Award-winning Seably’s CEO Andrea Lodolo (pictured), shares how he ‘leads to leave’ and how he led to a new quality standard being created for the whole maritime industry with a pioneering partnership with DNV.

After successfully winning the Safety4Sea Award for training on 23 February 2023, European Business Magazine caught up with Andrea Lodolo, CEO of Seably, to learn more about his business leadership and how he led to a new standard being created with DNV.

You have held several leadership positions in different organisations. As a CEO, how has your previous experience influenced your leadership style?

I have held senior positions in several companies, but being CEO of the BNI group had the greatest influence on my leadership style.

It was a four-generation, asset-driven commodity manufacturing business that used to run factories in China and Europe. A business like that experiences fewer growth spikes and can be less innovative (and maybe less fun to work in) than a start-up. But it taught me how to grow a business in a traditional and disciplined way. Many start-ups fail precisely because they do not have discipline. What I have learnt enables me to add the discipline, the traditional spine to the fertile startup environment in a very positive way.

Seably is a digitally native company which transcends the boundaries of time and space in a very different way from an asset-driven company that they might constrain. As CEO, I am able to capitalise on all my previous experiences, including mistakes, to put the disciplined backbone into place. This enables us to scale-up, whilst not losing any of the innovation, drive or creativity that makes the start -up environment so special and exciting. We are growing rapidly and sustainably whilst retaining our core identity and most importantly, our promise to clients.

What are the most critical business skills for business leaders to possess? And how have you continued to develop and improve your skills?

In my opinion, the most critical business skill for leaders is the ability to actively listen. I believe in allowing others to share their ideas and taking the time to consider them before making any decisions. Active listening forms the foundation of informed decision-making, particularly for leadership positions. It can be tempting to make decisions without listening to others but to achieve success, we must be willing to listen and work together as a team.

As for improving my skills, I make a conscious effort to seek out feedback and constructive criticism from colleagues and team members. This helps me identify areas where I can improve and refine my approach. I also read and seek out relevant videos, podcasts and books to stay updated with the latest trends and techniques. Additionally, I engage in self-reflection and introspection to identify areas where I can improve my leadership style and business skills.

How do you think collaborative competition can help raise the bar for businesses and push for higher standards across the industry?

I believe that “coopetition” (collaborative competition) can play a vital role in promoting innovation, driving progress and accelerating the transition to a more sustainable future.

In the tech industry, companies often work together to create new technologies and products, such as the Bluetooth protocol developed through cooperation between Nokia, Sony, and Motorola. Yet there is no reason why non-tech industries shouldn’t apply the same approach.

For instance, a group of companies in the fashion industry could come together to create a standard for sustainable and ethical manufacturing practices, setting the bar for everyone in the industry to follow. By working together towards a shared goal, these companies can accelerate the transition to more sustainable practices and create a culture of accountability and transparency within the industry. Moreover, this approach could also lead to the development of new technologies or processes that can help reduce business operations’ environmental impact.

Coopetition sets higher business standards and raises the bar for everyone to achieve. At Seably, we have recently done this by collaborating with DNV (an international accredited registrar and classification society) to create a new certification for digital training platforms. It is open to any platform provider in the maritime sector and sets new expectations for what should be done by everyone in the industry to deliver the best quality training to seafarers.

By working collaboratively, companies can pool their resources and expertise to develop innovative solutions to sustainability challenges, which may not have been possible if each company had worked in isolation

So, was it the idea of coopetition that drove your decision to work with DNV?

Yes, that’s correct. While existing digital platforms and eLearning tools were available in the market, they were not regulated until now. We worked with DNV to develop the new standard SeaSkill™ ST-0595 for maritime training platforms to improve the standards for our industry with new levels of compliance. The ultimate goal is to make sure seafarers receive the best quality training and are safer at sea.

To date, we are the first and only maritime training platform to receive the certification but it is open to anyone in the industry, including our competitors. We work hard to maintain it, going through the checks and due diligence necessary at every level of the business. Every aspect of it is essential to ensuring a high-quality user experience, a value very dear to Seably and me.

What advice would you give a new entrepreneur looking to expand their business internationally?

