Martek Marine – Marine Safety Pioneers

Martek Marine, a business dedicated to developing new marine safety solutions, is looking to attract and invest in talent.

Martek Marine’s mission is a simple, but ambitious one, to revolutionise ship safety, performance and crew welfare. They have built themselves a position as a world leader in the manufacture and distribution of marine equipment around the planet. The business is dedicated to making its customers’ fleets compliant with safety, environmental, medical, and navigation marine regulations.

“We were founded 20 years ago,” explains Paul Luen, the company’s CEO. “We exist to pioneer solutions for safety performance and welfare on commercial vessels. Innovation is part of our DNA. Our business strategy is about attracting, retaining and developing people with a great culture.”

The firm employs 50 people and has an £11 million turnover, which the company has built through a strong, foundational set of values.

“Our philosophy is all about selling better rather than cheaper, looking where possible to disrupt markets,” Luen says. “We’re about to launch the first and only portable gas detector with a three-year lifetime, it never needs charging or calibrating, it’s truly disruptive. Wherever we go we want to be the pioneers of something, selling value at a competitive cost.”

Martek chose IT Desk as our ITC partner because they promised an excellent quality of service and their culture was aligned to our own. They are true to their word and over the years they have delivered on that promise time and again. Martek is a fast-moving company and IT desk not only keep up but continue to offer proactive solutions that have and continue to support our growth. IT Desk successfully supported us with the movement from physical storage to a cloud-based storage solution which has allowed us to work remotely and improve productivity. As we continue to grow we hope to work collectively with IT Desk to achieve our IT solution goals.”

Attracting Talent

Of course, when your business’s cornerstone is attracting great people, attracting those people can be a challenge.

“For any company in an economy doing relatively well the challenge is attracting great people,” Luen says. “For all businesses, their only enduring source of differentiation is their people and culture. I spend the majority of my time working on attracting talent into the pipeline and creating the conditions for them to succeed and thrive.”

To do this, Martek Marine has developed a unique recruitment process, designed to deter candidates who would not be a good fit as much as drawing in the ones who will.

“Our recruitment is different from most. We do not use agencies. We go out across social channels, some of which are highly targeted,” Luen says. “We write in such a way that it attracts the right kind of candidate with a disruptive, innovative mindset, committed to lifelong learning, prepared to go the extra mile. People who will communicate, have fun, and have personality. We recruit on attitude and behaviour. We can train knowledge and skills. So, our adverts appeal to one kind of person, and deter another because we’re not for everyone.”

Getting a job at Martek is not easy. Selection is a 360-degree process. It’s rigorous, designed to show candidates what the company is about.

“Certain candidates will choose not to join us and that’s great as well,” Luen says.

And once a candidate is chosen, that is only the beginning of the journey.

“We implement a process of onboarding. On day one they hit the ground running,” explains Luen. “It’s process-driven. We give them a lot of support, challenging them and empowering them with responsibility and freedom and then get out of their way. Continued professional development is an absolute obsession. We set people up to succeed with job score cards so it is clear on both sides what the bargain is, what they can expect from us and what we expect from them and each side is held accountable. We make sure they have got the right tools and the right support and they meet weekly with their manager. It’s transparent, with high integrity and high support.” It is a relationship built on respect, and accountability, on both sides.

“We expect employees to identify their needs and be open to the needs we tell them about and have them open to coaching and continued professional development. Most do 100 hours of professional development a year,” Luen says. “We do life coaching, observed coaching, we make use of video and we actively give out free books within the organisation. We give people access to external learning by funding subscriptions. Whatever the individual’s learning style is we’ll support them to help them accelerate their acquisition of knowledge and skill.”

Keeping Talent

Martek also takes a considerable interest in the wellbeing of their staff outside of work, as Luen points out, “We also support their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing through mindfulness, nutrition, and financial management. We want holistic learning and that’s an obsession of mine.”

It is an approach that has earned the company the loyalty of employees even among demographics where it is typically a rare resource.

“Millennials tend to be less loyal but ours are very loyal, we have a degree of freedom for the hours they work, where they work, so long as the job is done we don’t really take what hours they work and what holidays they take and that freedom is increasingly important,” says Luen.

Indeed, one employee whose loyalty Martek has earned is that of Luen himself.

“I’ve been here for 20 years and I love my time in Martek as much today as I did when I started,” he says. “The DNA of the workforce starts with talent and goes through innovation and we’ve got some really strong processers in that. The cornerstone is attracting great people and success is creating opportunities for people and giving them chances to create their own opportunities. It’s really all about business as usual but continuing to innovate, looking at where we can pioneer new solutions to improve safety, to diversify into parallel marketplaces. Where do we see an opportunity to revolutionise existing business models?”

Luen is still in no doubt as to what the most rewarding aspect of that work is.

“I’m blessed that I come into work as an equal, to learn off talented people in a mutually supportive and mutually challenging environment,” he says. “So many workplaces are based solely on financial metrics.”

The secret of their success is simple, as Luen points out, “Take great people, look after them, they will serve the customer and if you serve the customer financial results will follow.”

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