Transcript #05 – How MCC became market leader in shipping – an Intra-Asia Success Story with Tim Wickmann former CEO of MCC Maersk Part 3 – Personal success stories and habits

Time stamp Speaker Answer
0:02 Radu Moving on to the final segment, the personal side, so we have a very good question and I think it’s on the minds, probably, of a couple of our listeners, the people that you know personally, as well as people that don’t know you, but know you from the industry. 


So Mark asks, “So you’ve had many roles, Tim.  You’ve had a very clear development all the way to the top.  What’s the main driver and wish for the next step?  More risk, more fun?”

0:30 Tim Sometimes I wish I was more of a risk-taker than I am.  I think this is the biggest risk I’ve done in my entire career.  I’ve been so lucky that jobs have always kind of appear for me with – I mean, coincidentally.  That seem to just helped my CV, and it has been something I like to do and something that’s given the necessary learnings and exposure.  I would like to try something totally different now if possible.


I do know that I’m an expert in container shipping, but I mean, so more risk and more fun.  I mean, fun I don’t need more of.  I’ve had fun.  Seriously, I had fun.  This is my fun and there was another question about my fulfilling and greatest achievements in this role and you know, when I see how happy my people are, you know, I was in China a couple of months ago and you know, everyone were just unbelievably happy and energized and motivated, and can do and I mean, that is just fantastic.  That is what is fun for me.


Then I have achieved my goal as a CEO.  You know, when I see that.  It just make me incredible happy and there’s nothing more to ask for.  Then of course some people ask me so why do you quit?  I mean, why do you leave MCC?  But, I mean, hey nine years in the same role and I don’t think I can retire in this role.  I think I should try something new in my life before it’s too late.  I also don’t want to go to the grave, having worked for only one company.  I mean, although 14 different jobs, but I’ve only been with Maersk Group, you can say, for 27 years, so it made a time to change.  Thanks for the question, Mark!  Maybe it’s time to take some more risks for the next one.

  Radu And try a different type of fun, right?  It’s –
  Tim Yes.  I would go traveling  with the family and so on.  You know, do the Inca Trail in Peru.  Since I live in Argentina, I always wanted to do the Inca Trail and before my legs give up, then I will do that.
03:05 Radu A lot of people like to ask questions about routine, so you know, before you went to work, did you follow any, you know, as a CEO, did you follow any morning routine?
  Tim I am actually very superstitious, so I don’t know if you know rugby, but I play football at a very high level when I was young.  I actually even had an offer for Spanish Football Club when I was 15.
  Radu Oh really?  Which one?
  Tim Español.
  Radu Wow!  Okay.
  Tim Yeah, so I was, at some point, thinking –
  Radu That’s really good.
03:37 Tim And you know, I always you know, wore the left shoe before the right shoe and you know, there are certain things I have to do.
  Radu Yeah.
03:40 Tim And no matter where we were, I have to take a ball and go on foot, you know kick it in the net before the  match started, just to like feel the feeling of making a goal.  If I didn’t do, I would usually not play well.  I mean, it’s quite superstitious, but I think when it comes to work, not really.


Actually, not really.  I try when I’m traveling not to make my program too crazy.  I’d rather taking an extra day than trying to squeeze in nine meetings in one day.  There was a day in Davao I remember where we have nine customer meetings in one day and one thing is I lost my voice, but secondly, there were two things that bothers me.


One it was physically very hot, but number two is, you know, as I said before, I care a lot about the relationship with the people I’m with, so I don’t care if there’s nine customers.  Some were rich, some were small, but I wanted to create a good impression on all nine.  That’s impossible.


That is just physically impossible, so I realized that I should probably – I must make sure to have energy to give 100% of me with all the people I meet.  Otherwise, what’s the point of meeting them.  Then I run a lot, because if I can’t give a good impression, if I can’t add value, and if I can’t make a difference for our you could say relationship with MCC, then what’s the point of even meeting them.


