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Wolf Pup…

All the training in the world can’t replicate game time, says David Mullard, business development manager at Straightpoint.

In cricket they call it time in the middle. To use a more international sporting analogy, in football (soccer) they refer to it as match fitness. In other sports, coaches and players talk about game time. Regardless, it all means the same thing: it’s an acceptance that the only way to really sharpen skills and reach your potential is to put yourself to the test and dive into the deep end. Practice, training, rehearsals, etc. are important—that’s how skills are acquired—but they’ll never stand up to pressure until there’s something on the line. It’s also the acid test of recovery following injury or illness.

I don’t want to overdo the soccer references because I support Wolverhampton Wanderers (our nickname is Wolves) and I’ve got two left feet when it comes to striking the ball, but the beautiful game (cue eye-rolls from many a friend across the pond) serves as a great example to emphasise the main point of this article. In fact, the type of sport is interchangeable. Whatever the shape of ball or size of bat, every great player was once a rookie, novice, youth-team prospect or school kid with talent. How do they one day win individual prizes like the Ballon d’Or or team trophies such as the Jules Rimet or Premier League? Answer: a manager, coach, teacher or mentor encourages them to step up. In other words, they get an opportunity.

Only facing the hardest tackler, fastest pitcher, tallest baller, or biggest puncher can someone learning his or her trade really appreciate what it takes at the highest level. It’s one thing to watch television or create drills in training but it never fully replicates the real thing. That’s why levels are so important in sport; someone excels at school, regional then national level but can’t hack it on the international scene. Or they take the county game by storm but can’t handle the speed or strength of southern area players. For the same reason, so many players come back from long injury lay-offs but break down again when the calf, knee, ankle or glute can’t withstand the extra strain of a match scenario.

Punch bags don’t punch back, as boxers know. (This isn’t me, by the way!)
Punch bags don’t punch back, as boxers know. (This isn’t me, by the way!)

No. 10 shirt

It’s remarkable therefore that in business, where the same theories can be applied, we don’t more readily give opportunities to people, especially those on the up-curve of their careers, to experience managerial or senior positions. In fact, there’s a tendency to do the opposite. A CEO is on holiday or a CFO has to take enforced leave due to sickness and people look around the boardroom or C-suite or, worse, source a senior person from outside to cover for them. Whether it is as cover or to oversee specific projects, responsibility should be given to young professionals. It can be demotivating if someone hoping to one day lead a department or regional office, for example, is overlooked when an opportunity arises to give them a taste of more seniority. Conversely, it can be extremely uplifting and rewarding if a company gives an individual a chance to be playmaker—as I can testify.

David Ayling, global business development director for load monitoring solutions and former owner of Straightpoint (SP), aka Mr. Loadlink, recently took something of a sabbatical, which meant more responsibility and burden of leadership was placed upon my shoulders. Alas, I’m too old to be considered a young prospect, and I’ve been around the SP boardroom for a while, but the case study remains valid. Not only did the summer months give him a chance to take a much-needed break but the team—and me—got a taste of what life would be like without Mr. Loadlink at the helm, which was incredibly enlightening. It takes a good leader to create a company that can thrive in their absence but, truth is, it had never before been put to the test. Ok, we’re now in the capable hands of Crosby ownership, but the Havant, Hampshire facility is a centre of excellence in its own right and we kept a lid on it. We scored some goals too. Phew!

Businesses should more readily give people a chance to be playmaker.
Businesses should more readily give people a chance to be playmaker.

I’ll be honest, there were things I could have done differently but I only know that because it was a real experience. Only by seeing the consequences of decisions was it possible to learn and hone my leadership skills. It’s a big deal when the buck stops with you, and it takes practice. There are so many people in this industry and other sectors who’ve stepped into such roles upon retirement of business owners and managers, without the experience to make a success of it. Could some of these short tenures we hear about have been more fruitful had that individual had a better taste of seniority throughout their career? I certainly think so.

Synchronised swimming

Maybe my earlier “deep end” comment might have been misleading as it implies someone is left alone to sink or swim. In reality, only when a team duly supports someone stepping into a leadership position can they make it work. We all know the practice of setting a person up to fail and that would be true of anyone left in a CEO’s office with the door slammed behind them. You might as well grease the bottom of their shoes and ask them to walk down a carpeted staircase. I’m indebted to a number of individuals and departments, which I’ll come to, without whom the game would’ve passed me by. I’d have been a passenger. In soccer terms, I’d have been taking up good positions outside the box but nobody would’ve passed me the ball.

“So much for Magic Mullard,” the fans would scoff.

I enjoyed working with the marketing and inside sales teams in particular. I admire the creativity of these departments, who constantly need to generate fresh, exciting content to support Crosby external sales teams and engage target audiences. I’d encourage all businesses to look carefully at how closely aligned sales and marketing are especially in a climate where the latter is becoming more and more important as prospective clients conduct more research than ever, before even encountering a salesperson. There was a time when the phone ringing or door knocking was the first point of contact between supplier and consumer. That’s changed, principally because of the internet, meaning isolated sales teams are swimming against the tide.

(Perhaps sales-marketing alignment can be a project for an interim leader at your company.)

Leaders must continue to learn. While they might be more frequently looked to as professor or teacher, it’s important that an aspiring manager maintains a sponge-like state, where they take information and knowledge from those around them. To think, “Ok, I’m the boss now, forget about listening to other people,” would be foolhardy. Peter McGreal, former financial director at SP, recently left us after 18 years with the business and I’m grateful for the expertise he shared with me recently and historically about his wheelhouse. He’s done a huge amount of work behind the scenes and has shaped some game-changing strategies. Peter was the yang to Mr. Loadlink’s yin in a great example of business savvy and dualism.

Mr. Loadlink (left) and Alfie Lee (right) helped give Peter McGreal a fitting send off.
Mr. Loadlink (left) and Alfie Lee (right) helped give Peter McGreal a fitting send off.


As another conference and events season gets underway, I write from Offshore Europe here in Aberdeen, where August had barely finished and we were setting up the exhibit for the 3-6 September show. It’s appreciable how much change SP has been through since the last edition of the event; now part of the Crosby Group, we attended alongside Gunnebo Industries, which was also recently acquired by the largest lifting and rigging hardware company in the world. We stay offshore in Amsterdam, Holland next month, where Offshore Energy takes place 7-9 October. The Speedy Expo follows and that’s all without flicking too many pages forward in my diary.

I’m honoured to represent the company at this year’s Heavy Lift Awards, where SP has been shortlisted in the innovation category. Winners will be named by Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International (HLPFI) magazine at the Hilton Old Town in Antwerp, Belgium on 15 October. Evolution is evident in our Bluetooth-enabled load cell range and accompanying app, which have been highlighted as the products that separated us from other entrants. In closing therefore another SP team worth referencing is our highly active and progressive research and development department; those guys can take much of the credit for such recognition by one of the industry’s leading magazines.

We’re hoping to get our hands on a Heavy Lift Award next month.
We’re hoping to get our hands on a Heavy Lift Award next month.

Mr. Loadlink’s return has surely given everyone a lift, as though a star player has returned but, as my time in his seat proved, we’re not a one-man team. I don’t think any winning side ever was.

Dave Mullard
Business Development Manager, Straightpoint

Ok, Dave, don’t rub it in!
Ok, Mr Loadlink (aka Dave Ayling), don’t rub it in!

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