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Home Sweet Home—Part Two

In the second of a two-part finale to 2018, Mr. Loadlink remains confident that we could be at the dawn of an exciting new era.

Remember where we left off; we were talking about the inaugural Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) Awards, which took place after the first day of LiftEx. We’d also discussed a bumper show, generally. Allow me to continue…

It was a privilege to listen to celebrity guest speaker Matt Dawson, a retired England rugby union player and now a familiar face on UK television, who hosted the gala evening. His presence also gave the occasion gravitas—and we should be raising up our sector. There’s a point to my gushing praise of the night, far beyond a bit of trumpet blowing, in that even our mere association with the event enhanced our reputation as a business. Being shortlisted beefed us up some more, and claiming a piece of silverware was the icing on the cake. Not all awards do that, as I’ll explain.

Matt Dawson’s appearance raised the profile of the LEEA Awards evening.

Matt Dawson’s appearance raised the profile of the LEEA Awards evening.

To some extent that cake was baked a few weeks earlier when our Bluetooth-enabled Radiolink plus load cell and accompanying HHP app were named Lifting Product of the Year at the largest Speedy Expo ever, which took place at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool as November dawned. And it’s in the high profile of both that event and the LEEA extravaganza sits a key point. Business awards are aplenty, but not all of them carry the same weight. Where they control their own entries, I encourage companies to only enter awards when involvement alone inflates a reputation.

Fool’s gold

We’re proud of our burgeoning trophy cabinet but like so much in business, it’s about quality not quantity. We don’t want to be known for attending the opening of an envelope. By that I mean there are firms out there who enter every award going, no matter the relevance or stature, just to brag about another ‘title’. They’ll do anything to feature in their local newspaper and would happily pay for favour and recognition. The LEEA and Speedy awards are different, as Paul Fulcher, director at Rigging Services, and chairman of the association, kindly said in a recent SP media announcement:

“I had two reasons for offering my congratulations to David [Mr. Loadlink] and SP—one with my company hat on and the other as a representative of the association. The integrity of the awards must be absolute. Beyond that, with regards to the Safety Award, it can’t be subjective; there are objective measurements. A single nominee wouldn’t guarantee a winner, nor would the judges have bestowed the honour upon the best of a bad bunch. Thus, it must have been the opinion of the panel [comprising senior LEEA management and honorary life members] that SP were truly deserving—and that warrants sincere commendation.”

Thank you, Paul!

I don’t want to get sidetracked by our methodology behind the entry process of awards but needless to say a meaningful application will go further with judges than something lightweight. Phil Roch, marketing executive, did a fantastic job with our recent submissions and we owe much of our success to him. Cutting and pasting from the ‘awards entry’ document on file isn’t a viable shortcut. Someone once told me, entering awards is like writing an exam paper; constantly refer back to the question or criteria—and that stuck with me. It doesn’t guarantee success, at least not when the award is authentic, but it certainly helps separate the wheat from the chaff.

Here I am with (left to right) Dr. Ross Moloney, CEO at LEEA; Doug Price, technical manager at Rigging Services; and Matt Dawson upon collection of silverware at the LEEA Awards evening.

Here I am with (left to right) Dr. Ross Moloney, CEO at LEEA; Doug Price, technical manager at Rigging Services; and Matt Dawson upon collection of silverware at the LEEA Awards evening.

Turning a corner

Recognition from Speedy for our Bluetooth capability was fitting given that uptake of that technology in particular will be a standout memory of 2018 for me. Just as it was apparent that younger people and women are more prevalent throughout our sector now, the industry is also becoming more technologically minded and ambitious. It remains a traditional marketplace—the pyramids were assembled using many lifting and rigging techniques we still employ today—but our supply chain is definitely more receptive to state-of-the-art products versus the time when, say, LiftEx was inaugurated 14 or so years ago.

