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BOOM — I’m back!

Mr. Loadlink announced his return from a three-month sabbatical with typical effervescence, but he explains why a dimming light is a warning sign we should all heed.

Search for the ‘Explosion’ emoji. It might be called ‘Collision’ on some devices but, however apt that could turn out to be, the name isn’t important. That’s the emoji I used either side of the heading ‘BOOM — I’m back!’ on a LinkedIn post announcing my return from an extended summer break. It was an emphatic and positive way to put my Crosby-Straightpoint (SP) hat back on and report for duty. Bang, here I am, team, “refreshed, recharged and brimming with ideas,” as I wrote.

This was all true but I missed out an important detail, which is what led to me taking a proper time-out for the first time in my career. Here’s what people think happened:

I bought SP on 15 April 2002.

I sold it to The Crosby Group on 2 January 2019.

We celebrated.

I was named global business development director for load monitoring solutions.

The business completed successful transition.

I reported to Robert Desel, now CEO at Crosby.

Robert gave me his full support in taking a deserved break.

But that’s a skeletal version, which refers only to points in time. The full story is one of learning the importance of listening to mind, body and soul. Look at that Explosion emoji again—that was my mind. In fact, I’d gone from (and you can search your emojis for these as well), Beaming Face With Smiling Eyes to Woozy Face to Exploding Head. I was emotionally and physically worn out, my health was suffering, and I needed to take a break.

I feared what might come next if I didn’t stop and take some time to relax.

I feared what might come next if I didn’t stop and take some time to relax.

The point of writing this article is to share some of what I was experiencing at the time and encourage others in a similar state of mind to consider the benefits of stepping back. Don’t be mistaken and feel that this is reserved only for people who’ve sold, or are planning to sell, a business. I really don’t think it matters what the driving factors are. It can be a high-level job, loss, greater responsibility, a health scare, an overwhelming fitness regime… it’s about an individual’s reaction to change and / or pressure that puts him or her at the brink of burnout.

I want to get two things straight at this point:

  • One, Crosby and its management had nothing to do with draining my resources. The company was there, of course, but I stress that the moments in time, as above, are essentially insignificant. Robert and his team have been hugely supportive from the very first time we met through to today.
  • Two, I want to keep things in perspective. This is just my story about reaching my limit, which I’m happy to share. I haven’t chosen mental health as a new specialised subject and I don’t claim to be equipped to advise on the matter generally.

Running on empty

What I can talk about is a two-pronged sense of anguish—tiredness that could no longer be cured by a night’s sleep, and an emptiness that couldn’t be filled by a friend or good action movie.

Running a business isn’t a job, it’s a way of life. As I described it before, imagine your favourite car, best holiday, dream house, first romance, neighbourhood, friends, career… all in a box. That’s what SP was (and still is) to me. My new role was exciting, challenging and consuming—everything I wanted it to be—but I just couldn’t apply myself to it with the vigour required. I was running on empty. Further, I think I was missing the gut-instinct decisions, the pace, and the strategic stuff that ownership represented. I’ve never been a lover of small print but I had to zoom in on it closer than ever before. Even then it was blurry and the letters jumbled.

During my break, I actually caught up with Gary Mullins, master coach at Action Coach, which helps entrepreneurs and owners overcome the challenges in maintaining a company. He was a major factor in taking SP to the point of sale, but I challenged him in return to fill the dearth in coaching content that surrounds post-sale blues, burnout, and overdrive. He agreed that more could be done in this area so it’s a case of watching this space. After all, it’s not easy to diagnose a state of mind or prescribe a remedy. Is it just a bad day, stressful time of year, inevitable hot-headedness, or something bigger?

I was running on empty.

I was running on empty.

I realise now that I had become like a lot of people I’ve met and known well over the years that have pushed and continue to push too hard. I hope they’re reading this. It’s like a type of mania that can be seen in a person’s demeanour or actions. There’s a feverish energy that has stopped powering anything meaningful. It’s a hamster-wheel scenario where all the running in the world can no longer result in progress. Of course, alerting someone to this is difficult and, reality is, such workaholism is worn as a badge of honour, particularly in some parts of the world, like the states, where a person’s professional life is shown such high priority.

