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No Stone Left Unturned…

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

People Skills…

In his latest blog, Mr Loadlink reflects on a month that epitomised the importance of people, sometimes forgotten in the business world.

Consider where your company would be without people. Probably nowhere. Yet, people are often taken for granted. I talk to a lot of business owners and many want to chew over margins, product, technology, automation, diversification and more, before acknowledging that progress wouldn’t be possible without personnel and their expertise.

In my previous blog, I referenced a conversation that was refreshingly different and did focus on the power of people, but I don’t think I went far enough to champion the individuals at varying stages of their careers, from different backgrounds, with ranging skill-sets, that make up the Straightpoint community and the lifting equipment industry beyond that.

As my LinkedIn connections saw in a teaser I recently posted, I’m delighted to confirm that we will be adding a very significant person from the industry to the business in January. Not that I can say more about that for the time being, but the acquisition serves as another example of the importance of individuals. While it’s crucial to source the best technology and product, it’s people that turn them into a business.

Port of call

I’ll certainly remember this month for people above all else. It began at the Europort trade show that put Rotterdam at the heart of the global maritime industry. At the start of the 37th edition of the show, Jolanda Janssen, CEO of Ahoy Rotterdam, which hosted the event, said: “This week all people with a role in the maritime industry gather together and share knowledge and we are very happy that we can facilitate that.” Well done, Jolanda, for focussing on the people, not the exhibition stands, aisles and products. Imagine the number of professionals that have added value to the event over those near 40 shows. Where would Europort be without them?

van gool

A meal out with Jessi and the Van Gool Team, she tried oysters for the first time!

It was employee Jessi Hill’s first overseas business trip. I was delighted to accompany Jessi across the North Sea to spend time with our Dutch distributor, Van Gool, as she does a fantastic job of being the lead contact for the Beverwijk-based company, from headquarters in the UK.

Pieter van Duijn, commercial director at Van Gool, had specifically asked to meet Jessi in person, who also spent time with Timo de Bree from the sales department and others at one of our flagship global partners. The timing of the trade show represented an alignment of the planets and it was fitting that Jessi enjoyed her first business trip with one of the most people-orientated companies we have the pleasure of working with. During some important bonding time, the Van Gool team took Jessi and I on a boat trip around the Port of Rotterdam, reported to be the largest in Europe.

On a general level, Europort was a very productive show. I read that the event welcomed a record number of exhibitors with over 1,100 companies present, representing 45 countries and covering 45,000 square metres of Ahoy Rotterdam. It’s certainly an event that will play a role in our development moving forward.


Regular readers of this blog know how important diversification has become to the people of Straightpoint. As the oil and gas industry continues to reel, industries like the marine sector have joined the entertainment business as key areas of interest for 2016 and beyond. Our distributor-based, people-centric, business model enables us to achieve diversification very efficiently as our global partners are often inherently diverse in the product they supply and the markets they serve, which often stretches way beyond below-the-hook lifting equipment.

This is true of Van Gool and our Spanish partner Cargo Flet Blasant, where I spent time with Ruben Blasco Colet this month. Ruben, like Pieter, Timo and our other partners are open to new markets and are accustomed to finding a solution to a problem. I hadn’t been to the Cargo Flet Blasant facility before and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in Barcelona. I stayed on a lively street called La Rambla, which was buzzing with restaurants, bars… and people.

The trip was poignant because I travelled just days after the horrifying attacks in Paris. The airports were quiet and security was tight. In Barcelona there was a tangible sense of anxiety at times as armed police roamed around the city. However, it was important to honour the trip and do my bit in defiance of terror. Within reason, this will always be my policy and I believe we should all do what we can to carry on as normal.

After squeezing in a house-move, Jessi, Tanya, Steve Woodhead and I travelled to Liverpool, where LEEA hosted an eagerly awaited LiftEx show. It’s a fascinating event because it polarises opinion on how it should evolve. The show has grown beyond recognition since the first one—I was there—in 2005 when it was a few tabletops in a grubby hotel meeting room. The brand new purpose-built Liverpool Exhibition Centre was palatial by comparison and I hear grand plans are afoot for next year’s expo in Aberdeen.

Some folks say it should revert back to a smaller, shorter format, while others would like to see it become a honking three or four-day extravaganza with hourly carnival processions. Personally, I’ve kept my expectations for LiftEx in check and, once again, measured its value by a quality audience, albeit light in footfall at times.
It’s not an exaggeration to say our stand was among the busiest on the show floor and that’s testimony to the priority we place in people. Jessi, Tanya, Steve and I all welcomed contacts to the stand and we even made some new acquaintances.

We completed the long journey south from Liverpool on the Thursday evening and were back at the grindstone in the office bright and early the following day, where we celebrated Tanya’s 10-year anniversary at Straightpoint. Tanya has played a significant role in our exponential growth over that decade and it was an honour to deliver a message of my gratitude and present her with a small token of appreciation in front of the team.

Man with a plan

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin.

Last Friday was one of my favourite days of 2015, as it is every year, when I sat down with operations director Alfie Lee and my business partner Peter McGreal to review the last 12 months and plan for 2016. Where possible, our discussions related to the people behind the business but, honestly, much of the exercise revolved around those buzz words I referenced earlier—margins, product, technology, diversification—and, of course, our new as yet unnamed recruit. Let’s call him Load Cell Man, for now.

Having spent the morning with Alfie and Peter, we devised a year-long plan for the business which, one, can be broken into the 90-day plan that is integral to life at Straightpoint and, two, provides the structure to the one-page dashboard that is my reference point throughout the year containing only seven critical numbers. That afternoon, we presented the plan to the team back at headquarters and personalised it for each member of staff.

It’ll be a New Year I enter as the holder of the Load Cell Golf Cup 2015 having defeated Gary Mullins, of Action Coach; and LCM Systems boss Steve Sargeant, in freezing, blustery conditions that obviously put technique and swing physics to a fair test.

So here’s to the people that made November great: Jolanda Janssen, Jessi Hill, Tanya Gregory, Pieter van Duijn, Timo de Bree, Ruben Blasco Colet, Steve Woodhead, Alfie Lee, Peter McGreal, Gary Mullins, Steve Sargeant, Load Cell Man and many others I couldn’t fit into my monthly roundup this time.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favourite business authors, Simon Sinek: “100% of employees are people. 100% of customers are people. 100% of vendors, of ALL stakeholders… are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.”

To keep up with our team across the world, follow us on Twitter—@LoadCell—and use the hashtags #loadcell and #belowthehook.

Thank you for reading!

Mr Loadlink