Given the extent of the tradition that many hold so dear, I doff my cap to the market for taking such bold steps. I hope that doesn’t sound patronising. It’s proof that even the most old school of industries can embrace technology and find a happy medium. The benefits of load cells that use wireless technology for exchanging data over short distances to communicate with up to eight devices, carrying the information up to 100m (328 ft.) away, are undeniable. Yet, uptake of such solutions is rarely immediate, particularly in long established spaces.

Some said I was a bit ‘bah humbug’ in conclusion of my previous blog but now with the season of goodwill closer in our sights, I’ll happily take an opportunity to wish everyone who celebrates it a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Big plans for 2019 are already afoot here at SP.

Thank you for reading Part Two. You can revisit the first installment below.

Mr. Loadlink

My favourite photo from LiftEx 2018.

My favourite photo from LiftEx 2018.

Mr. Loadlink’s Library…

There’s a good reason why successful people read a lot, says Mr. Loadlink.

“I once heard someone say that if Thomas Edison had gone to business school we would all be reading by larger candles,” writes Mark McCormack in the preface to his book titled, ‘What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School’.

As the founder of the world’s first sports management company continues, “My main purpose in writing this book is to fill in many of the gaps—the gaps between a business school education and the street knowledge that comes from the day-to-day experience of running a business and managing people.”

Many light bulb moments come to nothing

Many light bulb moments come to nothing

And, having initially been encouraged to do so by Action Coach’s Gary Mullins, that’s really why I devour as many business-themed books as my schedule allows. In fact, I clear space in my diary to read them.

There are many gaps or spaces in everyone’s knowledge and reading is a great way to fill the voids. Getting an author’s perspectives on the challenges one is facing or might have to confront in future offers an insight into the mind of someone who has in most cases found a way to navigate a pathway to success.

It’s education of a different kind. The best business books are about thinking outside the box, which is at odds with the education much of us endured at school. Take McCormack’s point about business school: if Edison, the inventor of electric power generation, had followed the protocols and norms outlined in courseware, his light might have been dimmed. I’d never sneer at education per se—without it we wouldn’t be able to read—but a really wise person complements it with a full bookshelf.

Here are another five titles to add to your reading list—and Why:

1. The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber

The ‘E’, by the way, stands for ‘entrepreneur’. The tagline of the book, ‘Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it’, addresses the grim reality that many light bulb moments, dreams, and ideas come to nothing. Perhaps there should be warning stickers on business degrees and courses that states as much. Even most successful entrepreneurs have a catalogue of failures behind them and many readily point to the 50 bad ideas that preceded the one good one for which they are known.

As Gerber writes in Chapter One: “Picture the typical entrepreneur and Herculean pictures come to mind: a man or woman standing alone, wind-blown against the elements, bravely defying insurmountable odds, climbing sheer faces of treacherous rock—all to realize the dream of creating a business of one’s own.” But, he continues, “…while there are such people, my experience tells me they are rare.” As Gerber says, most entrepreneurs are such only for a short period of time. Then they cling to the rock face, not scale it.

The chapter goes on to explore the concept of entrepreneurial seizures and the fatal assumptions. The latter, for example, is to believe that if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work. “And the reason it’s fatal,” writes Gerber, “is that it just isn’t true. In fact, it’s the root cause of most small business failures!”

Gerber also looks at the beauty of an org chart, whereby the roles required one day to run a fully-fledged business are mapped out on its first day. If 47 positions are required, it’s a case of beginning with the start-up team then ticking them off as personnel are added until every spot is filled.

Success is about scaling the rock face, not hanging on for dear life

Success is about scaling the rock face, not hanging on for dear life

2. Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish

This book is also underscored by an overarching theme: ‘What you must do to increase the value of your growing firm’.

Having studied the life of oil industry business magnate John Rockefeller, the author identified three habits and decisions. The first habit is priorities, or key rules that the company and its employees adhere to. The second habit is data, or information about the relevant marketplace. The third habit is rhythm—the regular meetings and checkpoints that make sure everybody is aligned with the goals of the business.

