Amid the most turbulent chapter of modern history in the UK, somehow it’s got to be business as usual, says Mr Loadlink.
I’m not the only blogger to have sat down of late and wondered where to start.
Europe… no, the world, is in a spin after the staggering Brexit vote last month (June), which means the UK will leave the European Union. In the wake of the referendum result, our Prime Minister resigned, having led the flawed Remain campaign, while many of the protagonists from team Leave disappeared into the night, shunning political opportunities that the circumstances presented.
Now, we have a new Prime Minister and the opposition party is in turmoil of its own as another leadership race looks certain to reinstate the leader whose unpopularity (among parliamentary members, that is) caused the re-election in the first place. The UK economy is reeling. We don’t even know when we’re actually coming out of the EU. Throughout it all, terrorism, gun crime, Oscar Pistorius, military coups, and more have been ever-present in the headlines. Oh, and the English football team has found itself at an all time low ebb. The manager was sacked and we’ve just named a new one, but that’s so far down the list of talking points nobody even cares.
This isn’t a political blog, but it is an honest one. I’m quite open about that fact that I voted to Remain in the EU. I didn’t hear robust reasons for leaving. For me, there were good reasons to stay. Yes, I understand Europe’s top table wasn’t as efficient as it could have been but my attitude has always been, if you’re not happy with the rules of a club, get on the committee and change it—don’t give up and walk away. I’m also a believer of making the best of a hand of cards, however, so we must look forward, which is really the crux of this blog. In the short term we do so as an exporter with slightly more favourably exchange rates, and while I think the longer term impact will be much harder felt, Leave and Remain campers have got to share the same fire to keep warm.
The referendum result was still sinking in when, just four days later, England were knocked out of the European Championships in France by Iceland. Yes, ICELAND. Withered, droopy-eyed manager Roy Hodgson understandably took a lot of the blame. It’s destroyed his career and he’s barely been seen or heard from since. Albeit a millionaire as a result of having the job, he’ll probably never be the same again. But I wonder if too much of the responsibility was placed upon his increasing sunken shoulders.
Ok, he didn’t know what his best team was (inexplicable), but that was partly down to injuries and the terrible form of some of the players he put his faith in. And therein lies my point. I back myself as a reasonable business leader, or at least a student of business, but I’m only as good as my staff and their willingness to give 100% in quest of the goals they are set. Think how helpless a manager is on the sidelines of a football pitch. They shout and point but other than giving an inspiring half-time team-talk, if players are disinterested and already on their summer holidays mentally, as England’s ‘stars’ clearly were, what can a manager do?
Practice, plan, train, prepare and then practice again, I hear you say. Well, it should have helped and it’s something we believe in at Straightpoint (the plan and train parts anyway). As much of the carnage outlined in my opening paragraph was exploding around us, Wayne Wille, our new North American technical sales manager, was here in the UK to meet the team, learn about our products and participate in planning meetings.
I’ll remember his raised eyebrows as the breaking news stories kept scrolling along the bottom of television screens. I’ll also recall with much amusement his comments as what was supposed to be a routine England victory turned into such a debacle. “This isn’t going to plan, is it?” he asked, as the clock ticked down and Hodgson cowered in the corner of his dugout as though he had been released from a year in solitary confinement only an hour earlier. “No, Wayne, it isn’t!”
Recent history tells us that Straightpoint is more effective at executing plans and has a stronger team ethic than the England football squad. Wayne contributed to our latest 90-day plans and will hopefully prove that our team selection is pretty good too. As Wayne himself told trade media in our press release announcing the recruitment, what separates our range is the breadth and diversity of product. It was important for him to meet our engineers and start to understand the intricacies of that force measurement innovation.
Wayne’s visit provided a great sense of perspective. The world was changing around us, tilting even further maybe, but it wasn’t ending. With only a week or so at our disposal before he returned back to the states, we had no choice but to focus on the job in hand. Businesses need to be careful to stay focussed when getting distracted has become so easy. Bemoaning Brexit and the ensuing chaos will only steer a ship towards even choppier waters. It could even run it aground.
It’s now more important than ever to balance the stresses of the workplace and heated debates of the boardroom with leisure and downtime. I particularly enjoyed a George Benson concert right in the midst of the turmoil. I went with Bridger Howes director Mark Bridger who has a relationship with the great man having spent time in his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, so we got to meet the musician, guitarist and singer-songwriter backstage! Take Five, as he sang in 1974.
I hope to always retain my ability to laugh at my own downfall, which was key to getting through the early stages of the South Korea leg of my latest business trip. I had an appointment with Gaylin in Busan, but I booked a flight to Incheon, which is about four hours northeast on a train. I know I strive to strike an advisory tone in these blogs but I’m not sure I dare be patronising enough to suggest readers double check their travel itineraries before booking flights! After experiencing the (very efficient) Korea Train eXpress (KTX), I eventually arrived in the southern port for productive meetings.
Having got the KTX back to Incheon, it was onto Narita on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo, Japan to catch up with RUD Lifting Japan Co. Ltd., who were exhibiting at the Live Entertainment & Event Expo, where we’d staged the launch of our new wireless load shackle at the same trade show last year. The Japanese subsidiary of the chain and lifting component specialist had arranged a fantastic stand position and the quality of visitors was once again high.
It’s always fascinating to see how different regions and cultures market their products. There, a lot of emphasis is placed on impact and colour. One can imagine the extent to which this ethos was taken at a trade fair that catered for the stage and live events sector! It served as a timely reminder of the importance of always considering an audience when planning a marketing or any other campaign. In Europe (pre or post Brexit), the states, Africa or elsewhere, product literature and other content must be tailored accordingly.
I got to enjoy the last day of the working week twice after the trade show. Having boarded a flight to California mid-afternoon, I crossed the International Date Line—the wiggly line in the time zone map that marks the divide where the date changes by one day—and had to do Friday again on American soil. If keeping perspective despite upheaval is to be a theme of this blog, I suppose time, time zones and the monotony of travel serves to emphasise the point. Brexit won’t make jet lag disappear, that’s for sure.
My business partner, Peter McGreal, joined me for the final leg of the trip, participating in meetings at American headquarters in Camarillo. Regular readers of this blog already know what goes into these periodic top-level sessions, but it was the first time we brainstormed with Wayne on board and his ideas on pricing strategy, among other things, added much value. It was also opportune to break the news to general manager John Molidor that he will be guest blogging as Mr Loadlink next month!
It is a fabulous part of the world and, during the downtime, we enjoyed the Camarillo annual town fare, where beer, burritos, hotdogs and culture were abundant; a trip up the California State Route 1; and devoured some seafood at Monteray Bay. We also wanted to take a trip to Alcatraz Island but such is the popularity of The Rock that all excursions were fully booked. I’d urge anyone with his or her heart set on a trip to the famous prison to book prior to arrival in San Francisco. That slight disappointment aside, it was another successful, enjoyable trip and I appreciated the opportunity to travel out of Europe to get a global perspective.
Look out for John’s debut blog next month and follow us on Twitter at @loadcell, where a 2,000-strong load cell legion forms our growing community.