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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.

The-albatross-is-a-long-distance-forager

The-albatross-is-a-long-distance-forager

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.”

Here-we-are-taking-a-break-with-Mr.-Loadlink-(left)-and-fellow-Englishman-David-Mullard-(second-left)-during-a-recent-trip-to-the-UK

Here-we-are-taking-a-break-with-Mr.-Loadlink-(left)-and-fellow-Englishman-David-Mullard-(second-left)-during-a-recent-trip-to-the-UK

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

At-least-in-European-football-they-actually-kick-the-ball

At-least-in-European-football-they-actually-kick-the-ball

Brand New…

As industry responds positively to Straightpoint’s (SP) elevated profile, Mr. Loadlink reflects on the rebrand

“That’s it,” I said, the first time I saw the design for Straightpoint’s (SP) logo. The continuous yellow path from the bottom left-hand corner of the S to the point of the P. It became iconic on the blue background, as did the full logo, complete with tagline ‘making the lifting industry a safer place’. Furthermore, it was a hallmark of quality, state-of-the-art technology, engineering magnificence, and marketing prowess.

People wanted an SP to measure their load. And they still do.

As has been widely reported, a new chapter for the brand was recently opened, under the ownership of lifting and rigging hardware giant, The Crosby Group. Now, in the smaller form of the logo, ’Crosby’ sits neatly above the ‘SP’. In the full SP version, the mantra has progressed more broadly to ‘know the load’ (more on that below). In other references, the two logos sit side-by-side, separated only by a thin, vertical line, blue in colour. What a pair they make!

I still pinch myself when I see it. Since I took ownership of SP on April 15 2002, I’ve looked up in admiration at the Crosby machine. Its bright, red logo was symbolic of scale and presence in the marketplace. It was something to aspire to be more like, yet impossible to replicate. So when I think of SP now under its ownership and look at the two logos so neatly woven together in partnership, it still prompts a sharp intake of breath. Perhaps that’ll wear off. I hope it doesn’t, actually. There’s no better legacy for me as former owner and CEO to have secured than to put the brand on such a platform.

Made for each other.

Desel powered

I’m pleased with the outcome of the rebrand, as I’ve seen plenty of companies in the lifting sector and elsewhere get such an exercise wrong. There was some pontification along the way but the Crosby-SP marketing teams always had a clear vision to create an identity that showcased the best of the existing businesses and, moreover, the new offering. As Robert Desel, chief commercial officer at Crosby, said, SP already represented a force in the marketplace and now the products and expertise can be positioned closer to the point of use than ever before and the pace of innovation increased.

We started work on the rebrand before the deal was announced. There, in deepest winter, we set about creating a concept that would lead the next 50 years of force measurement evolution. We had brilliant brainstorming partners in Crosby, a company with a codified brand standard. I knew the connotations of the brand as a stakeholder in the marketplace, but it was fascinating to go behind the curtain and learn about the principles that hold it up. I guess that kind of high-level brand management is reserved for larger businesses, but there’s a lesson even for the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker in understanding what a brand name means.

What does your brand say about your sausages, bread, or scented flambeau?

SP’s marketeers brought a lot to the table too. We started with about 12 different logo concepts and we set about shortlisting and then committing to the frontrunner.

This is a more complicated exercise than it sounds; it’s not necessarily a case of selecting one that looks the best. We constantly had to be mindful of the mission the brand would represent. Practically, we also had to consider how the logo would look on a catalogue, on a product, in print, in digital, on an app, on a smart device, on the chest of a ripped global business development director for load monitoring solutions (what?), and so on.

If one is entering a similar process, it’s important to think about the different places a logo will appear in the modern world. Background colours, shapes, sizes, etc. are all crucial.

vision
The real vision isn’t really what the logo looks like at all.

Crosby catapult

A tagline or mantra can help define a brand. ‘Making the lifting industry a safer place’ was a meaningful ‘Why’ for the previous SP business; we didn’t want to be a load cell or component manufacturer, we wanted to make the lifting industry a safer place for people to work. However, while we had successfully diversified on our own, Crosby will catapult the range into a big wide world of dragging, jacking, towing, pulling, pushing, rotating, uprighting, weighing, and more. Sure, we’ll still be making the lifting industry a safer place, but plenty of others too.

Our new brand better have broad shoulders; the scope is vast. Think about the myriad of applications that currently use load cells and then consider the volume that don’t. Even to isolate our traditional market—lifting, where most of our distributors reside—only, say, 5% of lifts currently use a load cell. What about the other 95%?

Our long-term goal is that every lift is monitored, every time—and we’re going to pioneer that evolution. That was on the whiteboard from the first marketing meeting about the company’s new dawn and it eventually became our tagline: ‘know the load’.

Our newest innovation, Bluelink, was conceptualised out of the same school of thought. The product, a 6.5t (14,300 lb.) capacity load cell, introduces Bluetooth technology to existing and prospective customers still utilising outdated mechanical force measurement products. Bluelink is thusly targeted at end users that remain loyal to traditional equipment but who might be receptive to enhanced technology and the inherent advantages of reading data on an iOS or Android smartphone installed with SP’s free HHP app.

The launch won’t place a yardstick by which to measure the ongoing technological progression of our range, but more reflects our ability to continue to provide tools for the many different types of user looking to understand the forces being applied.

graph
Crosby has given SP an opportunity to accelerate its growth curve.

Life’s a beach

I’d like to think that, one-day, the majority of Crosby shackles will be supplied with a load cell in them. I’ll be on a beach (or in a wooden jacket!) by the time such technology is ubiquitous but the ball is rolling. And it’ll gather speed. If I know Crosby and SP as well as I think I do, it’ll probably happen sooner than many think. Do you remember when people said that they didn’t want cameras in their mobile or cell phones? Or that they preferred looking at printed photographs? What about the folks who said remote-controlled television sets were inconvenient because the remote is easy to lose behind the sofa?

The new era has started with a bang, as U.S.-based Wayne Wille and Aaron Orsak; and UK-stationed David Mullard and I, have hit the campaign trail. David and I have already covered Azerbaijan, Egypt, Dubai, and other locations between us, while our colleagues stateside have been on a whistle-stop tour of their own. Through Crosby, we’ve gained access to hundreds of new purchasing decision makers and thought leaders, all of whom want to learn more about the SP range and have sat in awe as we’ve delivered product demonstration after load cell showcase after presentation.

And then joined one or two of them for dinner to evangelise some more.

Remember when I said in my last blog that I sat down with my new employers to discuss my role moving forward, and the plan was based on playing to my strengths? It’s been hugely rewarding to feel that plan coming to fruition. There, among the Emiratis, I sat in my hotel room—I was amid the organised chaos of opened suit- and flight-cases, one sweat-stained, newly branded polo shirt screwed up on the floor, another, pristine, hanging up ready for the next day—and beamed privately. I feel blessed to have been given a new lease of life. It’s been a long time since something close to me felt embryonic, and I’ve missed it.

Mr Loadlink

globe
A global business development campaign is underway under new ownership