Shipbrokers – How Do You Measure Up Against Your Competition?

Careers in shipbroking range from fixing your first ship to masterminding some of the biggest deals in global logistics. Ambitious brokers in the industry are continually looking to benchmark their performance against the best in the market – so what constitutes true top-performance in shipbroking, and how did the industry’s elite deal-makers get where they are?

The sky’s the limit!

With a family history of over 60 years in shipbroking, I am privileged to be associated with some of the industry’s leading maritime professionals. Since moving into the maritime recruitment space I have conducted hundreds of interviews and screened many more CVs from shipbrokers all around the world.

What stands out, along with the fascinating complexity of a close-knit global community, is the huge range in performance (and earnings) across the spectrum of shipbroking careers.  

From chartering brokers securing in excess of 30-40 fixtures a month to sale and purchase specialists selling over 20 ships a year, careers come in all shapes and sizes – as do the rewards for the results they generate.

Many of the highest flyers I’ve worked with, for example - responsible for millions of pounds in revenue and incentive pay well into the hundreds of thousands - are still growing in their careers, perhaps with as little as 7-8 years of commercial experience.

And that’s just the brokers – senior corporate leadership still roll their sleeves up and get involved in contributing to the top line, steering home huge deals in the £500m+ range for the purchase of high-value assets such as oil rigs or entire fleets of ships.

What makes them tick?

Before looking at exactly how top brokers go about building their record-breaking pipelines, it’s also important for aspiring professionals in the sector to understand the underlying mindset which drives the top few percent of industry performers.

A key factor is having the right examples to follow. That’s why experience working  leading international shipping firms is so highly prized - it’s easier to set your sights firmly on being ‘the best’ if you actually know – and work alongside – the people who truly are at the top of the global game.

Shipbroking is a uniquely personable space, and if you work in this type of environment then not only will you have seen some of the multi-million-pound deal-makers around the building, you’ve likely had a chance to share a drink with them and actually learn their stories first-hand.

A second important motivator is vision from leadership. The elite few who set the standards for performance in shipbroking have been coached and nurtured to think differently from average corporate employees.

With the right management figures continually inspiring talented brokers to rethink what’s possible within their roles, brokers push far beyond average vision and can make in a year what other people might aim to retire on, as a life goal.

Top brokers are also spurred on by multiple impulses. Certainly, there’s the lure of bonuses and commission. But there’s also a healthy dose of competitive spirit, pride, and – common across almost all the highest producers in the sector – a driving desire to beat the commercial competition, uphold brand values and dominate their market space.

What are the foundations for success?

Though career achievements in shipbroking are due to multiple factors in each different case, there are also some constants which positively impact a broker’s likelihood to be successful.

-         Cross-sector market knowledge

Most leading brokers, while they might specialise in a certain sector, have a broad understanding of the shipping industry as a whole. They use their awareness fully, creating opportunity with every client encounter – at a conference, cocktail party or seminar, astute brokers will generate opportunity from different sectors, where more junior counterparts may exclusively stay within their own lane.

-         Subject-matter experts and story-tellers

Great brokers mix their business knowledge with a unique ability to present commercial opportunities in an engaging, human way. They instigate close and genuine friendships with their clients and network, and have a knack for extracting the narrative from a business current to link personal interests with market data – bringing deals to life in a way that one-dimensional brokers can’t match.

-         Diversity of experience

It’s common for top brokers to have experience in both smaller, boutique brokerage firms and large corporate houses. This breadth of exposure allows them to round out their skill set fully, without being silo-ed off from key areas of business practice. Even those who grow up in an established multi-national tend to show curiosity for how different departments function and collaborate, and develop a three-dimensional understanding of their organisation.

-         Total commitment

Truly outstanding brokers are single-minded in their pursuit of client satisfaction and results. On a personal note, I witnessed first-hand the sacrifices made by my granddad (and mother) in our family Sale & Purchase broking firm. Long nights, abbreviated family holidays and a limited social schedule were the norm when looking to out-perform competitors and get ahead in the market.

From company owners to brokers, the market’s top performers have tunnel-vision focus on success – and enjoy the plentiful rewards it creates.