How I work: Ian El-Mokadem

V.Group described the appointment of new CEO Ian El-Mokadem as ‘marking a significant milestone in the Group’s ambitious transformation plans’. Indeed, following hot on the heels of a decision to create a new and simpler corporate structure to enable what it described as a closer relationship with its customers, V.Group said the appointment of a strong leadership team was important in blending a depth of maritime experience with broader industry expertise.

And if his LinkedIn profile is to believed, then V.Group  would appear to have their man. He describes himself as an “experienced Chief Executive Officer with a track record of delivering growth and leading successful business transformation in both business and consumer service businesses. Comfortable operating in both public and private equity owned environments with extensive experience of working internationally. Broad expertise encompassing business strategy, organic growth, acquisitions, disposals, margin improvement and operational excellence. Have led both an IPO and a public to private transaction on the main market of the London Stock Exchange.”

“My priority for my first few months at V.Group is to listen and to learn,” he told ShipManagement International. “I will be meeting with customers and visiting as many of our offices as possible. In my first month, I have already held discussions with a number of our customers and have met with my colleagues in our offices in London, Glasgow, Athens, Monaco, Mumbai, Chennai and Manila with more trips planned. I will be using the insights gained from these visits to inform discussions with my Board and Executive Team colleagues as we seek to refine our strategic plans.”

And what motivates him as a senior manager? Hands-on or delegator; and how does he like to be viewed by his staff?

“I am motivated by seeing a business grow off the back of getting things right for its customers.  When a business is growing off solid, sustainable foundations, generally everything else goes well with colleagues getting to develop their careers and investors making good returns too.

“When I think of people that have inspired me in business, they have always combined an ability to communicate the big picture with an ability to roll their sleeves up where necessary. I have been incredibly lucky to work with some fantastic business leaders whom I have learnt a great deal from.  At the end of the day though, it was my parents who always taught me to try to do my best every day and to sleep well when I thought I had done what was right.  At the end of the day, it is that advice which has guided me throughout my career and that is what I expect from the teams I work with,” he said.

His appointment comes immediately after a hive of activity at V.Group. Whether it was scaling down its Monaco and Isle of Man offices and closing its Liverpool office altogether as part of a review of its global operations, or jumping on the acquisitive trail and buying up some valuable competitors such as Graig Ship Management and Selandia Holdings in Singapore. Indeed, at the time of going to press, the company announced that Bob Bishop had been appointed Chairman of Selandia Ship Management in addition to his current role in business development within the Group.

Mr El-Mokadem again: “I have been fortunate to experience growth in several industry-leading service businesses and I am sure that many of the insights gained will be very relevant at V.Group.  I have learnt that the most effective business strategies are the simplest ones. They have to be grounded in real customer insights and be pursued with a real unity of purpose using consistent messaging both internally and externally. With that in mind, I will be working with my team to focus on two things – ‘what” we aim to achieve and ‘how’ we aim to achieve it.  Both are equally important and we need to be clear about both if we are to maximise the Group’s success.”

He has already gone on record as saying that he was very confident that V.Group would achieve its ambition of becoming a blue chip, innovative, highly professional service provider to ship owners around the world. But what makes a blue chip company in his view, and how close or far away is V.Group from being seen as such?

“I believe that market leaders set high standards and are seen as establishing the benchmarks by which others measure their progress. They focus on their customers, build long-term client relationships and strive continuously to improve the services that they offer. They are passionate about what they do, impatient about making progress, self-critical when they get things wrong and are happiest when customers are choosing them above all others. I think V.Group already has many of these characteristics, however, there is much more we can and should do. It is that potential that attracted me to the role,” he added.

And what about relaxing? Getting that important work/life balance is essential in today’s full-on shipping and shipmanagement industry. “Work takes up a lot of time so, when I am not working, I like nothing better than spending time with my family and friends. I like travelling, eating out or going to the cinema or the theatre. We also keep a motor yacht and have been boating off the South Coast of the UK and, more recently, the South of France for many years.

“To keep fit, I like running and try to keep pace with my teenage daughter although that has become quite difficult as one of us is on an improving trend and one of us isn’t!  I read widely and alternate quite happily between the classics and much lighter fiction.  A glance at my Kindle would reveal everything from Tolstoy and George Eliot to modern crime-writers such as Peter James, James Patterson and Jeffery Deaver. Most recently, there has also been quite a nautical theme and ‘Down to the sea in ships of ageless oceans and modern men’, by Horatio Clare made for good reading prior to starting my new job,” he concluded.