August 28, 2013

A Word With the Boss: Summers on a skiff led to very big things

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Brendan and John Ready, co-owners of Ready Seafood, are seen with 120,000 pounds of live lobster in Portland.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Q: What did you learn in switching from being independent to running a company?

A: One of our great lessons is to hire great people, but if you hire average people, train them, give them the tools. We look at our employees as teammates. You recruit an all-star team and you build them up and teach them and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Give them direction and motivation and you'd be amazed what people can do. And also realize you're going to make mistakes and learn from them. The biggest problem at the start was being a micro-manager and needing to realize that sometimes other people can do things better than you. 

Q: You recently signed a lease to rent additional space on the Maine State Pier. Is the business and market growing fast?

A: We buy a tremendous amount of live lobster and we care tremendously about branding Maine lobster and increasing the value. Leasing the new space will allow us to expand and hold more product and do it more efficiently and package it better. It allows us a clean slate to learn where we are. We will add another tank that will allow us to hold another 200,000 pounds of lobster. We are really, really anxious with the value of lobster being so low and the best we can do is continue to promote it. We tell everyone what a great product it is and people really connect with it. 

Q: The lobster industry has had a lot of problems in recent years, mostly from over-production and low prices. What do you think needs to be done?

A: There's got to be more of a connection among all the interest groups -- the lobstermen, the processors, the live lobster shippers -- you have all these groups with different interests and they're not working together.

There's no incentive, or at least no immediate incentive, for harvesters to catch a better product. A lot of the lobsters that were coming in when it was so warm (last month) were a little soft, didn't have as much meat and there was a high mortality rate. It will happen and when we were lobsterers ourselves, if we had a lobster that was maybe a little soft, we'd put it at the bottom of the crate. It's terrible to say, but that's what happened.

Nine months ago, we built a plant in Scarborough. It's a mini-plant -- we do maybe 60,000 pounds of processing a week, which in the scheme of things is pretty small, but any lobsters that are too small or too weak (to survive shipping), now I can process it. The trip to Scarborough is a lot shorter than the trip to New Brunswick, so it's a way to give us one more option to be less reliant on Canadian processors. 

Q: Long-term, how do you increase the market for Maine lobster?

A: A lot of it's based on trace- ability. I can tell you where our lobster came from, whether it's Lubec, or Stonington or Harpswell. This may be a way for customers to connect to the lobsterman and the processor. If I can find a place to buy a better lobster -- it may just be the way its handled, if you take better care of it or handle it a little slower -- it equates to more money and you connect the harvester to the customer and that's part of where we're going. It may take time to get there.

I'm doing a test market with the Cranberry Island Lobster Co-op. I took these guys to a seafood expo in Cleveland. It's very uncommon for lobstermen to say, "I want to go promote my product." It's rare for them to take that ticket and get on the flight and these guys did. We sold lobsters in the stores with our lobstering overalls directly to the consumers. The promotion was great -- each lobsterman went to a different store and we sold about 5,000 lobsters and these guys saw how we did it and they loved it.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:


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