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Under the Wing of an Albatross…

Standing in for Mr. Loadlink, Straightpoint’s Aaron Orsak and Wayne Wille write from North America about leadership, team spirit, pie ‘n’ mash, and curry.

US-based business development roles at our company have put us in a unique position to commentate from the inside on an operation that serves as a blueprint for growth and fulfilment. Joining in 2015 (Aaron) and 2016 respectively, the last few years have taken us on a journey from UK to US ownership but, more significantly, seen us navigate the most rewarding and uplifting chapter of our careers.

There have been many contributing factors to this period of personal and professional enrichment, but all roads lead back to one man—David Ayling, global business development director for load monitoring solutions, aka Mr. Loadlink. We’re not sycophants but it’s important to acknowledge the culture that Dave has created and, moreover, suggest that others follow his example. He talks a lot about the DNA that’s consistent in all employees and if that’s true, he’s the father. And there’s a sense of family throughout the entire company that extends to many partners, dealers, and even end users of our range of force measurement technologies.

It’s widely accepted that the US is more dollar driven that the UK, which is simplistic but probably true. That doesn’t mean there aren’t extremely motivated people on the other side of the pond—of course there are—but there’s a less blinkered approach to goal setting and achievement. Many North American businesses have owners overseas so our status is far from unprecedented, yet Dave himself is an albatross—a rare breed. He’s combined a UK-centric approach to work with a personal vision for what business should look and feel like. We’ll explain.



Dave was at the helm of a gazelle company since April 15 2002 and today it is hardly recognizable from the firm it once was; it became a global movement. However, he was never motivated by money. And we weren’t ever encouraged to make dollars our ruler either. Success is best achieved by a long-term vision and balance, Dave believes, and other business owners should take note. We were never expected to be accessible 24-hours-a-day and our value wasn’t measured by air miles, hours at the grindstone, or the usual metrics.

Without wishing to sound cynical, it meant that we, along with all staff, were prepared to travel further, work harder, and achieve more because the collective cause was so important. We’ve both been in roles in the past where the strictest of regimes are in place, yet everyone is only at 80% capacity because emotional and spiritual energy is expired by the burden of working life. That’s not to say we haven’t also had great leadership elsewhere, it’s just reality that we’re blogging about the best we’re likely to find.

When a dream becomes reality

Importantly, upon recruitment, the vision that was presented turned out to be reality, which was refreshing to experience. New members of staff at companies the world over are quickly disillusioned when they find the role or business that was presented to them turns out to be very different on the inside. Leaders underestimate the damage that causes. Think of the demotivation that is experienced and how that manifests itself when people go out into the field or to meet customers. Conversely, everyone people encounter at SP is buoyant, motivated, and passionate and enjoys their work. Other companies could be the same but that vibrancy is drained from the team.

When SP recruits, people are put into roles that are the best for them and the business so there’s no requirement for micromanagement. We can both still hear Dave saying, “Get on with it, mate,” as we accepted positions here. It wasn’t to be understood as, “You’re on your own,” but more that we were trusted to do what we were good at without distraction or interference. That trust is offered here and it’s the employee’s responsibility to run with it or choose to break it. That’s just how it should be. We’ve all heard it said in the past, “Trust is yours to earn,” but what does that say about a hiring process if a new team member is essentially, what, untrusted?

Another commonly overlooked facet of sound leadership is two-way dialog. Many managers and owners are preachers; they only want to hear their own voice. A standout feature of SP is the opportunity staff has to put ideas forward and the company’s dynamism and flexibility that allows the best of those initiatives to be implemented. We regularly network with peers and other professionals who’ve become demotivated because they’ve identified sound product improvements but are told by superiors that the company isn’t structured to make them reality. In other words, “Thanks, but leave the thinking to someone else.”



There have been many occasions when we’ve tabled product, software, and marketing ideas that have been embraced by leadership. One example is the new version of our popular product for measuring tension on static lines, the Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (COLT), which features a series of enhancements, including longer service life and the addition of a calibration verification tool. The accompanying Bluetooth load-monitoring app also includes tweaks based on information from the frontline that we were able to feed back into the manufacturing process. It’s uplifting to have a hand in product development and that should be more widely recognized.

