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Busy Fools and Discourses

A common character trait of many businesspeople, especially entrepreneurs, must be kept in check, says Mr. Loadlink.

I was jet lagged, my inbox was exploding, and I couldn’t remember the last time I went horse racing. For a moment, I wasn’t even sure what day of the week it was.

Now, I remember that time well; I made a note of it just to make sure I don’t go back. It’s not important when it was—only my close friends and family even know about it (until now!)—nor does it matter what label I put on my state of mind (burn-out could be one) but it was crucial that I learnt from it.

I’m very proud of my work ethic but I let it get the better of me. I’d convinced myself that one more hour with my nose millimetres from the grindstone was always worth it. I saw no harm in waking up to a notepad full of ideas and scrawled diagrams on my bedside table—the product of sleepless nights wondering how to gain 1% more productivity here or 2% more margin there. I thought, isn’t it great that I can be creative when everyone else is asleep? I cursed the hours when my body finally succumbed and I completely shut down; exhausted, I sunk into the pillow before I’d even thought about trying to get some sleep.

Sadly, many readers of this blog can probably relate to this. After all, what makes us successful entrepreneurs is a passion for what we do. And that’s the hardest thing to rein in. I never cursed any sleepless night, or 80-hour week (many were probably more) because I loved every minute of them. The buzz of working on an overnight flight before landing and going straight into the office was like a drug. Cramming as many trade shows as possible into a spring or autumn season kept adrenaline whizzing through my body at such a rate that I sometimes had to remind myself to eat.

That was ok, though, because there was always someone to have a networking dinner with so we could talk about work in between mouthfuls.

In hindsight, it’s clear how clouded my senses had become. I justified to myself missing barbecues with friends and family; and saw the layers of dust building up on my golf clubs as a sign of my success. I remember thinking back to the days when my company was in its infancy and I had time to swing a club or put on a snappy suit and spend a few hours at Goodwood, which is not only my local racecourse but also one of the most picturesque in the world. That entire caper was for those with time on their hands or a lack of drive. I couldn’t keep count of my shots on a course or place bets at a track and answer phone calls or brainstorm at the same time. So I didn’t do it.

Stress out

Any medical professional will tell you that enduring a state of stress over a long period of time is a harmful thing. It puts strain on all the organs and bodily functions that we need to take care of the most. The side effects—loss of appetite, sleepless nights, low immune system, low energy, headaches—are there for an individual to feel and their friends and family to see, but they’re somehow suppressed or given a different label. It’s the quality of air in aeroplanes that makes one feel drowsy, I’ve heard it said. Or, no wonder that high-flying business owner has constant headaches, performing such wizardry on spreadsheets until the small hours.

When entrepreneurs get together it creates an intoxicating, yet dangerous, environment. See a group of over-worked, highly stressed professionals in a huddle, laughing, and it’s usually because one of them has mentioned a television programme or favourite pastime. They might even have had the audacity to mention the upcoming weekend. Champagne is spat from their ulcer-ridden gobs and they double over their big guts. One scoffs: what chance have I got to watch TV?; another boasts: weekend, what’s that?; I remember when my handicap was down to seven—now I couldn’t even hit it off the tee, roars the most pale-looking of them all.

If none of this incentivises a reader to slow down, get this: working so many hours actually makes a person perform worse. Chances are, a solid 50-hour week and a weekend off with the family, perhaps with a gentle coaxing of ducks into a row on a Sunday evening, will yield greater productivity and efficiency than an 80-hour week where one has barely spared time to ask how a loved one’s day at school or work went. Think about it: how could I have been as dynamic and engaging at a trade show on the morning after an all-nighter at the laptop, than when I’d had a relaxing meal, seven hours of sleep, and a healthy breakfast? The mind is a powerful thing and it can seemingly convince a person, especially an entrepreneur, of anything.

Any medical professional will tell you that enduring a state of stress over a long period of time is a dangerous thing.

Any medical professional will tell you that enduring a state of stress over a long period of time is a dangerous thing.

Here are my top four tips for anyone getting sucked into the world of busy fools:

  1. Get active

Schedule activities away from work and make them business-free zones. Whether it’s fishing, golf, horse racing, or billiards (fresh air activities are better), put plenty of it in the diary and make them as important as quarterly board meetings. Further, when the rod is cast, the ball is thwacked onto a fairway, the bet is place, or the black is potted, don’t let the workplace detract from the moment. Turn off one’s mobile phone and don’t put anything work-related in the diary immediately afterwards that might create a distraction or tempt a person to rush away from the fun. It’s amazing how mind, body, and soul can benefit.

Schedule activities away from work.

Schedule activities away from work.

  1. Take long holidays

It’s remarkable how many successful people, with plenty of money, don’t take holidays. I’ve heard (and made) all the excuses in the book: I’ve got too much on to leave the office; I’d only spend the whole time in the room working; what if I couldn’t get reliable Wi-Fi?; I’d have too much to catch up on when I got back; the company would lose momentum without its leader; what example does it set if I sit on a beach for two weeks?; I’m happier at work than on a sun-bed or sight-seeing so what’s the point?

