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People Skills…

In his latest blog, Mr Loadlink reflects on a month that epitomised the importance of people, sometimes forgotten in the business world.

Consider where your company would be without people. Probably nowhere. Yet, people are often taken for granted. I talk to a lot of business owners and many want to chew over margins, product, technology, automation, diversification and more, before acknowledging that progress wouldn’t be possible without personnel and their expertise.

In my previous blog, I referenced a conversation that was refreshingly different and did focus on the power of people, but I don’t think I went far enough to champion the individuals at varying stages of their careers, from different backgrounds, with ranging skill-sets, that make up the Straightpoint community and the lifting equipment industry beyond that.

As my LinkedIn connections saw in a teaser I recently posted, I’m delighted to confirm that we will be adding a very significant person from the industry to the business in January. Not that I can say more about that for the time being, but the acquisition serves as another example of the importance of individuals. While it’s crucial to source the best technology and product, it’s people that turn them into a business.

Port of call

I’ll certainly remember this month for people above all else. It began at the Europort trade show that put Rotterdam at the heart of the global maritime industry. At the start of the 37th edition of the show, Jolanda Janssen, CEO of Ahoy Rotterdam, which hosted the event, said: “This week all people with a role in the maritime industry gather together and share knowledge and we are very happy that we can facilitate that.” Well done, Jolanda, for focussing on the people, not the exhibition stands, aisles and products. Imagine the number of professionals that have added value to the event over those near 40 shows. Where would Europort be without them?

van gool

A meal out with Jessi and the Van Gool Team, she tried oysters for the first time!

It was employee Jessi Hill’s first overseas business trip. I was delighted to accompany Jessi across the North Sea to spend time with our Dutch distributor, Van Gool, as she does a fantastic job of being the lead contact for the Beverwijk-based company, from headquarters in the UK.

Pieter van Duijn, commercial director at Van Gool, had specifically asked to meet Jessi in person, who also spent time with Timo de Bree from the sales department and others at one of our flagship global partners. The timing of the trade show represented an alignment of the planets and it was fitting that Jessi enjoyed her first business trip with one of the most people-orientated companies we have the pleasure of working with. During some important bonding time, the Van Gool team took Jessi and I on a boat trip around the Port of Rotterdam, reported to be the largest in Europe.

On a general level, Europort was a very productive show. I read that the event welcomed a record number of exhibitors with over 1,100 companies present, representing 45 countries and covering 45,000 square metres of Ahoy Rotterdam. It’s certainly an event that will play a role in our development moving forward.


Regular readers of this blog know how important diversification has become to the people of Straightpoint. As the oil and gas industry continues to reel, industries like the marine sector have joined the entertainment business as key areas of interest for 2016 and beyond. Our distributor-based, people-centric, business model enables us to achieve diversification very efficiently as our global partners are often inherently diverse in the product they supply and the markets they serve, which often stretches way beyond below-the-hook lifting equipment.

This is true of Van Gool and our Spanish partner Cargo Flet Blasant, where I spent time with Ruben Blasco Colet this month. Ruben, like Pieter, Timo and our other partners are open to new markets and are accustomed to finding a solution to a problem. I hadn’t been to the Cargo Flet Blasant facility before and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in Barcelona. I stayed on a lively street called La Rambla, which was buzzing with restaurants, bars… and people.

The trip was poignant because I travelled just days after the horrifying attacks in Paris. The airports were quiet and security was tight. In Barcelona there was a tangible sense of anxiety at times as armed police roamed around the city. However, it was important to honour the trip and do my bit in defiance of terror. Within reason, this will always be my policy and I believe we should all do what we can to carry on as normal.

After squeezing in a house-move, Jessi, Tanya, Steve Woodhead and I travelled to Liverpool, where LEEA hosted an eagerly awaited LiftEx show. It’s a fascinating event because it polarises opinion on how it should evolve. The show has grown beyond recognition since the first one—I was there—in 2005 when it was a few tabletops in a grubby hotel meeting room. The brand new purpose-built Liverpool Exhibition Centre was palatial by comparison and I hear grand plans are afoot for next year’s expo in Aberdeen.

Some folks say it should revert back to a smaller, shorter format, while others would like to see it become a honking three or four-day extravaganza with hourly carnival processions. Personally, I’ve kept my expectations for LiftEx in check and, once again, measured its value by a quality audience, albeit light in footfall at times.
It’s not an exaggeration to say our stand was among the busiest on the show floor and that’s testimony to the priority we place in people. Jessi, Tanya, Steve and I all welcomed contacts to the stand and we even made some new acquaintances.

