How Network Events Can Land You a Deal
By Beth Shields
Michael Moss of Moss Marine USA, Inc. and Pete LeHardy of Phoenix International are unlikely — but profitable — partners.
Michael, the owner-operator of Moss, refers to himself as “the only guy in the Network with grease on his hands.” Pete, the business development manager for Phoenix, sees himself as having a “1,000 mile vantage point” over the projects that Phoenix works on. “I am kind of the B-D guy, where Mike is the A-Z guy,” Pete told us.
As Michael tells us, “Pete’s a really laid-back guy. I met him multiple times [at Network events]. I had no idea who [Phoenix was], because they’re outside of my normal business circles. Phoenix would be the people who go out and find the space shuttle if it lands in the ocean. Phoenix is a global service provider that we are fortunate to have in Maryland as part of the Network. I never heard of them, because I don’t have a space shuttle, but I met them [through the Network]. “
The two met at a Network supply chain breakfast in 2014. “I got a cup of coffee and a muffin, and I sat down at the table where Michael was sitting. I had never met him before. We just started chatting. “ Pete said. Six months later, “Michael mentioned a job to me, two or three times after we met. Michael said, ‘Hey, there’s this opportunity.’ “
“The job” turned out to be a mega-ship carrying over 100,000 tons of coal that left the Port of Baltimore, heading to India with a draft of 47 feet in a 50-foot channel. Overloaded, its rudder ran aground, causing an unsafe steering condition. The vessel’s owners had two options: dry dock the ship or use divers to fix it in the water. After a month parked south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the ship’s owners opted for the less expensive underwater mechanics.
With lawyers, insurance companies and the U.S. Coast Guard overseeing the entire process, the ship’s operators contracted others who engaged Moss Marine and Phoenix to do something that had never been done before. More than 21,000 tons of coal was offloaded with floating cranes, then held in a 350-foot barge while repairs were made. Phoenix was hired to mobilize a specialty team with the necessary equipment to Baltimore and work on a very remote pier at the former Sparrows Point steel mill.
Phoenix divers and supervisors did the work at the pier, with Moss Marine coordinating logistics for crane support and supplying pieces or parts that were necessary, sometimes requiring machining & fabrication in Baltimore. Moss Marine took measurements and made sure everything worked correctly. Phoenix did everything under the water; Moss Marine did everything above the water.
The partnership proved successful and profitable for everyone involved. As Pete says, “Mike was one of those hands-on guys, the kind of guy we love, that gets knee-deep in the project and understands what’s going on and is very much part of the solution. In the end, we were able to do a fairly complex repair involving underwater welding and a lot of underwater non-destructive testing to get the rudder repaired. The ship was able to pass numerous certification tests. The ship was able to get underway and complete its transit, a job well done for the whole team including Phoenix and Moss Marine.”
As for forming an unlikely partnership, Pete has advice for those attending the International Partnering Forum and other Network events, how to interact with a diverse group of people you may not traditionally work with: “That first time I met Mike, I didn’t gravitate to the people I already knew. I sat down at a table where someone was sitting that I didn’t know, and I didn’t know if it was going to be an effective use of my time. I didn’t know what there was going to be as far as a dialogue, and low and behold, it was a great chat and started a nice relationship. So just don’t be afraid, force yourself not to gravitate to the people you already know. Be intentional about it.”
Pete adds that it’s also helpful to be open to all of the opportunities available. “Offshore wind is why we’re all meeting, but maybe there are other things that your company does and other folks do that might [result in other types] of business. Repairing this coal-carrying ship ultimately doesn’t have a whole lot to do with offshore wind, but it was a great leveraging of those relationships and the Network to foster work. So [take advantage of the Network events and] expand the conversation to beyond offshore wind opportunities, and see where that goes.”
You never know who you might meet at a Network event. That unfamiliar guy across the table may end up being your unlikely business partner.