The most laughable of all of these is the necessity for a business leader to be at their company’s beckon call 24/7. Of course, it would be unwise to take a three-month tour of the Far East just days after registering a UK-focussed business at Companies House, but there’s something wrong with an established, successful firm if the wheels come off when the boss takes some time off. (I’ll come back to this point.)

  1. Prioritise relationships

There’s no point reflecting on a great career, prematurely bound to a rocking chair, if it has come at the cost of every hobby, friend, and family member a person had. It’s no badge of honour or achievement to say, “I’m a great businessman, that’s why I haven’t got any friends or family.” Make time for immediate and distant family; sign-up to memberships that have nothing to do with business; be on a WhatsApp group with people who don’t even know what you do for a living; have a circle of friends that ask how you are but not how work is going. At times of great need, these are the people who will step in, not the customers or suppliers that get the majority of an entrepreneur’s time. Get to the office on a Monday morning having forgotten about what it looks like for 60 hours.

  1. Take email off your phone

This has proven to be a game-changer for me. Like a lot of business leaders, indeed, anyone in most jobs these days, I get bombarded by emails that range from important messages from by business partner to spam about money laundering schemes. I got into a mentality that I was being judged by the time it took me to respond, forward, delete, or act upon messages. If it was 2:05am and a customer had asked a question, they’d have the answer by 2:10am. Every time I felt my phone vibrate, I’d check the message and deal with it. Now I have to log into my laptop to access messages, which is inconvenient and takes time. Great! It means I only address them when I’m settled at a desk with a cup of tea—not when I stir in the middle of the night.

Taking email off my smart phone has drastically reduced stress levels.

Taking email off my smart phone has drastically reduced stress levels.

I wholeheartedly embrace the benefits of technology and I love my smart devices, but being a slave to an inbox is foolish. When I started my career as a rep, I used to carry a bag of 2p coins with me so I could stop and use a payphone by the roadside if I was running early or late for an appointment. Businesses back then still turned over millions of pounds. Whilst our companies are reliant upon technology and the efficiencies it creates, nothing is going to happen if an email doesn’t get replied to when one is at an airport or taking a taxi to a hotel.

As Steve Torres, CEO at Group Four Transducers Inc., told me once near his home in Boston, Massachusetts, it’s important to take time to smell the roses.

Good luck, Jessi; welcome, Kizzie

I alluded to the importance of systemising a business and building a strong team earlier in the piece. I don’t want to lose the hands-on approach that’s served me so well over the years, but much of being able to step away and implement any of the four tips outlined above depends on an entrepreneur’s ability to delegate and entrust a team.

We were very sorry to see Jessi Boskovic leave us recently; she had been with SP since school and blossomed into a consummate professional. However, we wish her well with a new challenge and remain proud that she will use the experience gained with us to no doubt be a huge success elsewhere. Jessie has been replaced by Kizzie Cordwell, inside sales, and the team is excited about working with her in the immediate and long-term future.

We had 18 applicants for the job and Kizzie was the outstanding candidate. I talk (and blog) a lot about the DNA we look for in prospective employees and we’re confident we’ve chosen wisely in our latest recruit.

Thank you for reading and use the hashtag #loadcell on social media.

Mr. Loadlink

It is important for business leaders to allow members of staff to represent the company on the front line. Dave Mullard, business development manager; and Mike Neal, product sales engineer, did a great job at the recent Vertikal Days, I hear.

It is important for business leaders to allow members of staff to represent the company on the front line. Dave Mullard, business development manager; and Mike Neal, product sales engineer, did a great job at the recent Vertikal Days, I hear.

Whoosh Crash…

Mr. Loadlink launches a stinging attack on trade show exhibitors that pack up early, questions Twitter’s motives for dumbing down the social media platform, and more.

Do you know what noise I hate more than someone scraping his or her fingernails down a chalkboard?

It’s the sound of an exhibitor at a conference or exhibition tearing down their stand before the event has finished. The chalkboard trick merely sets my teeth on edge and has me clasping my hands over my ears. The clamour of a premature expo breakdown, meanwhile, does all that, in addition to sending my pulse racing, blood pressure soaring, and turning my face bright red with rage. I look like a beetroot at a farmers’ market.

Anyone who attends, organises or displays wares at events will know what I’m talking about. Whether the show finishes at 3, 4 or 5 o’clock, there is always someone who starts ripping their stand apart ahead of time. It’s like dominoes; once one exhibitor has started pulling posters off walls or boxing up their products, someone else follows and pretty soon everyone’s either joined in or at least had their focus interrupted.

Some are shameless and turn their backs on attendees to pull graphics off aluminium displays and sweep the giveaways off the counter. Others are subtler; they side step to a corner and slowly begin arranging things for easy access. The trouble is they’re not half as surreptitious as they think they are. Once the attention has been diverted from the aisles and the delegation, the game is over. There’s no selling a widget at that point.

