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Lessons From the Northwestern’s Wheelhouse


I recently had the pleasure of meeting Sig and Edgar Hansen of Deadliest Catch fame.  The brothers were guest chefs at Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival.  As “chefs” they make really good fisherman!  I wasn’t at all surprised by the level of their culinary skills.  What I was surprised by was how engaging and personable they each were.  They were funny, entertaining, and genuine.  They have years of stories to tell and tell them well.

Both Sig and Edgar came across just as you see them on the show.  Sig made a few references to cleaning up his act for a “Disney” stage.   He was more Vegas than Disney dropping the occasional “A” bomb and, at one point, even gave his brother a one-finger salute.  The audience loved it.  There was no bleeping this live performance.  Watching the Disney folks cringe when he did was as much fun as any “E” ticket ride in the park.

Edgar attempted to make some salmon cakes while Sig oversaw the operation much as he does from the wheelhouse of his ship, the Northwestern.  The cooking quickly took a back seat to questions and answers from the audience of one hundred who waited for more than two hours in the hot California sun to see the demonstration.

One of the audience members asked the Hansen’s what the TV show and their notoriety has allowed them to do.  Without skipping a beat, they both responded with a single word, charity.  They went on to explain how they are able to give back via two of their favorite organizations, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House.  Listening to them tell their stories it was obvious these two organizations are close to their hearts.  Sig referred to his “blue-collar’ work ethic often and I believe every word of what he says.  He is a man who walks his talk.

Another audience member posed a question related to the money each crew member earns on the Northwestern.  When the totals on the show are shown, each member of the Northwestern takes home more per person than the crew members on the other boats in the fleet.  Sig’s answer was simple.  “We pay more.”  He went on to explain why his company pays more than the others in the fleet.  In short, it’s good business.

By paying more his crew stays together as a unit for a long time.  Over and over he explained how they become a family, a team.  By sticking together they become more efficient and are able to perform better than the boats which continuously have to train new greenhorns.  They operate more safely which in turn results in fewer accidents which results in lower insurance costs and so on.

Hire the right people, compensate them well, give them the tools and support they need, get out of their way and let them do what you hired them to do.

Too often I’ve seen managers pursue the false economy of “getting their people cheap.”  While this may look good on paper, resources (time, money, and people) are lost in the long-term.  Employees may leave because they feel under-appreciated.  They seek, and receive, better offers from competitors.  I have heard more than a few cases of employee theft in which the employee somehow felt “justified” in their actions because they believe they were under-appreciated, or worse, being taken advantage of.  I recently heard a news story on the radio about employees quitting their jobs, even in today’s economy, when they didn’t have a new job lined up simply because they were tired of feeling used and abused by their current management.  More money is lost in employee turnover than is saved in lower-than-market compensation packages.  Morale suffers, teamwork suffers, expenses go up, etc.

There are a few things we can all learn from salty Captain Sig.  Work hard, give back, and treat your crew well.

Disney’s California Food & Wine Festival

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~ by Marc Hedish on May 31, 2010.

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