So I have, in terms of routines, I have cut down to usually not starting early morning, not starting until 9:30 for something, which was something I didn’t do in the past, and actually usually trying to avoid dinners in the evening.  Not both, I mean external lunch and an external dinner, because then I realized I can give you much more.  I get more of it, and it does sometimes cause an expedite traveling, which my wife doesn’t really like, but that’s just too bad.  MCC likes it.  It’s good for MCC and yeah, she says I’m married to the company sometimes, but anyway.

06:01 Radu What is something that you believe in that other people think is crazy?
06:03 Tim Well, as I said, I do meet a lot of people and I think some people say, hey as a CEO, you shouldn’t really do that, but I think it’s the right thing to do, and I have such a good team here in headquarter in Singapore, so they can run a lot of the business now by themselves with some guidance, but they’re good enough, so where can I add most value.  I want to add value, so yes, I am actually out meeting people at all kind of levels, which yeah.


It’s maybe not so normal, and then I, well, in this interview, I spoke a lot, but actually I try to listen a lot to what people say.  I’m just the kind of person that – I always tell people well, I can change my mind easily if you can convince me.  I’m just saying, so this is how I see it, but if you see it different and you are able to convince me, okay.  Then I’ll see it differently, so I always challenge the people around me.  It doesn’t matter which level to make me see the world differently.  Change my perception of things.  If they can convince me, then clearly, they must be right.  If I’m convinced otherwise, they must be right.  If they can’t convince me, then clearly they’re not right.

07:22 Tim Of course when I say this to them, I also joke a little.  I say, you know, if you can’t convince me, then you got to find data, if you still believe that you are right.  Then don’t give up, but go back.  Find data.
  Tim Find documents, find something better, and then you come back and convince me again.
  Tim I’ll give you that chance.  No problem.
07:43 Tim And what else do I do which is crazy?  Yeah.  You know, I’m not good at accepting people making the same mistake twice.  Sometimes, I am told that I’m very large and very kind CEO when people make mistakes, but that’s because I believe that, you know, if we were robots, we wouldn’t make mistakes, but we are humans and humans make mistakes.  That’s the fun part about humans, but just don’t make the same mistake twice, because then you have shown me that you don’t care and you don’t want to learn, and it doesn’t matter to you.  And that is just not on for me, so I am very kind if you can put it like that, but if people make a mistake no matter how stupid it is, but if they do it again and they could have prevented it, because they didn’t really care about last time they made a mistake, I really get upset.  You can ask my kids about that one.  I think they can –
  Radu They might have some interesting story.
  Tim They can confirm that one.
08:56 Radu We learned a lot also when we are challenged, right?  So if you are to choose one of the, you know, from your past, one of the most challenging experiences that you have faced and how did you fix it?  How did you solve it?
09:20 Tim Yeah.  So probably, people will suggest this intra-Asia project, but actually I didn’t consider it a big challenge.  I know this sounds weird, but I thought it was an opportunity and I’ve always thought we couldn’t go wrong.  So if you ask me for the biggest challenge in my life, that’s probably not the one.  I have maybe two.


One is when I worked in Argentina.  At that time, Maersk acquired Sealand and we took also over a lot of people from Sealand, and then I had a lot on my desk and I had weeks where I work 12 to 14 hours per day, everyday, so at that time, my son was just a baby and I only saw him on the weekend, because I would leave before he woke up.  I will come home and he was sleeping, and I remember talking to my mom one day on the phone and suddenly, I was in my office in Argentina in Buenos Aires, and I said to my mom, “Mom, I cannot see anything right know.”


I don’t know what’s happening, but I can’t see anything.  Everything got dark.  I couldn’t see anything, really.  Never tried anything like it, and then my mom got so upset at me and said “Okay, you are clearly overworked and overstressed.  You’ve got to find another way.”  And this was, you know, but I was the second in command and I was like in charge of everything, and I took everything on my shoulders and I just learned that you can’t do that.  You can’t do it on your own.

