....a load off my mind!

Team Straightpoint

Mr Loadlink slung a kit bag over his shoulder ahead of another busy month on the road.

topgolf

Here I am at Topgolf Houston making a hole in one, said with tongue firmly in cheek.

Fifteen years ago, two brothers were at a driving range practicing their golf swings. They started brainstorming and arrived at a concept for Topgolf, a golfing experience that balances competition with entertainment. Players hit high-tech, microchipped golf balls at targets on an outfield. The founding Jolliffe brothers describe it as a larger-than-life-sized outdoor dartboard—but for golf. It’s a good description.

During a trip to Houston for the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) at the start of the month (May), John Molidor, the general manager of our North American subsidiary; Aaron Orsak, technical sales engineer; and I took an opportunity to visit a Topgolf venue and enjoy some downtime. I spoke last month about the importance of “quiet hours” and changing the scenery is hugely important during hectic business trips where breakfast meetings lead into site visits, exhibitions, meetings and networking dinners.

As I said in the press release we recently circulated to trade media, OTC was the first event Aaron has attended as a Straightpoint employee. While it was hugely satisfying to see him working the aisles and networking at the trade show, it was also uplifting to spend some time away from the event and relax while exchanging notes and ideas. Look what came of the Jolliffe brothers taking some time out. Topgolf has evolved to become a best-in-class entertainment facility, complete with dynamic event spaces and a very impressive food and drink menu.

We have a culture at Straightpoint where everyone is asked to work incredibly hard to hit our targets but we do so in a way that is enjoyable and rewarding. The stronger the relationships between John, Aaron and myself, the more efficiently we will be able to achieve our aggressive growth strategy for the North American market. John is very familiar with the mechanics of our operation and it’s been great to see Aaron embrace the Straightpoint ethos as well.

As readers will know, Aaron is formerly of Bishop Lifting Products Inc. and Certex USA so he is familiar with working at highly respected, growing companies. Utilising his skills, contacts and reputation, it will be exciting to see him grow into his new role with us. The potential growth offered by the oil and gas sector in the Gulf Coast region is enhanced by his addition to the team and OTC proved that we have acquired the right man to work with John to achieve our goals.

Sport can be very symbolic of the professional world. The enjoyment of holing a ball, scoring a point or swinging a club can be very satisfying, yet you can’t take liberties and you typically get out what you put in. The slightest lack of concentration can lead to a golf ball veer off course just as a sales pitch might have done when we were on Bishop Lifting Products’ booth at OTC if we took our eyes off the ball.

Spreading the load

Golf is a very individual sport where, apart from input from a caddie (and that sort of guidance is reserved only for those at a certain level of the game), one addresses the ball and is reliant on their own skill, judgement—and maybe a bit of luck. Sometimes, business is like that. More commonly, however, it’s about camaraderie and teamwork, like a lot of other sports.

Straightpoint exhibited at Breakbulk Europe at the Antwerp Expo in Belgium alongside our friends at Modulift.

We exhibited at Breakbulk Europe alongside our peers at Modulift. Here I am with Modulift’s Malcolm Peacock, international business development manager and Anthony Culshaw, senior design engineer.

From 18-21 May, Straightpoint participated in Breakbulk Europe at the Antwerp Expo in Belgium, the largest exhibition and educational forum in the world addressing the needs of traditional break bulk and cargo logistics professionals. We exhibited alongside our peers at Modulift, the premier supplier of Spreader Beams, Lifting Beams and other below the hook Lifting Equipment, where we have a strong relationship with Sarah Spivey, managing director, and her team.

This particular joint venture epitomised the spirit of collaboration. The two companies share many global distributors so it made sense to work together to increase each other’s exposure and raise our profiles among cargo handling and heavy lift visitors beyond what we could achieve independently.

We don’t compete with each other and often we’re trying to penetrate the same buying decision makers in the same market sectors. Furthermore, we can bounce an introduction to our products onto something in Modulift’s product mix and vice versa. Oftentimes at Breakbulk, we were talking about our load cells and the attendee showed subsequent interest in spreader beams, for example. Likewise, Sarah directed an enquiry to us when a load cell solution presented itself during a conversation about a cargo application.

We’re both UK-based manufacturers of premium, market-leading technologies and I find the relationship between the two businesses personally and professionally satisfying. I keep in regular contact with Sarah and we frequently meet up at shows where, as I said, often our agendas are very similar. I came back from Antwerp with 40 strong contacts, which is probably even more than if we had tried to penetrate the marketplace alone. Enquiries came from all over the world—South America, North America, the Middle East, Russia and Asia.

Celebrating success

Sports and business coaches alike will tell you the importance of celebrating success and I thought of that during a dinner with our Belgium partner one evening in Antwerp. Philippe Toussaint, general manager, Metil Industrie is a long-standing Straightpoint distributor and it is always a pleasure to catch up with him, especially on his own turf.

Philippe Toussaint, general manager, Metil Industrie and I enjoy some light refreshment in Antwerp.

Philippe Toussaint, general manager, Metil Industrie and I enjoy some light refreshment in Antwerp.

Philippe and I had a very relaxed evening but it was good to raise a glass to each other’s businesses, the strength of our partnership, a very productive day at another trade show—and to teamwork. Just like a hole in one or a tournament victory, it’s important to enjoy success with those who make it possible and remind yourself why it’s so important to keep putting in the hard work to achieve future goals, no matter how distant some of them may appear at a given point in time.

