to office to draw their salary and just you know, started looking at the clock when it’s four and you know, when can I go home, then you know, the culture and the spirit of the company will disappear.  I am not asking people to work until 10 o’clock everyday.

 

That’s not the point here, but I want them to come to office and be happy, so how do I ensure this?  So, you know, I do some weird things.  So when I’m out on like customer visits or when I’m out in the organizations, I might suddenly ask a customer service representative or sales rep, you know, so what does make you happy?  Today or this week, and if they can’t think of anything, I’d ask them, okay so let’s just, you know, if you go home one day from work and you have really good mood and you’re happy, then what has happened that day?  What actually happened for you to be in good mood that they feel that you have a successful day?  And if you can identify that, then do more of that.

 
4:31 Tim And that’s so simple, but you know –
4:32 Radu Most things are simple, yeah.
4:33 Tim But we don’t think about it.  We come to work, then we go home and then we go to the gym or whatever we do.  I don’t know.  But we spend so many hours of our life –
 
4:48 Tim In the office, and probably it’s also in our brains more than that.  And it would be a pity if we actually didn’t enjoy, right?  And if you don’t enjoy your work, then enjoy something else.  Enjoy your colleagues or enjoy, you know, team events or enjoy the learning, or enjoy something, because if not, I just don’t believe in a successful company.  I think one of the reasons we’ve been successful and again, you only run the 17th largest shipping line with a little more than 600 people.

 

We may have some help from some Maersk people and so on, so I guess in total, our head count is about 1200 people.  But then, I don’t think we could run a company successful and be as successful as we’ve been in eight years if the people were not energized and motivated, and outright happy.  I really don’t think so.  So we try to create that environment and then I just hope that this, you know –

 
5:59 Tim Yeah.  It’s contagious exactly.
6:01 Radu Yeah.  I mean, it’s impossible that people would not notice it.
 
 
6:08 Tim And in terms of, you know, how do we attract and retain, I mean, we’re lucky to be part of a big group.  So there are opportunities, we move from MCC to our logistic company, or to Maersk, and then you can come back later when you are learned more and improved your CV.  We try to do it with MCC also –
6:23 Radu Rotation.
6:24 Tim But that’s difficult when we run with so few layers.  I mean, it’s just any downside running with few layers, it’s of course the promotions from one layer to another is likely more difficult because it’s big jumps.  It can be done, but just more difficult, and there we are lucky to provide opportunities.
 
6:45 Tim So yeah.  I mean, why not make use of that?
6:49 Radu And what would you say the hardest skills to find in the shipping right now and what?  I mean, does it –
6:54 Tim That’s definitely about digitization.  I mean we don’t know enough about it and the thing is, I mean, I know this sound really weird, but we kind of don’t know what it is we don’t know and if we could have people in who brought something new, a new thinking to our company, it would be great.

 

And then it doesn’t work if it’s another person from another shipping line with the same shipping line.  So actually, what the policy is in MCC, so I would have say if we hire three people, then what I really want is I would like one from a group company, meaning internal that understands our system and the way we work.  It can be Maersk, it can be Safmarine.).  Then I would like one from the industry.  It can also be in the supply chain from our customers.  It can be a competitor.  It can be another forwarder.

 

Sometimes it’s in the industry, but different perspective than, let’s say, the Maersk umbrella perspective.  And then I want a graduate, first graduate.  Somebody from  outside with no clue of shipping.  Probably a young one that is, you know, understand.  Let’s say the younger generation, because we have already the foundation, right?  So if we hire like that, I am sure to get three different type of input.

8:32 Radu Perspectives, yeah.
8:33 Tim Perspectives.  We are still a young company, eight, nine years and I have no illusion that we are perfect.  We have grown.  We are probably the most profitable and the biggest carrier now, but how do you stay that and how do you continue to develop and follow the trends.  I think that’s always one of the biggest chllenge.  Especially when you’re on the top.  I mean, it’s too easy to just become complacent.
 
9:03 Tim So I really want to have a diverse inflows of people into MCC an  So anyone in the headquarter, they come to my office.  I hate seeing somebody in the office that I don’t know.

 

That’s not how we do it in MCC.  My door is open for anyone at any level and, therefore, they need to know me also and they need to say hello to me.  Otherwise, they would never able dare to come close to where my office is, right?

 

So the rule is that everyone has to come in and be introduced to me, and I basically say the same to everyone, which is one, that this person has been hired to make us as MCC better, not just to do a job, so I expect this person to question or ask for anything that this person doesn’t understand and if any ideas that this person, hey why are they doing like this?  Couldn’t they do it like that?

 

Don’t just accept because it’s a new company.  I better learn.  No, I want that person to actually speak up and say hey, has anyone ever thought about this?  And then, of course, except if you say hey, because of this, it doesn’t work.  Okay fine.  But don’t hold back no matter what your background is.  Don’t hold back  And you know, for two years that obviously because of the few layers we have, then a lot of authority with every single person.  You cannot hide in MCC and if anyone is not delivering in their position, it has two effects.

 

One, it’s affecting the company and two, you are probably sitting next to who has to work double to cover for you. That simply doesn’t work.  When you work with two people in a big corporation, you have a lot of authority to this, then people also need to take that responsibility and do well.