  Tim You have to use your team, and then the other challenge I had was taking an MBA.  I mean, I took an MBA in 2007 and 2008 in London Business School and Columbia, New York, at the same time as my full-time job in Maersk.  And I have to thank my wife for that one.  Because I have also two small, very small children, so that was so tough and it took 20 months and you have this –
  Radu Case studies.
  Tim 20 exams, right?  That you must pass and I was away either in London or New York one week every month for 20 months, so I was 10 times in Manhattan and 10 times in London.  A little easier from Denmark glad I was there, not in Singapore, but it was so tough.  And I didn’t miss a single class during those 20 months, because I said, you know, if the company is willing to pay, I think the total cost ended up being $200,000 or something.  If the company is willing to pay this for me, then I need  to put in the  effort.
11:50 Tim Put it an effort.  So I didn’t miss any classes.  I mean, at least I was there physically in all the classes, but that was just so tough and if anyone of the listeners are thinking doing an MBA, I just have one advice.  If you have children, just make sure that your spouse is –
  Radu On board.
  Tim On board on this one.
12:13 Tim Because it takes a toll on your spouse as well.
12:21 Radu Yeah.  I’ll go to the last question because I think it’s the most interesting one.  If, you know, we have very young business, we have people that are just starting there in the shipping, in the supply chain careers.  If somebody would ask you if they wanted to be the CEO of a large company, what advice would you give them?  What would you say?
12:44 Tim It’s a tough question, but then, one thing that I have learned is that sometimes, you actually need to think very carefully of who your boss is, so I had 24 bosses actually in this 14 roles I have had and I think that has helped me a lot in learning both how to do things and how not to do things, and I think you need to be humble in every role you have in just considering all these, was it different people or seniors that we work with as opportunities to learn.


In my daughter’s school, they have this interesting word which they call fail.  When you fail something and they call. They call it first attempt in learning and I think it’s such a strong phrase because, you know, don’t be put down by failures or mistakes, or things not going exactly the way you wanted them to go.  Just always try to focus.  Okay, so what I can learn from that?  Why did this person think like that?  Why do I think I do a great job and my boss does not?  And what do you do when a boss, for example, does something you totally disagree with?  Because that’s a tough one also, right?  I mean, do you object?  And how do you –

  Radu How do you object?
14:20 Tim How do you object, right?  I mean, you don’t want to get in trouble also, so sometimes some younger trainees come to me and ask me for, you know, so how should they take their next role and which one should they pick?  I actually tell them, you know, look maybe less in your early career on the salary package and so on.  I mean, anyway, hey will you make 2,000 or 2,200, or 3,300.  That’s not what’s going to shape your career, so think about who you work with, what you can learn, and whether you will enjoy the job and well, you can add value.


I once got an offer to work for Maersk in Vietnam and I really wanted to go to Asia.  I was sitting in Denmark.  I wanted to go to Asia and I got a job offer to be CEO for office manager for our office in Hanoi and I thought, ah yeah, I can get back to Asia, right?  But then I started analyzing.  Okay first of all, I have to work Saturdays as well, so that means six workdays.  At that time, we work Saturdays in many Asian countries.  I will work a lot, but I will not get any exposure, because Hanoi is reporting to Ho Chi Minh, that’s reporting into the Singapore office.


That means the exposure to the Singapore or Asia headquarter, I wouldn’t get, because I would kind of only report down to Ho Chi Minh, and I’ll be on my own.  You know, my boss will be sitting in another location, which is difficult if you want to really learn early in your career, so I actually rejected it, even though it was fantastic opportunity to be office manager for 14 people and I think many would have accepted it, but I actually rejected it.


And then I got Argentina instead, where I got all the things that I wouldn’t have gotten in Hanoi, so maybe an advice is not to jump on the first opportunity that’s presented for you.  You think carefully what you will get out of it and can you add value, and do you then get.  I mean, do you get something –

  Radu To do more, learn more, yeah.
  Tim Yes, exactly, and would people notice?
  Radu Experience more.
  Tim Because I mean, let’s not beat around the bush.  You need to – I mean there are many people fighting for good positions.  You need some kind of –
  Radu Visibility.
  Tim Visibility, so it doesn’t matter if you do a hell of a great job in Hanoi.  Nobody’s going to notice.  Then is better, have a lower role like in Argentina, but everyone noticed.
  Tim Anyway, yeah.  If I have longer time, I could give a lot of more advice, but I think I said enough already.
  Radu Tim, it’s been a pleasure.  Thank you so much for the time, for sharing with us today.


End of Episode


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