....a load off my mind!

Give Me the Night…

After a seven-week business trip covering thousands of miles across Asia and Australasia, Mr Loadlink is back on home soil.

When I’m centre stage at karaoke night in a pub in Chichester, not far from my home in the UK, belting out George Benson’s classic “Give Me the Night”, those lucky—or unlucky—enough to be in attendance can pretty much see all the elements involved in my performance. There might be a spotlight, screen with words on it and a backing track.

At the other extreme of live entertainment, the stages of summer festivals and world-class venues not only dazzle with lighting, sets and special effects that unfold before the audience’s eyes, an incredible amount of rigging is behind the scenes making sure everything is safely held in place or moved in time with the performance. I suppose shows are like icebergs in that sense.

I was aware of this to some extent already but it was an eye-opening and awe-inspiring experience to attend the Live Entertainment & Event Expo, which took place earlier this month at the Makuhari Messe during my trip to Japan—the home of karaoke! Distributor RUD Lifting Japan Co. Ltd. unveiled our new wireless load shackle to a show that attracted thousands of attendees from the entertainment industry.

As I told trade media recently, we were very keen to use the Live Entertainment & Event Expo to highlight the key features of the product and visitors were quick to identify how the load shackle could enhance safety and efficiency in their applications. The enquiries we have received are for multiple units and we anticipate that being typical as the product gains increased recognition. More on that in a minute.

Five-star performance

I took an opportunity to walk the aisles of the Makuhari Messe and get an appreciation of the true size and scale of the entertainment industry. Chain hoists, truss systems, rigging, wires, cables, lights, speakers, special effects, catering facilities and more go into even one night of a performance sometimes. Imagine the potential that creates for us on a yearly, global basis.

It reinforced my belief that Straightpoint can become a significant supplier of load cell technology to the entertainment business, which probably offers even more opportunities than I realised. RUD Lifting Japan did a fantastic job of launching the new wireless load shackle and I am tremendously excited about its potential based on the feedback we received.

As I said, it is a sector that consumes multiple units. Where an industrial application might have one load cell monitoring a load test, for example, a theatre or event production might need 20 load cells on a truss system that moves during a performance in time with music and special effects. Our software lends itself to that activity; we give clients the ability to display up to 100 load cells on one screen complete with load data and alarm systems.

From a business standpoint it is a sector that should also provide steady growth and some immunity to the cyclical nature of other industries, typified by the cost cuts we’re seeing in the oil and gas market, impacted by the low oil prices. Theatre districts across the world—and it’s certainly true of the West End in London—have even thrived during the recent recession and larger productions rarely compensate on the impact of their shows.

The trip to Japan concluded a long but very rewarding business trip, the final stages of which saw me travel from Singapore to Australia, where I spent some valuable time with our distributor Australian Calibrating Services (ACS) in Melbourne. The state of Victoria can have cool winters though and one of my memories of the trip is how cold I was with a suitcase full of Straightpoint polo shirts and no warm clothing!

A great adaptation

I came back to my desk to find a mountain of parcels and letters that had built up over the past seven weeks. Once I could see my keyboard and screen again, the biggest challenge was adapting to my desktop computer having been working from a MacBook on the road.

Travelling the world and meeting our partners will always be the most enjoyable and rewarding part of this job, but it was great to be back amongst the brilliant team at Havant HQ and deal face-to-face with people who have been on the other end of a telephone or the other side of a computer screen for the last couple of months.

One has to accept in such situations that it isn’t going to be a seamless transition back into the office lifestyle. I needed to catch up and that became easier once I had accepted that it wasn’t going to be something I could achieve in the first couple of days back.

The whiteboard came in very handy in planning how to make the first week as efficient as possible. It was also a useful tool in collating all the notes I had made whilst on the road and presenting them to the team. It was satisfying to share the questions that had been put to me at trade shows and meetings, whilst putting into context that everything we do in the office impacts the way we are perceived by distributors and users in the marketplace.

The audience were uplifted

It is important that one of those perceptions is that we are successful in engaging our audiences wherever in the world they work. To that end we are increasing the amount of material we publish in foreign languages. Last year we produced multilingual product manuals in 10 languages and we received followup requests for French and Spanish catalogues.

The French material allows us to better penetrate certain African markets that are French-speaking while John Molidor, who oversees our North American subsidiary, is very keen to distribute Spanish literature to some South American markets that are showing increased interest in our weighing and force measurement product range.

We will consider translating content into other languages and we would urge our partners and distributors to contact us if they feel they could be more efficient with information in the local language of their customers. I know RUD Lifting Japan frequently translates content and visitors to the Live Entertainment & Event Expo certainly appreciated that.

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

Mr Loadlink

The Sky’s the Limit…

An epiphany on board a junk boat floating between the city of Hong Kong and Kowloon Bay, inspired the latest in the Mr Loadlink blog series. I also took the train during a busy month in Asia.

I have been working hard with our PR professionals recently to formulate a content marketing strategy where everyone at Straightpoint is mindful of the story behind their role at the company.

For example, when our marketing team execute the successful launch of a catalogue, a sales person oversees the use of our load cells on a particularly demanding oil and gas application, or a distributor enjoys a fruitful trade show, I encourage them to retain the details so we can generate content to communicate that positivity to the market.

While there is a requirement to produce hard-hitting advertisements and product-focussed literature, that largely rely on initial impact, generating positive energy and interest around the brand and our products in other ways sometimes requires a longer term strategy.