The benefits of effecting such change are widespread. The obvious one is that a manufacturer gets to sell a better product that adds safety, efficiency, and productivity to the end user’s work. However, it’s worth noting the wider impact. When a user sees their feedback acted upon, they remember the brand and its representatives. We’ve personally felt empowered in certain industry sectors because individually we’ve been seen to improve best practices. It can be the difference between salesperson and thought leader. This two-way product development concept is great for business; it can add zeros to the bottom line, as SP has proved.

Culture club

As the company grew globally and became more systemized and scalable over time, it never lost the essence of a small business. It didn’t look like a corporate money machine because it wasn’t. As we’ve said, we look to Dave, each other, and our colleagues as family. It’s a culture that has certainly made working for SP a fun experience and when people are happy they’re productive. When we attend trade events we pack our suitcases and are excited about spending a few days or a week with a teammate and making new connections. When we look across the aisles at other exhibitors, that enthusiasm clearly isn’t matched and customers pick up on the negativity.

Trips to the UK, where SP was headquartered in Hampshire on England’s southern coast, have been a regular part of life in recent years. We didn’t know much about soccer before we joined, and even less about pie ’n’ mash (a traditional London meal) and chicken tikka masala (curry—seemingly the country’s favorite dish!). Dave was always keen to facilitate relationship building, among the three of us and all staff, whenever an opportunity arose. As American visitors, we enjoyed soccer matches at Fratton Park, home to Dave’s local team, Portsmouth, sampled cuisine not so common in our part of the world, and made many more memories besides.

The journey continues, although a new chapter has opened as SP was recently purchased by the largest lifting, rigging, and material handling hardware company in the world, The Crosby Group. It’s fitting that Dave has handed ownership to a perfect successor and we’re all excited about the future opportunities this will create. The success of the company had placed it firmly in the shop window in recent years but we know Dave had rejected offers from those less suited to adopt the family. We’re already seeing the benefits of new ownership and it’s great that the albatross has stayed on board.

Thank you, mate!

Wayne Wille and Aaron Orsak



Luck of the Irish…

Sometimes one can make their own fortune, says Mr. Loadlink upon his return from Ireland, where LEEA staged back-to-back roadshows last month.

David Mullard, SP business development manager, and I spent a week in Ireland at the end of June, where LEEA staged two roadshows in three days in Belfast and Dublin. I’ve blogged before about the association’s ‘Lifting the Load—Out on the Road’ initiative that brings seminars, a small exhibition and networking to a regional audience that can attend free of charge.

I like the format for a number of reasons, chiefly because it requires all participants to be dynamic and make the best of the short window of opportunity. In only a few hours—everything happens between 10am and, say, 2pm—a tabletop expo, networking and educational presentations are all staged, usually in adjacent rooms at a small hotel or similar venue. Snooze and you lose. Blink and you miss it.

The concept also leaves something to chance, which only adds to the appeal for me. It’s impossible for LEEA to guarantee large crowds at a free-to-attend event and there wouldn’t be time to network with 500 people anyway. It means every roadshow varies somewhat; some attract large, engaged audiences and others less so. To some extent, Belfast and Dublin followed suit with the latter drawing a larger delegation to a venue that was probably better suited to the concept than the other. But I liked them both.

The roadshows are a microcosm of any other trade show or conference and the same rules apply; if one is prepared to engage with people and make the best of it, there are opportunities aplenty, even at the quieter events. Too many exhibitors make quick assumptions about the footfall and likely outcomes of participation. They look at the lack of a queue at the door at 9:30am and write it off. They get their smart devices out and waste the day surfing the net.

These doom and gloom merchants are often the type who pass up the bonus networking opportunities to be had over breakfast, dinner and at the bar. Dave and I, meanwhile, had countless conversations with friends old and new outside of roadshow opening hours. A holistic approach should be taken to all business events, especially the short ones. At a bar in Belfast, I was about to order another Guinness to toast that very sentiment when the phone rang…

“Is that Mr. Loadllnk?” they said.

Ok, they didn’t ask after me by my blogging pseudonym but the conversation was uplifting nonetheless.

It was a local marina and dockside walkway specialist (there’s a market for everything!), interested in learning more about our centre of gravity and compression load cells. As luck would have it, we were only an hour away from their facility and booked a meeting the following day. It was fascinating to see the volume of cranes required at their yard alone and hear about potential use of our product range on jobsites.

