Suffolk Business Awards 2021: Award-winning shipping boss owes it all to his people

Peter Wilson, managing director of Cory Brothers

Peter Wilson joined Cory Brothers in 1998 as a trainee shipping agent and became managing director in November 2019 - Credit: Mike Bowden

It’s been quite the year for Peter Wilson, managing director of Ipswich-based shipping company Cory Brothers.  

Last week, the firm completed a merger with Dutch company Vertom Agencies to become one of Europe’s largest shipping agencies. The newly-formed company is officially known as VertomCory but will continue to trade as Cory Brothers in the UK, while retaining all of its employees. 

In November 2021, Peter won the Business Person of the Year award, sponsored by The Churchmanor Estates Company plc, at the Suffolk Business Awards 2021. 

“I was massively surprised, sincerely humbled and a little embarrassed,” said Peter, who joined Cory Brothers in 1998 as a trainee shipping agent and became managing director in November 2019. “I am, however, extremely proud and I didn’t know that my marketing manager had even entered me for this award. To be nominated was a lovely signal from my colleagues, and to have their backing reassures me of what we’re achieving as a team.”  

Peter Wilson accepting the Business Person of the Year award from Emma Proctor King of The Churchmanor Estates Company plc

Peter Wilson with Emma Proctor King of award sponsor The Churchmanor Estates Company plc - Credit: Matthew Potter

Cory Brothers was also shortlisted for Employer of the Year, in recognition of its support for employees throughout the pandemic. Peter said every member of staff has contributed to its success during a very challenging time.  

“The team have been amazing – they have been through so much during the past two years and I’m so proud of them all. Dealing with a pandemic that no one could imagine has tested everyone. I genuinely feel like we are all now closer to each other.”  

Before the first lockdown, Cory Brothers invested in laptops, screens, phones and other equipment to ensure employees had everything they needed to work effectively from home. “Our IT team even helped to set up workstations for individuals at their homes to ensure everything worked as it should,” said Peter.  

Effective communication was essential during lockdown, so the company set up additional groups on messaging platforms, and had daily check-ins and regular updates – not only for progress reports per department, “but also to look after each other and our families,” he said. “Our people have reacted with calm reassurance, dedication and fortitude.”  

Cory Brothers provides comprehensive solutions for the shipping and supply chain sectors – from urgently-needed imports or a “messy customs clearance issue” to a large freighter that has a problem with its crew. “Most of the problems we solve are never seen or even flagged to our customers,” said Peter. “They trust us to do the job and make it all work.”  

Peter Wilson with the Business Person of the Year award at the Suffolk Business Award 2021

Peter Wilson was named Business Person of the Year at the Suffolk Business Awards 2021 - Credit: Mike Bowden

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Peter manages teams in the UK and overseas – reinforcing the importance of effective communication. “Most importantly, I try to ensure the team are happy. Our work can be intense – we have tight timelines and critical consequences, and there is a fair degree of pressure on all our crew – so it’s important to ensure there is a good balance.”  

Honesty and respect also play a big part in the way Peter leads – and how Cory Brothers operates. “I have always believed in treating everyone the same – and being kind, courteous and fair,” he said. “My dad instilled this in me many years ago, and it’s sage advice that has served me well.”  

Looking ahead, Peter is motivated to preserve the longevity of a company that is celebrating its 180th year, while ensuring it has the future of the planet in mind. “Recently we’ve seen a shift in the ethics of most good businesses – in that they are more conscientious, caring and generally more committed to green-themed sustainability,” he said. “We strive to reflect these important traits.” 

The Cory Brothers team will remain Peter’s biggest priority as the company enters a “new dawn” in partnership with Vertom. “It is, and always will be, about the people,” he concluded. “Our business motto is ‘never standing still’ – and that is what we’ll continue to do.”  

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