Smashin’ time

If you’ve arrived at a point in time where a break is required, and you’ve been brave enough to take it, it’s important to make it count. And don’t call it a holiday; that conjures up images of stressing about money, flights, hotels, sun-loungers and theme parks. Think of it as a sabbatical or timeout. Consider the goal to recharge and rejuvenate. If something doesn’t help to that end, cancel it. Emails—turn ‘em off. Business calls—don’t answer ‘em. Alarm clocks—smash ‘em. Ok, I understand the need to be realistic, especially if a family is involved, but this has got to be a selfish retreat for it to work. An employer has got to play their part too; don’t fall into the, “I know you’re on a break, but…” trap.

I warn you, initially, there is a sense of nothingness that must be overcome. Remove from your mind business, email, telephone, colleagues, trade shows, and everything else that work involves, even for just a second. It leaves a space, right? I admit to being panic stricken in the first few days, wondering what on earth I was going to do for another 11-and-a-half weeks. There are only so many times the lawn can be mowed, the window frames painted, and the motorbike engine stripped. Don’t give in to temptation though; it’s amazing how the body-clock can slow to a new pace and frightening the extent to which it had to quicken to keep up with the previous lifestyle.

Everybody will approach his or her own sabbatical differently. Once I’d settled into a new rhythm, I called some friends based overseas and planned a bit of a globe trot. Not the kind that business takes you on, but a slower-paced trip that didn’t involve a flight-case of load cells or a bunch of polo shirts with Crosby-SP on the chest. This was a bathing shorts and Hawaiian shirts kind of journey. First stop was Spain, where I enjoyed some motorcycling with the sun on my back. Next was Los Angeles, where deep-sea fishing and shopping filled a lot of days. Then I went to Hawaii, where an old acquaintance has now relocated, for more sun, sea, surf, fine food and relaxation.

Fishing proved an enjoyable way to pass the time during my break.

Fishing proved an enjoyable way to pass the time during my break.

Aloha, new me!

I recommend keeping such a trip to a sensible length and I was keen to return home in enough time to top up the batteries that little bit more before refocussing on work. It was no coincidence that I returned in the days ahead of Glorious Goodwood at my favourite racecourse. There, and around town, news started to reach me about how things were going back at SP HQ. I was ready for it by then; it didn’t offend my ears or send the heart racing like it had started to do. It was great to hear success stories and tales of team members stepping up—in many cases the by-product of me not being at the helm. I thought David Mullard captured this theme perfectly in his latest blog—and did an even better job of deputising.

With about two weeks of the 12 remaining, I put a call into Robert to start planning my return. I was buzzing again and realise now what an important part it was of transitioning properly into the role of global business development director for load monitoring solutions, and integrating myself into the Crosby family. In fact, I don’t think I could’ve really committed to the task without a short break, and I’m sure that would be the same for others who find themselves in a similar position.

Finally, I’d like to thank my former business partner, Peter McGreal, who was financial director at SP and recently left us after 18 years with the company. Peter was my right-hand man throughout the journey and someone else without whom we couldn’t have achieved half of what we have. The fact that Crosby wanted to buy us is a huge testament to his vision and financial acumen. I’m grateful too to the whole SP team, who have been supportive, patient and professional as I’ve prioritised my recovery programme and new ownership has settled in. I’m excited about continuing to provide guidance as they individually and collectively achieve short- and long-term goals.

What a pleasure it’s been working alongside Peter McGreal (centre) over so many successful years. Alfie Lee joined me for the leaving presentation.

What a pleasure it’s been working alongside Peter McGreal (centre) over so many successful years. Alfie Lee joined me for the leaving presentation.

Japan beckons for me now and I’m packing with a level of excitement and anticipation that I haven’t had for a long time.

There’s probably an emoji for that.

Mr. Loadlink

David Ayling is global business development director for load monitoring solutions at SP

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