Warren Jones to step down as Polaris CEO
Warren Jones, who has received the lion’s share of credit for turning around docks operator Polaris Holdings Ltd, is to step down in October.
This is the latest turn in a varied career in which Mr Jones has moved from education to the civil service to CEO in the private sector.
Polaris owns Stevedoring Services Ltd, the terminal operator of the Hamilton docks, which manages 95 per cent of the island’s critical imports.
“I just don’t want to get up every day with this level of stress,” Mr Jones reflected on the high stakes of the job.
His first priority will be to take a break once he is out of the office and then decide on his next challenge. He will be back at work, he said, doing something, somewhere, but at a different pace.
He laughs: “I want to play a little more golf. But I have to be working, just for my own sanity. I’ve worked all my life.”
Even though the company is in a ongoing industrial dispute, his leadership has helped take it from inconsistent results to profitability, and from industrial strife, to far more harmonious industrial relationships.
He is proud of the company's turnaround and proud of the various teams.
“They are efficient and committed and take pride in what they do. There were major problems here, but I was able to focus on the people. You have to listen and hear what others in the room are saying,” he said.
“You’ll never always agree, but you must start by listening.
“Bermuda’s dockworkers are good at what they do – some of the best in the world, once you understand what they accomplish on that little strip of land.
“We have a record that is enviable – just a couple of thousand dollars of damages a year, out of the millions of dollars worth of goods that come through here. Nowhere else in the world can you boast that type of safety record.
“These guys operate in that space safely, efficiently and take pride in what they do.
“There is one thing about them that I had never seen before on any other job. You don’t need to tell these guys what to do; to show up at work on time; to start working at the appointed hour. They just come in and do it. They understand their commitment to this country.
“We don’t agree on everything, but I feel there is a level of respect on both sides.”
It was not always that way. The docks had long been a hotbed of industrial unrest before Mr Jones’s tenure began nearly ten years ago.
If anything, his time has been marked by fewer of the bitter public battles than in days gone by. The first five years were quiet, a dramatic change from the previous decades.
Polaris board chair, Cheryl Hayward-Chew, described his corporate leadership as “impeccable”.
She said: “His keen insights, integrity and courage have been invaluable in our journey to turn around the company and move us to a place of productivity, profitability and overall stability.”
“The groundwork Warren has laid serves as a strong foundation for the coming years. He has steadied the course and we expect that his successor will build on the corporate achievements.”
She said: “Beyond the numbers, Warren has demonstrated the power of relationships, creating space for greater, more productive communications with our stakeholders. Even when the parties involved begin at loggerheads, through his leadership, we have been able to work through and achieve mutually agreeable solutions.
“While the docks have become a more efficient organisation they are also a model for workplace safety, fairness and business innovation. This is a testament to his fine leadership.”
Mr Jones arrived at a company in turmoil and led a corporate restructure, building shareholder value after the company had endured decades of management challenges, the company said.
Today, apart from Stevedoring Services Limited, Polaris is also the parent company of East End Asphalt Company Limited, Mill Reach Holding Limited, and Equipment, Sales and Rentals Limited.
A dedicated Christian, Mr Jones admits his faith was really tested eight months after he came onboard.
He recalled: “The brakes went on one of the cranes and I suddenly couldn’t sleep because it hit me: somebody could have been killed.
“But also if the cranes go out of service, nothing is coming into the country. It unnerved me, as I realised the enormity of the job and the responsibility I had taken on.
“It was my faith that got me through. Everything with me is God-led. My relationship with God comes above all and I’m very much a family man (wife Joanne, and two adult sons). This is how I stay centred. And I have always been a fitness freak, running at four in the morning.”
Polaris has already launched an executive search for their next CEO, with an appointment expected by June 2023. Company directors said they had committed to a comprehensive and proactive transition plan to ensure a seamless succession.
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