We completed the long journey south from Liverpool on the Thursday evening and were back at the grindstone in the office bright and early the following day, where we celebrated Tanya’s 10-year anniversary at Straightpoint. Tanya has played a significant role in our exponential growth over that decade and it was an honour to deliver a message of my gratitude and present her with a small token of appreciation in front of the team.

Man with a plan

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin.

Last Friday was one of my favourite days of 2015, as it is every year, when I sat down with operations director Alfie Lee and my business partner Peter McGreal to review the last 12 months and plan for 2016. Where possible, our discussions related to the people behind the business but, honestly, much of the exercise revolved around those buzz words I referenced earlier—margins, product, technology, diversification—and, of course, our new as yet unnamed recruit. Let’s call him Load Cell Man, for now.

Having spent the morning with Alfie and Peter, we devised a year-long plan for the business which, one, can be broken into the 90-day plan that is integral to life at Straightpoint and, two, provides the structure to the one-page dashboard that is my reference point throughout the year containing only seven critical numbers. That afternoon, we presented the plan to the team back at headquarters and personalised it for each member of staff.

It’ll be a New Year I enter as the holder of the Load Cell Golf Cup 2015 having defeated Gary Mullins, of Action Coach; and LCM Systems boss Steve Sargeant, in freezing, blustery conditions that obviously put technique and swing physics to a fair test.

So here’s to the people that made November great: Jolanda Janssen, Jessi Hill, Tanya Gregory, Pieter van Duijn, Timo de Bree, Ruben Blasco Colet, Steve Woodhead, Alfie Lee, Peter McGreal, Gary Mullins, Steve Sargeant, Load Cell Man and many others I couldn’t fit into my monthly roundup this time.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favourite business authors, Simon Sinek: “100% of employees are people. 100% of customers are people. 100% of vendors, of ALL stakeholders… are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.”

To keep up with our team across the world, follow us on Twitter—@LoadCell—and use the hashtags #loadcell and #belowthehook.

Thank you for reading!

Mr Loadlink

Remove the Business Blinkers…

The spirit of collaboration and the return of LiftEx as we know it, feature as Mr Loadlink blogs again.

I am a regular visitor to Goodwood Racecourse. There’s something therapeutic about the unmistakable thud of hooves striking the turf as horses approach the winning post, whether you’ve backed the winner or not! More importantly, the course, set in the picturesque South Downs in West Sussex, is a fantastic backdrop for networking.

Bridger-Howes joined me and Mr Loadlink junior for a day at Glorious Goodwood

Bridger-Howes joined me and Mr Loadlink junior for a day at Glorious Goodwood

Such was the case during the autumn season finale earlier this month when horses thundered past our enclosure with the reds and oranges of the season making the scene even more spectacular. A number of horses were wearing blinkers to limit their peripheral vision. Use is typically governed by temperament and a horse’s ability to avoid distraction. I’m no equestrian expert, I’m sure it works a treat but it’s amazing how many people take the same approach in business.


We’ve got a room marked Top Secret at Hampshire headquarters (not far from Goodwood), as any good business should have, but it’s reserved only for ideas and concepts the leaking of which would have a seriously detrimental impact on the business. In the main, I champion the theory of abundance and am passionate about the spirit of collaboration. To some extent we’re in a race, but I like to know exactly what’s going on around me and work with as many people as possible to navigate the rolling hills as each furlong throws at us its challenges and opportunities.


Lunch with a peer

The first appointment in my diary this quarter was a meeting with Sarah Spivey, who is managing director of spreader beam manufacturer Modulift. As many readers of this blog know, we’re both UK-based manufacturers of premium, market-leading technologies and, as I’ve said before, I find the relationship between the two businesses personally and professionally satisfying. I keep in regular contact with Sarah and we frequently meet up.

As our latest meeting proved, it’s of constant value to build such relationships, share stories and explore avenues of mutual opportunity. Sarah and I share many of the same connections in industry and our products are distributed around the world by a number of the same dealers. It’s amazing how often I’ve travelled by plane, train, automobile and even packhorse, to arrive at a facility in the middle of nowhere to find she has penned her name in the visitors book only a day or two earlier. Similarly, we attend many of the same shows and trade events.