Eurotunnel connects England with mainland Europe, which is home to some of the world’s most beautiful cities. Antwerpen-Centraal (Antwerp Central) station is spectacular in itself.
tunnel Antwerp

Thank you for reading. Keep following us on Twitter—@LoadCell

Mr Loadlink

 

 

Chiang Rai, Time Out and the Power of Paper

A pause for reflection on the most significant month of the year so far at Straightpoint.

I was reading an article the other day about the importance of spending “quiet hours” away from the pressures of modern day life, intensified by the demands placed upon us by mobile devices and social media. The piece outlined how the author has dedicated parts of his day around lunch and dinner to putting his smart phone away and allowing his brain to relax and enjoy other things—food, a cup of coffee, fresh air, or family, for example.

The article resonated with me, not because I could apply every element of it to my own life but because, in essence, it outlined the importance of implementing a sustainable schedule that allows one to be productive, engaged and committed to long-term goals. Like a car, too many revolutions per minute over a long period of time burns lots of fuel and can see you fall short of your destination.

“Quiet hours,” as the author called them, will mean something different to everyone. At Straightpoint, we encourage our staff to be part of the culture and work extremely hard to achieve our goals and develop individual careers, yet, people are productive in different ways.

Sometimes a change of scenery can help, as my trip to Thailand earlier this month proved. It was great to spend some time with my wife and her family, while dedicating time to the tasks that it isn’t always easy to get around to while I’m in the office or at trade shows. I was able to put “quiet hours” to good effect. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean switching off completely because I like to stay busy, but I was able to put my laptop on a table with a great view of the beautiful Chiang Rai region and focus on tasks that would have taken me much longer had I been on home soil.

Two sentences from the article referenced above are worth pondering: “Technology was built to aid our lives, not control it. We have to make sure we’re making these devices work for us, and not the other way around.” They’re facts I’ll certainly try to be mindful of when I’m engrossed in an important email and I get a message from Twitter saying @LoadCell has welcomed another follower!

I’m very comfortable leaving operations director Alfie Lee in charge of headquarters and we stay in regular contact, as I do with John Molidor, the general manager of the North American subsidiary, which is where modern technology is a help not a hinderance.

Changing of the guard

Talking of the states, it was great to have Aaron Orsak, who recently joined the Straightpoint team in the position of technical sales engineer, over from North America to meet the UK team and learn more about the culture of the company and our product range. Aaron will cover Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama but it was hugely important for him to spend a week in the UK.

Aaron and I in Chichester. Cricket pitches are being prepared for the upcoming season in the background, which you don’t see very often in the states!

Aaron and I in Chichester. Cricket pitches are being prepared for the upcoming season in the background, which you don’t see very often in the states!

Again, striking a balance was key. We only had a week at our disposal but it was important to spend some “quiet hours” getting to know Aaron better and allowing him to absorb the experience. Ok, it wasn’t too quiet in London when we went sightseeing for the day but you get my point. Aaron enjoyed the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and a number of other famous sights that he had only seen before on the television.

Dave, Rich and Aaron

It was good to enjoy a pint of English ale with Aaron Orsak (right), who has joined Straightpoint Inc., and Richard Howes from our PR company (centre) during a trip to London.

I took the opportunity to invite Richard Howes, a director at our PR company, Bridger Howes, to join us for a traditional London lunch—pie and mash! Rich often writes articles about applications and other success stories in the states so I wanted Aaron to meet the person who will no doubt be calling on him for stories in the coming months. Aaron, Rich and I also enjoyed a “quiet hour” over a pint of ale or two!

Later in the week, I introduced Aaron to Gary Mullins, of Action Coach, a leading business coaching company who named us Business of the Year 2014. Gary works with me and a number of our staff to analyse our business practices and ensure we are properly trained to meet the challenges faced by a company growing as rapidly as ours. I know Alfie and other staff speak highly of Gary’s coaching and Aaron was equally impressed.

It was also a good opportunity for Gary to meet Aaron. Part of our discussions over a long period of time have been about achieving an even stronger global presence with a robust US-based business and a distributor network that will be the envy of our competitors. Aaron’s addition to the team only makes that more achievable.

New catalogue hits the streets

The subject of my last blog was the new catalogue, which was launched on 1 April. Over the course of the month we have received unprecedented interest in the document and the new products contained within it. We printed and sent out a thousand, which is double the amount we usually circulate, and even then there have been requests for additional copies.

Having touched upon the 24/7 demand that modern day technology can create, the response we’ve had to our catalogue demonstrates the impact a printed document still has. In fact, I think our dealers and distributors really appreciated receiving a written letter from me, introducing the new catalogue and outlining how highly we value our partnerships.

Upon my return from Thailand I visited our German partners, Pfeifer, who actually brand our products for distribution in a number of countries in mainland Europe. They were very impressed with the new catalogue and in particular the new products.

The main purpose of the visit, however, was to meet my new point of contact, Frank Buttner. My long-time associate at Pfeifer, Wolfgang Gerster, has moved up in the company so it was important to make a connection and, again, spend some “quiet hours” with Frank. I congratulated Wolfgang on his promotion in person and would like to place on record my sincere thanks for a great partnership and many years of success together. I’m sure Frank will continue where he left off.

By the time you read this I’ll be packing my bags again for another trip across the Atlantic—this time for the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. I’m looking forward to catching up with John and seeing Aaron working his new patch.

It’s been a privilege to share the highlights of another busy, challenging and exciting month at Straightpoint. Make time for those “quiet hours”!

Mr Loadlink