If you are a new entrepreneur looking to expand your business internationally, having a diverse team that can think and act globally is crucial. By recruiting people of different nationalities, you can bring unique perspectives and insights to help you navigate different cultures and markets. Additionally, remote work can effectively tap into talent from around the world and expand your business beyond your immediate location.

When it comes to product innovation, it’s important to think outside the box and look beyond your current market. Explore new markets and listen to the needs and preferences of potential customers. Then, you can discover new opportunities and create products that are tailored to different regions and cultures.

It is important to remember that innovation should be approached strategically, taking into account factors such as regulations and standards. For example, if you have a European product, you may need to follow specific standards like the CUL to ensure compliance and profitability before expanding into other markets.

You can position your business for international success by building a company culture that values diversity and innovation and staying open to new opportunities and markets. It is also crucial to establish local partnerships and networks to gain access to distribution channels and credibility in the new market. This can be done by attending trade shows, networking events and building relationships with local suppliers and distributors.

Additionally, entrepreneurs should be prepared to adapt their business models and strategies to suit the local market. This may involve making changes to pricing, marketing and product features to meet local demand and regulations. Finally, it’s important to have patience and persistence when expanding internationally. Establishing a foothold in a new market and building a customer base may take time. Still, with a solid plan and commitment, the rewards of international expansion can be significant.

What’s your legacy as a business leader and CEO up to now?

As a business leader and CEO, my legacy is something that’s very important to me. I want to leave behind a message that inspires others to lead in a way that will positively impact the world. That’s why my motto is “lead to leave.” I firmly believe that true leadership isn’t just about achieving success for oneself. It’s about empowering others to achieve success and create positive change as well.

Of course, this isn’t always an easy task. It requires patience, perseverance and a willingness to take risks and face challenges head-on. But I believe that the rewards are worth it. We can accomplish amazing things when we work together to create a better future.

One of the things I’m passionate about is encouraging young people to follow their dreams and pursue careers that genuinely inspire them. That’s why I always tell them, “apply for a lifestyle, not just a job.” We can achieve incredible things when we approach our work as a lifestyle rather than just a way to earn a paycheck. We become athletes, musicians, artists and entrepreneurs – people who are truly passionate about what they do and committed to making a difference in the world.

So, that’s my legacy as a business leader and CEO. I want to inspire others to lead with purpose and passion, work together to create positive change and pursue their dreams with everything they’ve got. I believe that if we do this, we can create a brighter future for ourselves, our communities and the world.

You wear red glasses. Is there a reason for this?

I am not the kind of person who is afraid to be who I am, and I respect that quality in others too. I don’t want to blend into the crowd or be something I’m not, just to fit in with the rest of the industry.

Variety and diversity make the world an interesting place and it’s important to have that in the workplace if you are to be truly creative and drive innovation. I actively make sure we recruit people from all walks of life

My red glasses are a part of my personal brand, not a fashion accessory. They represent my passion, energy and creativity. When I wear them, I am ready to take on any challenge that comes my way with enthusiasm and drive. They symbolise my outgoing personality and my desire to stand out from the crowd.

About Andrea Lodolo – CEO Seably

Andrea Lodolo is known for his positive work culture, which fosters excellent teamwork and his motivation to help others achieve their potential. He is the CEO of Seably, a rapidly growing remote business with a mission to accelerate digitalisation in the maritime sector through innovative solutions that boost crew performance, well-being and safety. It is also the first maritime business to participate in the 4-day-a-week global pilot program.

Andrea has led Seably through bold, innovative partnerships, joint ventures and sponsorship of the Ocean Race to raise eLearning standards in the industry. He is also the driving force behind Seably’s acquisition of WellAtSea, which focuses on seafarers’ well-being and safety on board ships.

Born in Italy and holding a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, Andrea’s career began in global management consulting, where he developed an in-depth understanding of the corporate world. After successfully leading MaritimeMT as CEO, Andrea was appointed to the same role at Seably in January 2021. As Seably’s CEO, he drives the company’s strategic vision and operations, making it an industry leader in maritime user-friendly SaaS products.