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The Sinking of the SS Malolo

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Lesson: Build your credibility

On May 25th, 1927 the SS Malolo was sunk to the bottom of the sea, taking with it hundreds of men including the designer Francis “Willy” Gibbs. The reports stated that the merchant ship, then the largest of its kind ever built in America, was broadsided by a Norwegian freighter. The gash was as structurally damaging as the one that had sunk the Titanic. It was an enormous two foot wide and fifteen foot high vertical slice near the engine and boiler room. The ship was doomed.

At least this would have been the Malolo’s fate were it not for the meticulousness of the designer, Willy Gibbs. The Malolo never actually registered more than a five degree drop in its vertical position. The ship was comfortably towed back to port in the New York harbor and would go on to sail for fifty years.

This was all due to Gibbs’ revolutionary hull design, which, after the Malolo incident, would become industry standard.

And this incident would skyrocket Willy Gibbs into becoming the premier shipbuilder in America, perhaps the world. He would design 63 percent of all merchant ships over two thousands tons, and over 74 percent of all naval ships during WWII.

Gibbs proved his credibility as a shipbuilder that day. It was not an accident that a ship built by Gibbs could withstand such a blow. But it took an example like this to prove his worth, and thus to bring him true and lasting success.

This is credibility: The quality of being trusted and believed in by others. Now when he talked people listened. He had influence because he was good at what he did. And the Malolo incident had proved it. He was respected because he could be trusted to always deliver the superior products that went with his name. And his high standards and perfectionism concerning ship safety made him one of the most important businessmen of the wartime era.



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