We also made a point of visiting W.H. Scott & Son Engineers Ltd. (founded back in 1897), which offers a range of lifting and rigging gear, including our load cells, to clients across the UK from depots in Dublin, Belfast, Plymouth, Wexford, London and Bristol. Water utilities work continues to be a popular market for force measurement equipment, the team at W.H. Scott says.

Music to my ears

A lot has been said about the UK’s recent election results and subsequent commencement of Brexit negotiations with the EU. If you’re from far afield and have been following the news, you’ve probably gathered that the Conservative Party won, but lost, and the Labour Party lost, but won. Make sense? Probably not, but essentially it means the latter performed beyond expectations and the Tories have had to prop up a minority government via a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Now, we’re arguably in an even weaker position to talk ourselves into a favourable Brexit than we were before we went to the polls last month. This isn’t a political blog but I’m unashamedly a Remain voter. I didn’t see the logic in leaving the EU when the referendum was held and I still don’t. However, I’m also a practical person and understand the importance of accepting the decision and moving on. We’ve got to somehow get to a place of political and economic stability as soon as possible.

On the upside, regardless of political persuasion, it should be celebrated that the election turnout was up 2.6% from 2015 to 68.7% and, moreover, half of those aged 18-24 came out to vote, up a whopping 16%. For too long the younger generation has felt detached from politics and poorly represented by politicians, but a combination of Brexit (the vote didn’t go the way most young people wanted) and the latest General Election has set a C-change into motion.

Young people are talking about politics, which is great to hear; it’s their future politicians are shaping, after all. Politics even made the headlines at the recent Glastonbury Festival—a famous music event that takes place over five days in Somerset, UK—where attendees were chanting the name of the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, when he made an appearance on the stage. It’s not about whom they were shouting, but what they were shouting about—politics—and I give that engagement a standing ovation.

I’ve also been monitoring closely events across the English Channel, where French President Emmanuel Macron recently took office. I see similarities in how he’s assembling his top team to that of a successful business leader who understands that it takes people with different skill-sets and personalities to excel in the varied posts of government. Mr. Macron found room in his cabinet for a campaigning environmentalist and an Olympic fencing champion, for example. Some of the UK’s more one-dimensional political parties could take note.

Rising in the East

The oil and gas industry in Singapore, like many places around the word, isn’t out of the woods but it shares a mood of cautious optimism with other hotbeds. Growth of some description will be recorded this year over last and the longer-term signs are good, says Gaylin’s load cell guru Presley Ng Seng Tat, who I visited recently. Fellow Singaporean Intermarine Supply Co. (Pte) Ltd was equally upbeat about market conditions.

Both are welcoming increased demand for our ATEX and IECEx range of products, which is consistent with a number of notable orders we’ve received here at headquarters. Our most popular product, the Radiolink plus (RLP), was our first explosion proof load cell and we recently received an order for 40 25t RLPs from a Greek shipping company, which noted the product’s Zone 0, 1 and 2 hazardous area classifications.

It’s been interesting to compare the market’s consumption of our ATEX range versus, say, our Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (or COLT). There’s a lesson for all product-based businesses to learn in that the speed with which new products go out the door isn’t always the most important barometer. Much fanfare greeted the ATEX RLP—and then the expanded range some six months later—while the marketplace was equally rapturous when we unveiled the COLT. However, the latter has proved to have a much quicker ramping up period; customers started buying it straight away.

That’s not to say it’s a better product than the ATEX range and herein lays the point. There are other load cells out there, thus, the ATEX range fills a smaller gap in the market. The COLT, meanwhile, is in a league of its own, offering a state-of-the-art Bluetooth load monitoring app among a myriad of standout features. It’s not more important to our growth strategy than the ATEX range, it’s just delivering at a different tempo.

H1 high

Finally, we conducted six-monthly planning meetings at the end of Q2, which are always beneficial and enlightening, especially when you follow a record Q1 with another record second quarter! I fly to the states this week to complete a similar exercise with the North American operation (we have a 30-strong global team in place). Punctuating our year with these plans keeps us on track. Imagine implementing a strategy in January and leaving it 11 months before working out where something went wrong only a few weeks into the session.

Here’s to a great H2 2017 for everyone!

Thank you for reading and use the hashtag #loadcell on social media.

Mr. Loadlink