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Hi. I am a shipping company director, transport academic, author, family man and all round nice guy. I have worked as shipbroker, shipowner, freight trader and bulk charterer, in senior positions, with some of the largest and most disrespected (joke) companies in the world. Ask my advice on all things shipping and you will receive my blunt and always honest answer. Hang around to learn more about chartering and ship broker salaries, chartering and ship broker jobs, chartering and shipbroker recruitment agencies, cheap freight, maritime education, chartering and ship broker qualifications, become a ship broker, tips on how to be a successful bulk shipping executive, philosophy, Zen and the art of shipbroking, and much more. Yours The Virtual Shipbroker (recently proclaimed the guru of shipbroking) Copyright © 2009-17 by Virtualshipbroker

Friday, August 9, 2013

A riddle that took me years to figure out

Like any enthusiastic young buck straight out of university and trying to make a name for myself in the world of international bulk shipping, I worked hard and tried to figure out how the be the best shipbroker I could possibly be. Also - as a then unconscious INTJ (see Myers briggs) I see now that I was constantly trying to solve a riddle (because INTJ's are strategists) that in hindsight was not mine for the knowing - just then anyway.

That riddle - the riddle which I posed to all my mentors, colleagues and clients at any given chance, was also in hindsight out of their reach too..

For this riddle only reveals itself to those who look hard enough - in my opinion anyway. You see the problem was that I kept getting the same kind of answers when I asked a simple question - "What makes a great shipbroker?" and more specifically "who is the best shipbroker in the market?"

It was (and still is) a loaded question mind you because like politics - everyone has an opinion. And sure enough the tried and tested, almost cliche'd answers would waft across my bow - especially with regards to what makes a great broker. The usuals like "hard work", "experience", "great customer service" and 'street smarts". I sucked up these answers keen to take it all on board  - although deep down I had suspicions that I could have got the same answers from any business textbook i had read at university.

As for the other question - "who is the best broker"? a curious thing happened. Unlike politics where people had different views - this elicited a reply more common at a birthday party - just about everyone in my market (which is a pretty big one) sang out the same name....Len Maxwell....(not his real name because that would be embarrassing for both of us). This was over 20 years ago now and yep for the next 15 years whenever a discussion was to be had about who is the best most successful broker 'in the land' Mr Maxwells name would invariably come up. There were a few anecdotes about large deals but the crux of any conversations was that if Mr maxwell was the broker then as a competitor you should concentrate on something else.

As a client having Mr Maxwell handle your account was seen as a fairly important thing....it meant your account was worthy of his attention. In the crazy, high end world of million dollar deals and massive ships those of you new to the industry need only hang around for a while before you realise how reputations are made and destroyed in what is a truly global industry.

So back to the riddle - what in my opinion was the real reason Mr Maxwell was considered the 'Best Broker' in the land and how could I tap into this reservoir of riches and respect amongst my peers?

There was one thing he (Mr Maxwell) had more than his competition......and he had it in droves...

Who can guess what that was?........anyone? anyone?...

(oh and a tip - its not something boring like 'passion' - this is not Oprah - try again!


  1. Dear Virtual Shipbroker,

    I consider that the major difference between Mr. Maxwell and his competition was the fact that his reputation preceded him. Of cource he must had accomplished some great things but the rummors for him were greater.
    I have never heard about that guy before but when reading those lines I caught my shelf thinking "some day I'd live to become such a great broker".
    So, my point is that his biggest weapon were the "legent" that every body built around his name..

    that reminds me of a great experiment.

    vassilis, Greece

  2. reputation and integrity hey....

    reputation definitely is part of the answer but we arent quite there yet

    anyone else?

  3. Btw Vassilis many thanks for the reminder about the five monkey experiment. I will do a seperate post on that too later on. Nice contribution and yes reputation is part of my riddle.

  4. Hmm....this is a good question and one which I think is obvious BUT eleudes me lol... I'll say "Humility"
    Knowing that people have a predisposition to pride(the bad type) being arrogant and a know it all attitude. But a man that has been humbled in life and learns form it is one who is strong, knowing that humility is not weakness....


  5. After a while this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. . . 'As a client having Mr Maxwell handle your account was seen as a fairly important thing....it meant your account was worthy of his attention'

    He created the initial buzz around himself and then let the owners and charterers fight over him!

  6. All good answers but this story ends with a twist!

    Any more guesses?

  7. Put us out of our misery VS!!!!!

  8. He is blind.

    I know a broker who is blind and he has done some very nice deals!
    What he has created is this buzz around himself, and I believe that owners/charterers and competitors find him very trustworthy and likeable simply due to the fact that he is blind - and still he works as a broker!
    At least, this is how you make a name for yourself!