In the global shipping industry, there are inventors, pioneers and entrepreneurs, but few who have earned the right to be called all three. Jacob Stolt-Nielsen, achieved that rare distinction by investing the parcel tanker, pioneering the global trade for chemicals and building Stolt Tankers into the world’s largest chemical tanker company. Jacob’s created a deep well pump that could withstand the corrosive nature of the chemicals they transported and eliminated chemical cross-contamination. His idea came from an article in Life Magazine!
Jacob is your quintessential family owned business leader. He is against short-term incentives and high bonuses and believes too many companies are short-sighted. “Do most managers really care what is going to happen to the company 10 years down the road, or are they only looking at they will benefit over the short-term? We as a family-controlled company look 10, 20, 30 years down the road. We are much more conservative, more careful and, of course, more focused on the long-term.”
Below is an excerpt of Jacob Stolt-Nielsen and his son Niels in Dynasties of the Sea.
(the following excerpt is under copyright of Marine Money)
Evaluating the Global Economy, One Chemical at a Time
The products Stolt-Nielsen carries, and the ports its ships frequent, point to those countries that are among the world’s leading and/or emerging manufacturing giants. Not surprisingly, industrial growth in Asia has presented Stolt-Nielsen many growth opportunities for all its major businesses. Stolt-Nielsen counts more than 15 joint ventures in Asia to date. Yet while the company has been well served by such ventures, the Stolt-Nielsens recognize that the future is not without uncertainty.
Growth in Asia has been driven by exports, and with sluggish economic conditions in both Europe and the U.S., Asia’s economies may no longer be able to sustain recent historical growth rates. So Niels proceeds, again, with cautious and realistic assumptions. “This is how we have kept a strong balance sheet – by being careful about what we invest in. The global economy is still in trouble and I don’t think that we have seen its full effect yet,” he warned.
Looking for Leadership
His father echoes his son’s concerns and points to a crisis of leadership. “There’s not so much wrong with the global economy as people think,” Jacob said. “What is wrong is that there are no leaders. No one seems to be able to take charge. In America today, the (political) candidates quibble instead of getting together, finding common ground, and getting something done. Right now, they’re not doing anything, and things are getting worse and worse. The situation is even more worrisome in Europe, because we are 27 countries and we can’t agree on anything. Until a leader emerges, until we have a Churchill or Konrad Adenauer, someone must take charge. If not, the impact of this lack of leadership will continue.”