Implementing a successful content marketing strategy requires everyone at the company, particularly those at the coalface, to always be aware of the potential to communicate their activity in a way that could educate, entertain or inform our target audiences and promote our company beyond that which is possible by our advertisements, catalogues and web pages alone.

As with any cultural development at the company, I have to lead from the front. That’s why an epiphany I experienced on board a junk cruise in Hong Kong earlier this month, overlooking my favourite skyline in the world, will live long in the memory.

I’m proud of the fact that I thought of you, my readers, when I gazed upon the hulking skyscrapers of Hong Kong during a spectacular sunset. I also thought back to when I had first seen the same view. It was about eight years ago and I’d been to the Hong Kong Grand National with some friends at the Happy Valley Racecourse.

hong kong skyline

My favourite skyline in the world—Hong Kong—that provided the inspiration for this blog

I have been in awe of that skyline ever since and think about it often. Very little of it has visibly changed over recent years, which is in stark contrast to our business. Little could have prepared me for the growth we have enjoyed and rarely is that put in the context it was by one of the most iconic urban views in the world.

Asian adventure

Hong Kong was just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle. At the start of the month I left the UK and flew into Beijing to meet Xiao Tong Yang and Eric Yang at General Lifting Engineering (GLE) SKIP Lifting, based in Zhangjiakou City, Hebei Province. They are our distributor in China so it was great to spend some time in the head office.

I enjoyed a tour of their new facilities and then led a group training workshop with over 20 of their sales and technical teams. I always enjoy working with people to whom English is a second language. I relish the challenge of getting my message across through a translator as it requires me to be concise and accurate in my delivery of content, which fits an overarching theme alluded to earlier.

The session proved the importance of etiquette, especially when working in Asian markets where, typically, you have the honour of working with very engaging, personable people who show courtesy in receipt and delivery of items and messages. I always respect the way professionals in the region exchange business cards with a very deliberate two-handed gesture whilst making eye contact. Sometimes at home, people are guilty of handing over their details without such sincerity.

Even though building a long-term relationship might not have been my objective, I felt that making eye contact with the translator, who directed proceedings during the Zhangjiakou training sessions, made him feel respected which was important to the efficiency of proceedings. In turn, I averted my gaze from the translator to the group as he delivered my message.

It is of paramount importance that people doing business in Asia travel to build partnerships. It is a long way from the UK but so much can be achieved face-to-face, which is true the world over but particularly of a place where relationships are nurtured and treasured. I have made lifelong friends here in Asia for that reason.

Taking the train

It was a feature of this business trip that much of the mileage we covered in China was by train. I travelled from Beijing on the Beijing-Guangzhou High Speed Railway, for example, which travels in excess of 300kph and is more commonly referred to as the ‘Bullet Train’. The scale of the infrastructure project required to move people around at this speed impressed me. The stations were far larger than I have experienced elsewhere in the world.

Having referenced the personable side to doing business in the region, it was fitting that we journeyed by rail. Travelling at such colossal speeds was similar to being on a plane but there is something more civil about train travel. It is a common mode of transport featured on travel programmes, as we’ve all seen, and it’s no coincidence that learning how to say ‘Where is the station?’ and ‘How much is a train ticket?’ are questions that always feature early in foreign language lessons. Trains are often an efficient way to travel, whilst submerging yourself in a local culture.

Talking of train stations and language lessons, I noted that all the signage at stations was in Chinese. It reminded me of the importance of addressing an audience and providing clarity of information, which is always something I’m mindful of when preparing literature and presentation slides for the Asian market.

The next stop was Shanghai, where we visited the Shanghai Salvage Bureau with GLE to present our new catalogue. They already use many Straightpoint Radiolink Plus load cells and it was rewarding to reinforce their knowledge of our equipment with a training session with their local sales team.

Later that week I met with a very good friend of mine, Julie Zhu, who is CEO of Kyloweigh Inc. She took me on another river trip on the Shanghai Bund. There was no match for the awe inspiring Hong Kong skyline of earlier in the trip but the voyage incorporated a visit to a brewery where I tried one of the best beers I have ever tasted, so I settled for that!

Jian Feng were my next appointment where Candy Lee was my host as we looked at their latest products. They had a range of shackles and slings in stock and it was enjoyable to spend time with Candy and get to touch and feel the equipment. My standout memory will be the spotlessly clean factory and superb layout. We try to be as efficient and clean as possible at Havant headquarters but there are always lessons to be learnt from visiting other facilities.

Too many to mention!

So many companies and fantastic lifting professionals featured in my notes this month and I can’t name them all, but I want to highlight one more—Promat (HK) Ltd, who showed great interest in our new catalogue and extended typically warm and friendly Asian hospitality.

My month concluded in Singapore and Sri Lanka, where we exhibited at the inaugural LEEA Lifting & Rigging Conference Asia and then the Premier Industrial Exhibition & Trade Fair (INCO) respectively. More on both next month as I’m conscious this has been a lengthy entry, but it’s worth saying what a great job LEEA did of launching a new conference-exhibition.

And, by way of a Stop Press, I was invited as a special guest to the opening ceremony of the final day of INCO, which was covered on ITN Sri Lanka TV. Transport Minister Champika Ranawaka was a special guest and stopped by the Straightpoint stand. What an honour!

Heading to Japan next where I’ll catch up with RUD Lifting Japan, who are showing our products at entertainment show Content Tokyo 2015 at Tokyo Big Sight.

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

Mr Loadlink

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