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From the sea to the cloud: Building a global marine brokerage and consultancy firm with Office 365

Today’s post was written by Captain Mike Meade, Chief Executive Officer, M3 Marine Group.

Captain Mike Meade, M3 Marine Group

Captain Mike Meade, M3 Marine Group

As a DP Master Mariner, I worked at sea for many years before gaining experience in the marine brokerage and consultancy side of the marine business, where I dealt with major oil companies and offshore marine and engineering service providers. When I founded M3 Marine Group in Singapore in 2005, it was just me and a laptop. But I was lucky: that year there was a distinct uptick in marine services. Today, M3 Marine is a US$7 million annual turnover marine consultancy and broker business with 30 employees.

My vision for M3 Marine is to expand our Asian-centric operations and grow the business into a global company. To achieve this goal, I needed business productivity tools that would amplify the core competencies of the brokerage and consultancy sides of the business. Staff at M3 Marine travel frequently across Indonesia, China, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia. So in order to provide expedient service as we expand our operations, we need communication and collaboration tools that work on our laptops and mobile devices across any time zone.

I learned about cloud-based IT services a few years ago, and I wanted to go that route to save money and reduce servers in the office. This turned out to be a bit of a journey because our original IT provider wasn’t interested. We used Google for a while, but we didn’t like the interface and it didn’t do what we wanted. We tried a ship broker’s proprietary database and messaging service, but it was a nightmare. Then, in 2012, I went to a luncheon hosted by the British Chamber of Commerce Small Business Group. I met our current IT provider, eVantage Technology, who talked about Microsoft Office 365. It’s an easy-to-use, enterprise-quality tool that doesn’t force you to learn anything new. We get the familiar Office programs and all the reliable messaging, calendaring, and collaboration tools that we’ll need to grow the business.

I run two sides of the business, each with its own office, so I’m always moving around. Office 365 supports the way I like to work: at home, in a coffee shop, attending meetings in our Singapore offices, or meeting with customers in another country. No matter what device I use, I can access information when I want, where I want. Our brokers can create better deals for customers now that they have better access to historical data in archived emails, and our consultants can expedite report development by collaborating on the same document simultaneously, even if they’re working in different countries.

I was at a business lunch a few weeks ago and, after the speaker finished, we sat around the table and talked about Office 365. People expressed concerns about connectivity and security. I told everyone that I had no worries on that score, that the data in my archived Outlook files is more secure with Microsoft than it ever was sitting in our office. I’m confident that we have the business tools to create a cohesive, global network of employees working together to grow M3 Marine into a worldwide business.

For more on M3′s move to Office 365, read the full case study.