Norm Schmidt, and what makes shipping such a great industry.
are a number of attributes that I would suggest are critical
in the make up of the ideal, successful shipping professional.
Here are a few that come to my mind:
- We all know that at its core, shipping, a relatively small
industry with a long memory, is a people driven business.
Principals regularly do business with clients and competitors
alike, and we must all get along well enough to keep commerce
moving efficiently. We like to have fun with those that we
are doing business with, and we prefer to do business with
those that we like. We all work very hard, but at the end
of the day, we all manage to have fun doing it.
- This is critical. We are always looking to develop new business
and new clients, and this means getting out there and meeting
new people. It also means learning about these new people,
what they think, and what their expertise might be. Those
who are best at this also look for groups of people that might
not yet know one another, and find opportunities to bring
complimentary people together.
where to find answers - Not one of us knows everything.
However, some of us are lucky enough to know a couple of people
who always seem to know the right person to contact to find
the information needed. This ability is of course tied closely
to trust, personality and networking acumen.
joy of the deal - Shipping people love to conclude deals,
whether it is a business transaction, or in my somewhat expanded
definition, fixing a vexing problem. It's the satisfaction
of using all of your skills to achieve your end.
- We are very lucky in this industry that one does not need
a specialized education to succeed and advance. What one needs
is the right personality, a willingness to work hard, perseverance,
and a great mentor. We do have great mentors in this industry.
We have people willing to teach younger generations everything
they know, make introductions, teach them to find answers,
to look at a stow plan or an offer with a critical eye. I
simply believe that there are few other industries today that
can match the sort of positive mentoring that we are so lucky
to have in ours.
Norm Schmidt, had all of the attributes above in spades, and
more. Those of you lucky enough to know him and call him a
friend know this very well.
Norm in August of 1990, working at Saudi Petroleum as a Cadet,
for Captain Tom Scott (SUNY Maritime 1977), who introduced
me to Norm (thanks Tom!). Norm represented the agents Saudi
Petroleum used at the time, GAC. Norm was genuinely interested
in people, and so he was with me. Here was an industry professional,
at the top of his career, interested in what I (a Cadet) was
doing, what my plans were, what I was thinking. After I graduated
and went to sea, I would always stay in touch with Norm, let
him know when I was coming home or going back to sea.
was well known for, among other things, putting tables of
people together periodically at Smith & Wollensky in Manhattan
for lunch. I think he really found joy in bringing people
together, some of whom might not know the others, and help
to expand his friends' networks. I was never a client of Norms,
but he would often invite me to these lunches, for no other
reason than to introduce me to other people. The lunches were
always great fun for me, as Norm would introduce people, tell
a few new jokes that he absolutely had to share with everyone,
and remind people how delicious the baby lamb chops were.
I'll always remember these events and his generosity.
one time when I came home for vacation for 3 months or so,
and mentioned to Norm that I would love to find a job ashore
to occupy myself with until I went back out to sea. Norm introduced
me to Captain Tom Scott (SUNY Maritime 1978), who was working
at OMI at the time. One of the people working for him needed
just a little more sea time for his Master's license, so Tom
offered me an opportunity to fill in for this person. While
the job didn't work out for me because of my schedule, I did
gain a friendship with Tom, again thanks to Norm.
time, in 1995 to be exact, I had mentioned to Norm that a
couple of friends and I had been playing around with a project
for a coastal car ferry on the US East Coast, waiting for
Cuba to open, etc., etc. Not the first to think of it, and
certainly not the last. Literally a few days after mentioning
this to Norm, a package showed up at my house, with a binder
full of information about Grimaldi car ferries, along with
a two page letter suggesting a few people that he thought
I would need to meet in order to see if this project could
be developed, one of whom I remain friends with even today.
Again, thanks Norm! I still have the binder and the letter.
than anything, it was always clear that Norm loved what he
did - bringing people together, mentoring, getting deals done,
knowing the right people to get the question answered.
is all to say, that when I think about what it means to be
a really successful shipping professional, I think of my friend,
Norm. Norm was a member of the CMA until 1996, and retired
not long after that. When I think of the attributes I mentioned
above, and the stories about Norm, I think to myself that
these are the very things that we work so hard to embody in
the Connecticut Maritime Association. It is these very things
that make us better and more successful in our careers, and
frankly, better people. As I thought about Norm over the past
day, it occurred to me that Norm didn't actually need the
CMA - Norm was rather his own maritime association - the Norm
Maritime Association. The NMA had a devoted membership, sought
after social events, and networking opportunities which were
hard to match elsewhere.
Norm will always represent the very best that a shipping professional
could be. I do try very hard to emulate what I saw in him,
but I don't imagine I will ever really check off all the attributes
I mentioned the way Norm did (I don't know nearly as many
jokes as Norm did
Norm passed away on Sunday, August 14th. It had been a while
since we were last in touch (too long, actually), and I had
been talking about Norm with a friend just a few weeks ago,
and had planned to get in touch with Norm to catch up soon.
I'm sad that I didn't have the opportunity to have one more
conversation with him. I am happy, though, that I am able
to have called Norm my friend, as everyone lucky enough to
have known him would be. Norm, with his outsized personality,
helped to make this the fun and interesting industry that
it is for all of us today, and I would say that all of us
should strive to bring a little bit of Norm with us to work
each day - mentor someone new to shipping, get a satisfying
deal done, or introduce a few people to each other. These
are the things that make our industry so great, and they are
the things that Norm did so well. I know that CMA's membership
joins me in sending our heartfelt condolences to Norm's lovely
wife, Janet, his son, Karl, son-in-law, Paul, and the entire
Schmidt family. I will miss my friend, Norm.