The book has been something of a bible for my company, Straightpoint (SP), over the years. Every business should find its optimal cadence—the perfect rhythm at which it should trade. Look at a runner’s stride pattern even in a long race; it isn’t slow or laboured, but economical and full of bounce. Businesses should travel the same way. Momentum and pace have been keys to our success and Harnish talks about the importance of travelling at a healthy clip.

He also refers to the questions that shape decisions:

  • Do we have the right people?
  • Are we doing the right things?
  • Are we doing those things right?
  • Regularly put them to your business.
Find the optimal cadence

Find the optimal cadence

3. Fanatical Prospecting, by Jeb Blout

Another must-read, this book is the ultimate guide to opening sales conversations and filling the pipeline by leveraging social selling, telephone, email, text, and cold calling.

Here at SP we’re obsessed with filling our pipe. By that I mean we recognise that no business can survive without leads and orders, which are generated by prospecting. Blout writes about how, “Savvy sales professionals are super disciplined in qualifying prospects. They understand that time is money and it is a waste of time to work with prospects that are not going to buy. They know that qualified buyers are scarce, and a moment spent with a prospect who will never buy takes them away from their most important task—finding prospects that will buy.”

My interpretation of much of the guidance in Fanatical Prospecting is in the importance of a sales squad leveraging a marketing team but not relying upon it. Successful people generate their own leads; they delve deep into markets to find the prospects that perhaps didn’t surface as a result of a marketing campaign. These smart salespeople have a profile in mind of the ideal customer and know where to look for them. It’s not that the marketing team aren’t working to the same objective—they are—but sometimes it’s only at the coalface can some purchasers be found.

This book is particularly applicable to businesses that are prepared to work hard to generate results. It’s not about short cuts. And I like that.

There’s an art to prospecting

There’s an art to prospecting

4. They Ask, You Answer, by Marcus Sheridan

This is a very current text about taking a revolutionary approach to inbound sales, content marketing, and today’s digital consumer.

It acknowledges that customers now turn to the Internet for everything. “If I had a question, I went to Google and asked,” Sheridan writes. The power, therefore, must be in having the answers, he thought. So, all he had to do as a swimming pool salesman, was to become an expert on fibreglass pools.

He continues, “When an organisation embraces They Ask, You Answer, they believe it’s their duty to be the teacher, the go-to source within their particular industry. One that’s not afraid to answer any and every question the prospect or customer may have. For them, it’s a moral obligation to do this, regardless of whether the question is perceived as good, bad, or even ugly.”

The book points out a reality that most businesses only talk about themselves and don’t focus on what prospects and customers are thinking about. How ignorant.

At SP, we talk about the TAYA (They Ask, You Answer) questions after every trade show:

  • What was the marketplace asking for?
  • Are we seen to have the answers?
Smart businesses have the answers to their audience’s questions

Smart businesses have the answers to their audience’s questions

5. Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

This is an old favourite and one of the most popular business texts around.

As Sinek wrote at the time of going to print, “There are leaders and there are those who lead. With only six per cent market share in the U.S. and about three per cent worldwide, Apple is not a leading manufacturer of home computers. Yet the company leads the computer industry and is now a leader in other industries as well. Martin Luther King’s experiences were not unique, yet he inspired a nation to change. The Wright brothers were not the strongest contenders in the race to take the first manned, powered flight, but they led us into a new era of aviation and, in doing so, completely changed the world we live in.”

The Start With Why concept is based on the power of an audience believing in a purpose. Making money, Sinek says, is a consequence of being a business, not the Why it exists. It’s the Why that people buy into.

What’s your Why

What’s your Why?

To bookend my latest blog with quotes from Mark McCormack, I’ll close with another one, from a section of his text about three hard-to-say phrases:

1. I don’t know

2. I need help

3. I was wrong

“An ability to say ’I was wrong’ is essential to success because it’s cathartic,” he writes.

In other words, it’s purifying and makes us feel better. It’s remarkable therefore that it’s so rarely said.

Happy reading.
Mr. Loadlink