There are still opportunities in a flat market if one is prepared to dig deep enough to find them, says Mr. Loadlink.

The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Councillor George Adam, gives an energising talk to LiftEx reception.

The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Councillor George Adam, gives an energising talk to LiftEx reception.

Stood beside a Christmas tree with ‘Love Aberdeen’—the slogan of the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre—on a popup banner behind him, the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Councillor George Adam, addressed the LiftEx networking reception.

The lights on the tree could be seen shining in the ceremonial chain he wore round his neck, which appeared to carry the Aberdeen coat of arms. At his feet was a pile of decorative presents. Around him, visitors and exhibitors from the show sipped drinks and scoffed canapés as they digested the first day of the show.

What he said resonated with me, and the festive backdrop complemented the positive tone. As the Lord Provost began, the oil and gas market might be flat, but the essence of the Energy Capital of Europe goes deeper than the rigs off the coastline. He praised the people, businesses and industry of the city for remaining energetic, passionate and optimistic as the oil and gas sector continues its recovery.

What’s more, he continued, the city is even more tenacious and energetic than it was during the last boom; its companies even more innovative, now the major market is slower paced. This wasn’t an address to say, ‘Stick with us, one day we’ll bounce back’, it was about grabbing what opportunities there are out there now by diversifying and energising workplaces.

He didn’t give such a positive address because he isn’t sympathetic of the evident plight the oil and gas slump has caused in certain quarters, nor would he say his city can rejuvenate the marketplace with a bit of positive thinking alone. It can’t. But he clearly revels in the Scottish and Aberdeen spirit, which made his address all the more hard-hitting at the LiftEx halfway point.

Energy capital

Mr Loadlink in action!

Mr Loadlink in action!

There was much positivity on the show floor too. People were engaged in networking conversations and sales meetings, none of which centred on the doom on gloom we read in the headlines every day. Instead, folks were upbeat and tenacious—energetic, even. This is the Energy Capital of Europe, damn it! Lifting professionals, end users, distributors and others stopped by our stand, as they did many others, and we left with a number of strong enquiries as a result.

Show organisers, Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA), did their bit to facilitate such positivity. The location and venue were well suited to the size of the event and they’d attracted a quality audience. The aisles have never looked like they’re going to burst at any of the 12 LiftEx shows to date, and they never will, even at the height of the market in the most popular venue, but they are always populated with serious people prepared to interact. That’s my kind of show. And the Lord Provost’s too.

If he’d have met them, I reckon he would have been impressed by Jessi Hill, sales; and David Mullard, business development manager, at Straightpoint, who I shared the stand with last week. I remember exhibiting with Jessi at LiftEx a number of years ago in the early stages of her career and, while she always showed tremendous potential, she has grown into a consummate professional, capable of conducting conversations with any visitor to our stand. She knows the products inside out and speaks about them with clarity, wisdom and passion.

Jessi and Dave welcome visitors to our LiftEx exhibit.

Jessi and Dave welcome visitors to our LiftEx exhibit.

My relationship with Dave is different because he joined us from a competitor and brought a wealth of experience to the table. He was more the finished article to that extent. However, while I’ve exhibited at shows where he’s manned another stand, I’ve never had the pleasure of spending time with him on a Straightpoint exhibit. Like Jessi, he’s a great ambassador for the company. They would both fit around the Lord Provost’s top table, I’m sure. Not that they’re available for hire!

Coffee, anyone?

The councillor’s speech might even have inspired the guys working in the coffee stand opposite us at LiftEx, who had faces like thunder for two days. No wonder they hardly sold any beverages. Didn’t they get the Lord Provost’s memo? I reference them as an aside because their body language was a timely reminder of how important it is to carry oneself in a professional and approachable manner at trade events.

If Jessi and Dave had a coffee stand next door they would have sold double what these sour-faced servers managed. The equivalent would have been Jessi knowing every coffee bean available, Dave having a hand in choosing the ingredients for the cakes, and the pair of them smiling at each and every passer by, offering an exchange of pleasantries and a welcome refreshment. Where certain drinks didn’t sell well, they’d note them down and start planning for the next show to be even better. Now I’m thinking of names for their new coffee company!

LiftEx to a coffee seller was a bit like the Aberdeen oil and gas market to a lifting equipment supplier. People weren’t knocking the door down for hot drinks, just like there aren’t hoards of offshore professionals outside the Straightpoint offices every morning. But plenty of people there were thirsty and we’re finding just as many who require force measurement, load monitoring and suspended weighing load cell equipment.

New dawn

Rigmarine get it. The lifting and marine product specialist has opened its fourth global facility in the rural village of Insch, 30 miles to the northwest of Aberdeen. As Mike Duncan, managing director of the Gaylin Group of companies, says, there is work out there for companies who are willing to turn over stones to find it and put the effort into cost efficient rigging solutions for clients. Hear, hear!

I had the pleasure of visiting the facility with fellow below-the-hook equipment manufacturer, Modulift, recently. Rigmarine is keen to stock both of our product ranges so it was opportune to take a guided tour with Mike and spend time with company representatives Alex Cobban and Garry Nicoll (the latter was also at LiftEx). You won’t hear Mike; Alex; Garry; Sarah Spivey, managing director of Modulift; or myself saying how positive market conditions are right now in the oil and gas sector, but you will see us turning over stones, as Mike would put it.

It was energising to get onto the subject of social media with the guys. We’re all at varying stages of uptake so it was fascinating to share notes. Where LinkedIn is concerned, for example, I am very proactive, Sarah similarly, but Mike perhaps less so. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just strategy. Since I shared the results of one or two positive Straightpoint campaigns on LinkedIn, however, I’ve certainly noticed Rigmarine and Gaylin posting there with more regularity. They’ve also joined Twitter, which is great to see.

Being productive

Meanwhile, this month, we’ve completed another two-day product development session ahead of a number of notable launches next year. Not all good companies produce lots of new products but I’d urge those that do to constantly look at their development processes. We dissected ours recently and identified a number of ways we could create more cohesion between research and development, production, operations and marketing departments.

If blog readers have been monitoring trade media recently they’d have noted that we recently launched our latest innovation, StageSafe, a 3t load cell dedicated to the theatre and live events industry. We consulted with rigging project managers, rigging contract managers, lighting technicians, technical directors and others in devising the concept, but connecting the Straightpoint team itself was equally important to the successful launch, and will continue to be so.

It’s also annual planning time again and it was uplifting to get offsite with my business partner Peter McGreal and Alfie Lee, our operations director, to plan for 2017 alongside other businesses in the Action Coach portfolio. Please look at such planning sessions if one hasn’t already. It’s amazing how productive it is to reflect on the highs and lows of the year, whilst listening to other companies and learning from their experiences. Just as it was in the Scottish village of Insch, collaboration was the buzzword.

I’m signing off this blog just as representatives from Dutch distributor Van Gool are arriving at HQ for further training and development. I know they want to focus particularly on our centre of gravity software so it should be an interested couple of days. Of course there’ll be room for some down time and a networking dinner as well!

That’s all for another month. Connect with us on social media and use the hashtags #loadcell and #belowthehook to engage.

Mr. Loadlink