Who is?

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lets talk a little bit more about POWER

Lets talk about power in shipping. shipbroking and business in general.

In a previous post I described a person who was considered the 'best of the best' as a shipbroker - and then I stated that this was in most part due to the power they wielded...

How did this manifest

1. Expert power - there was no doubt this person had great knowledge. At the start of this person career they had been a shipowner and therefore was able to bring unique and strong perspectives to the world of shipbroking. In the late 80's it was rare to find a shipbroker who could run a voyage calculation and one that understood intimately the important metaphoric buttons to push...

3. Coercive power - This is old news for those long in the shipbroking tooth. Shipbrokers expand business and keep business through being powerful. that is why some of the larger shops are the most successful. A powerful shipbroking company or a power individual has 'things' that pothers want. And if those 'things that others want' are worth alot of money and status then its amazing how money keeps rolling in. In its simplest form many shipping companies - both charterers and shipowners are scared of powerful shipbrokers and therefore the shipbroker in question gets more business.  If as a shipowner I no longer want to work with a shipbroker because they have behaved unethically, or because they have provided poor service - how is this possible if the shipbroker has'exclusivity' on heaps of business that I want? Well I can't.I need to dance with the devil baby!!...again nothing new here. This broker in question (from the previous post) had 2 large exclusive clients - and knew very well how to use this leverage to his advantage. He and his company would not be shy in reminding clients that 'support was expected' rather than potentially earned.....which is probably the way the world should be.....but it aint...

Look it isnt all bad here. What is wrong with using leverage? Used in a smart way with sound ethics its perfectly reasonable. the problem occurs when expectations go too far...

3. Social power - What i found the most intriguing and sometimes disconcerting was the open use of social power. This is still very much the case in shipping around the globe. This successful broker was also the most social. If someone was up for a late night out, a boozy business trip, a very long lunch - this guy was there. Not only was he there but his cohort were with him. They moved like a Possy, always within eye sight, always within earshot to laugh at each others jokes, back each other up, and basically present a united front wherever they went...

This was both fun but also disconcerting - I have never been a fan of crowds and although as individuals they were all good guys - as a combination of people - well group dynamics can take over...

Anyway - this combination of power is very intoxicating for all involved and has led to great success. Those wanting to be a part of the possy (customers mostly) readily bought in and the rest is history. This guy lived shipping 24/7...and has made millions as a result.

The one element of power they didn't really have in my opinion was Legitimate power. This is the kind of power that comes easy and is a reward for being great at your job - minus the social and coercive elements. This manifested (for said broker and his cohorts) in certain ways - mainly cynicism, bullying, and the other social problems related to working too long and too hard....a lack of perspective can be damaging. I dont think they have the respect they crave.

So being the best (or perceived to be the best) is not always what its cracked up to be. And in all honesty I think there are quite a few others in that market that are actually more successful in terms of making money, deals done etc but they keep things quiet and play cards close to the chest and have a life outside of shipping.

I think by the tone of this post you can tell which modes operand I prefer.

Keep rocking



  1. Dear VS,

    First of all, congrulations! Your blog is just amazing and the content you share with us extremely useful!
    I have always had a question and i think its in a way related to this topic... To be honest, i want so bad to be a shipbroker and jump in this industry (im currently studying), i find it really interesting.
    As i read and what i heard, shipbrokers must be in a way working 24/7; picking up the phone, making business, travelling etc.
    And that´s exactly what concers me. I mean, is it possible to have a life outside shipping/your job? For example having time to spend with your family, do your own stuff, meet some friends or this kind of job limit you to do those things?

    I'll be pleased to hearing from you

  2. Hi there. Thanks for nice comments. Look - shipbroking, ship chartering, shipowning - the type which applies here is a 'commercial' role. Commercial means selling. As the old saying goes - we are all selling something. Even the shipowners and charterers who 'think' they are principals (customers) are selling something to someone.

    Having said that - here is another little gem for you. People hate to tell you the realities of their job. There is alot at stake in peoples lives selling you that what they do is hard work and involves great sacrifice - for this is a direct reflection on them as individuals. my experience of the realities is somewhat different.

    I have written it somewhere else on this blog but the average ship chartering person has a working life full of peaks and troughs. I have had days and weeks and months of doing very little. i once played golf 10 times in one month during office hours. But them ie had months where I didnt sleep. Welcome to shipping!

    What I can also tell you is that the smart ones have worked out work life balance. I only work 10 hours per week these days and in the final 8 years of my 'high rolling' career I average about 3 hours per day. But I am in the minority. For no other reason that I designed it that way. Or in other words - I had a goal to work less and live more. Still do.


    1. Thanks for kindly reply.
      Same here, i mean i want to work less and live more and according to what you are saying, thats afortunately possible!!

      Keep up with your blog, its awesome!

  3. Dear VS,

    I have read your ebooks. I've found Shipbroking isn't a very easy industry to get into. The few "junior" positions I've seen in my city require 3-5 years experience, which seems like a contradiction. What is your opinion in working as a ship agent/operations role to enter the industry? I've seen more of these available than commercial/shipbroking positions..

    Thanks and eagerly awaiting your response--

  4. Absolutely a good way to enter. Many shipbrokers traditionally take this route. Not only is it a nice strategic decision you will also learn the nuts and bolts of shipping. Shipbrokers with and agency and operational background are highly regarded.

  5. Hi VS,

    I sent you my CV and Cover letter a few weeks ago along with a donation. I was wondering if you still use your yahoo address and still do this for people? Thanks again for all the time you spend on this blog, it's a great blog and it's very helpful. I love the books too. Now I just need to find out how to get in.


  6. Dear VS

    I've recently bought your books, they are simply amazing!

    I wanted to ask you something:
    What is your opinion in working as a ship/agent operator in agency businees? This post is being offered within my company and im seriously thinking of it, i mean to apply for the position.

    Do you think that it's a good way to start/to enter the industry?
    In other words, do you think that as a ship/agent operator i may have the chance to become one day a Shipbroker? (By the way, it's what i would love to. My dream is to become one day a Shipbroker).

    Best Regards

  7. Yes an excellent way to enter the industry and petty good jobs in their own right...