10:59 Radu And deliver, I know.
11:00 Tim And if they can’t do that and if they get worried about the responsibility and the fact that you can’t hide here, in the company.  Then I actually rather want them to not even stop, but you know, most people actually really cherish the opportunity for actually making decisions and seeing that hey, I’ve been in this company for two weeks and I already made a great decision, and it changed something, you know.  Fantastic, you know.
11:28 Radu We assume as I think we hardwired for that and we wonder.  I mean, most people want that.
 
 
11:39 Tim I mean – and that’s also a skill you have to identify, right?  So that people who do not want that, and then you got to make sure that they either get the positions where that is not so required or maybe you help them to find something else.
11:54 Radu Yeah.  And there’s a good question from Jimmy Lim , also in terms of culture and I think –
 
12:01 Radu You talked a little bit about the – He’s asking “As a leader when and how did you decide on company culture updates.  When did the company culture needed an update or a tweak and how did you do it?  What did you do?”
12:13 Tim Well, I think I spoke a lot about already that the kind of culture that I try to create.
12:19 Radu Instill, yeah.
12:20 Tim From the beginning.  So you can say I strongly believe that a culture is not something that is decided from the top.  A company culture is something that the people create, so I have given these few guidelines that I’ve been talking about on how I run, you know, people to think how I want them to have responsibilities, how I want a few layers, how I want quick decision-making, and how I want people to be happy, and if I visit a country and I don’t feel the buzz, you know, the energy, then I’m concerned immediately.  Because then I don’t think we will win in that market.  You know, there are 25 other shipping lines in that market or 30, or 40 and if they have the buzz, the customers can feel it immediately.

 

We need to have that buzz, but again, I don’t want to be the one – call me and say hey, you know, the culture here is wrong.  I have a closed discussion with the countrymen and then we, maybe together establish, you know, 10 different things that we can do to change the environment and identify where’s the problem.

 

It can also sometimes be some people, you know, that don’t fit in or create negative vibrations and so on.  That hurts the culture, and then you got to get rid of them.  I’m sorry to say.  They might be very good of what they’re doing, but it’s just too bad if they influence negatively.  Out, really.

 

Nobody is above the, we could say the spirit of the company.  We also have something, which I think is very important for our culture, which is related to or KPIs and the way we measure our people.  We’ve always have something that we call I, the team, the company when we award bonuses, so it’s somewhat confidential and I can’t wait to detail, but every person’s bonus has an element of the total company result, an element of their team result, meaning the whole country.

 

Not across states, but the whole country, and then their personal contribution, but the personal contribution is a multiplication factor only of the other two, so if the company fails and the team fails, even if you’re the best in the team, I mean there’s a cap on your –

14:52 Radu Bonus.
14:52 Tim On your bonus and it’s a low cap, and this is to prevent again that anyone puts themselves above the company.  It really doesn’t matter how good you are if your team is not doing well and if your team is doing brilliantly, but you are not doing anything to help the other teams and the other countries, so that the company does well, then that’s also the point, and I can’t see them pay out big bonuses, and I think that has actually been a very fundamental element of the culture we have.

 

You know, I have people calling me the fifth or the sixth each month, what was the result of the previous month for the whole company?  I mean, who does that?  I mean people from other countries ask me, so how did we do in August, right?  I mean, because people care.  They actually care how we do as a company.  They don’t care only about how they do.

15:43 Radu It’s a great way to encourage sharing and encourage teamwork.  A team is always greater than an individual no matter how brilliant that individual is, so great and good example.  And how would you win against your competitors to attract the top talent in the market?  What would be some of things that you’ve done in the past ?
16:08 Tim I don’t know if I have more to add –
 
16:11 Tim To what I have said.  I mean, I don’t think we pay more.
 
16:16 Tim But I want to make sure that the good people are paid well.  I mean really well.
16:24 Radu And the culture and the internal –
16:25 Tim I mean, as I said, the culture and hopefully it’s a pleasant place to work and then you can make a difference.
 
16:33 Tim You can really make a difference, and then I personally care.  I mean, now we are so big that I don’t know, but maybe four or five years ago when we were 400 people, I mean I knew the name of every single person in MCC, every single person in each country.  I can’t do that anymore unfortunately.  That’s also too much micromanagement, but again, this was in a startup, it’s a build up and we needed to have this engagement and this emotion right?  And it really matters that every person felt that they were valued in MCC.
17:11 Radu And they’re part of something, right?  I mean it’s –
17:13 Tim Yes.
17:14 Radu The inclusion.
17:15 Tim Yeah, and they’re part of something inside, right?  And hey, we’ve also been helped by our results.  I mean out of the eight years here, we’ve had one bad year and seven good years.  So, I mean…
 
17:31 Tim Now I sound like an angel and say that it doesn’t matter about payment and so on, but of course, we have been lucky to be able to give good bonuses and because of this multiplication factor, the best people have gotten really good bonuses.  Really, they have in the good years, which we’ve had quite a lot of, so it has also been fairly, I think, okay to work for –
17:57 Radu Lucrative …
17:58 Tim Well, I wouldn’t say lucrative because again, the base salary is not necessarily in the high end.  Not in the low end, but it’s not in the high end, but obviously when you have the bonuses and you suddenly get four months or five months’ salary, best in the year.
 
18:12 Tim Best in the year.  I mean, that’s helps…
18:16 Radu I’m not sure who in shipping has paid four, five months’ bonuses in the last seven years.
18:20 Tim No, but we have done that to our best people a couple of times.
   

End of Part 2

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