Diversification and people were the key takeaways from this latest summit. It’s fascinating how a product designed for one purpose, like a load cell, can be applied to a myriad of applications. As the oil and gas market continues to face challenges, regular readers will know how keen I am to explore new areas such as the entertainment sector, for example. Rest assured, I will be building as many relationships as I can as I tread the boards with increasing regularity.

I’d urge anyone in business to take the blinkers off and embrace such collaboration. It’s a myth in most sectors that secrecy is the key to success. I’d certainly be a poorer business leader and Straightpoint’s growth more laboured if I hadn’t reached out a hand of friendship and engaged my peers in such conversations. It’s not as cynical as quid pro quo but you do get out what you put in.

A rising tide lifts all boats

A few days after my meeting with Sarah I boarded a flight to Abu Dhabi to leverage another collaboration that has been hugely rewarding. Our partners Rigmarine were exhibiting at the Seatrade Offshore Marine & Workboats show and it was opportune to have a presence on their stand to stage the Middle East launch of our new product for measuring tension on lines—the Running Line Dynamometer (or TIMH).

The product, part of the tension in motion range, is built with dockside, marine, offshore, towage and salvage applications in mind and represented a perfect fit for the show’s audience, who dwindled somewhat in number from previous years but the quality was very high and we received some excellent enquiries. Quality trumps quantity every time when measuring trade show footfall.

I expect Rigmarine to generate ongoing interest in the TIMH, aided by their new calibration facility. The return on their investment in the calibrator will be two-fold in that they can welcome business for calibration services but, more importantly, they can provide the service to a local marketplace, thus, generating greater interest and ultimately sales. I enjoy working with such an ambitious, forward-thinking company.

Imagine how tall this robot must have been to make me look so short at the Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference in Amsterdam.

Imagine how tall this robot must have been to make me look so short at the Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference in Amsterdam.

Back in Europe, I attended the Offshore Energy Exhibition & Conference in Amsterdam with our marketing manager Tanya Gregory. The event has been on our radar for a while but I wanted to walk the aisles before committing to exhibition space in future. It’s the only way to get a real sense of the footfall and assess how fellow lifting and below-the-hook equipment suppliers are presenting themselves to the audience. Tanya more commonly pulls the marketing strings from headquarters so it was opportune for her to absorb a trade fair first hand.

The show also presented an opportunity to visit our Dutch distributor, Van Gool, who, like Rigmarine, is among our top partners. We typically spend time with Pieter van Duijn, commercial director, but he was at a prior engagement so we met with Timo de Bree from the sales department, who was a great host and facilitated a productive meeting. We’re back in Holland for the Europort show next week (3-6 November) where Pieter will meet Jessi Hill from headquarters, who is his primary point of contact.

Exploding onto the scene

The following week, we’ll be in Liverpool for the return of LEEA’s LiftEx show to its standalone two-day format. Now in its 11th year, and following an experimental co-location with a London-based safety event in 2014, it feels like this is the most eagerly anticipated staging of the show ever. Furthermore, we will show two new innovations, including the ATEX and IECEx version of our most popular product—the Radiolink Plus wireless load cell. We will also show our new towing device—Towcell®—for road going vehicles, which displays wirelessly the force being towed.

We already have lifting professionals from Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Europe committed to visiting Stand 18 and I know they’re also looking forward to spending some time in Liverpool, which is a great venue city.

Readers of our newsletter will have already met our new apprentice, Zoe Silk, who continues to embrace the education we are able to offer as a force measurement, load monitoring and suspended weighing load cell manufacturer. Zoe is taking a BTEC National Diploma in Business Administration with PETA (formerly known as Portsmouth Engineering Training Association) and her understanding of the role of apprenticeships and the value such a scheme adds to a young adult is an inspiration to anyone approaching the end of education and looking to make their first big career decision.

Such is the volume of trade shows and events we attend at this time of year, even as I close this blog, John Molidor, the general manager of Straightpoint Inc., and Aaron Orsak, technical sales engineer, have sent me pictures of our stand at the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition (LAGCOE) in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Hot off the press: John and Aaron have made a great start to the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition in Louisiana.

Hot off the press: John and Aaron have made a great start to the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition in Louisiana.

To keep up with our team across the world, follow us on Twitter—@LoadCell—and use the hashtags #loadcell and #belowthehook.

Thank you for reading!

Mr Loadlink