The worst noise of all is popup banners whistling back into their cases. They make a terrible whooshing sound as the canvas recoils before thwacking into their final position with a big crash. Some exhibitors have the care to grip the top of the banner as it descends, which reduces the noise pollution, while others let it whizz down on its own, picking up such speed as it goes that the base is jolted on the carpet.


The strange thing is, the hubbub of expo setup is altogether different. It doesn’t irk me in the slightest. In fact, the unfurling of stand displays is almost satisfying. It’s exhilarating to see a hotel lobby or exhibition hall come to life as an industry’s suppliers prepare to engage the marketplace’s buying decision makers. I think it’s the anticipation of it all. Even the beeping of a lift truck delivering a pallet of shackles to a nearby stand is rhythmical. The tightening of screws and the uncurling of a literature stand all add to the anticipation.

It’s remarkable, therefore, that people can’t hold onto this sense of purpose for the duration of an event. Working an exhibit is tough but it’s so important to stick them out until the end. Take the recent World Crane and Transport Summit, for example, which was expertly hosted by the KHL media company in Amsterdam. We were among an assortment of exhibitors keen to engage a high level audience of crane thought leaders and influencers.

The event concluded, say, mid-afternoon on a Wednesday and, despite an already early scheduled finish, several fellow exhibitors were keen to pinch an extra half-hour. The same people who’d paid such attention to detail during setup to make sure everything looked perfect, and photographed their exhibits to send proof back to the office, were now prepared to dismantle them as delegates continued to roam the charming Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky with coffee in hand, equally thirsty for information about their product range.

We were among sponsors at the World Crane and Transport Summit.

We were among sponsors at the World Crane and Transport Summit.

David Mullard, our business development manager, and I felt like the band on the Titanic, defiantly playing as the ship plummeted to the icy depths. Little did we mind as the boss of one of the world’s largest specialised hauling, heavy lifting and hoisting companies danced to our merry tune. As the exhibition area fell to ruins around us, we were building one of our strongest connections of the event. And it wasn’t even teatime.

I accept that there are occasions when people need to get to airports to catch international flights, or family members are playing important sports matches or appearing in school events. But in the main, those guilty of the sins outlined above are failing to honour protocol and show respect for their fellow professionals, just to get to the airport early or check their emails. Unless it’s really important, no travel itinerary should be booked if it means the team on the stand have to leave before the final attendee has been dragged from the floor. If the last plane home leaves at 5pm but you might need to stay at the show until 4:30pm, arrange a networking dinner and travel the next day.

Once again, the summit proved the value of short exhibition sessions, punctuated by periods of world-class content and seminars. I’ve blogged before about the happy marriage between a tabletop expo and conference, and the benefits were again there for all to see—particularly for those of us who toughed it out until the end. It’s worth singling out Hendrik Sarens, owner and director at crane and engineered transport giant Sarens, for praise; he delivered an engaging keynote about his life in the industry that resonated with all who listened.

Silky smooth

oe, full of expectation, during Speedy Expo setup

Zoe, full of expectation, during Speedy Expo setup

The Speedy Expo, which took place a week earlier, was uplifting too, where, Zoe Silk, inside sales and hire, made her SP trade show debut. I wonder how much we can improve the culture of exhibitors by better mentoring the next generation of stand professionals. We’re committed to a record number of events next year and, as live interaction continues to reap rewards, it’s likely that other companies will do similar. But how many are really giving this costly, time consuming, exhausting, risky activity the attention it needs?

I didn’t present Zoe with The Perfect Trade Show Host manual on the train to Liverpool but needless to say I gave her the benefit of my experience. I explained why we don’t have seats on the exhibit and why eating is prohibited. Zoe understood already about the importance of greeting people, exchanging information, distributing catalogues—and staying until the end!

It’s not rocket science, and even on her first event, Zoe was a great SP ambassador, yet I fear others taking their first steps into the exhibition environment don’t have the right tuition or grounding. It’s simply not ok to approach an attendee with a mouthful of sandwich or turn one’s back on the aisles to take a phone call.

If KHL deserved credit for their show, Speedy should get a gold star as well. The organisation, hospitality and extent to which it harnessed the power of modern technology—the event had its own app—were exceptional. It was good to meet Russell Down, Speedy’s chief executive, and discover a mutual Portsmouth connection, while colour-coded lanyards facilitated other networking opportunities with staff, suppliers and customers alike.



Biggest LiftEx ever?

Later this month, arguably the most important LiftEx in recent years takes place at The International Centre Telford on 29-30 November. The expo is the showpiece of organising trade association, LEEA, and co-locates with its all-important AGM, dinner dance, conference and more. It is always the subject of debate, in the main surrounding its size, location, frequency, demographic, format, etc. This time there is an even stronger undercurrent with a number of key issues likely to dominate the annual meeting and other exchanges.

With industry stalwart Geoff Holden, the association’s recently retired CEO, being a tough act to follow, it’s going to be fascinating to get an update on the recruitment process and hear about LEEA’s plans for the short and long-term future. With the AGM moved to the first morning and the dinner dance slated for that night, I anticipate that a new-look format will lead to better attendance of peripheral events, which is important if the association is to continue to be an exemplar for all those involved in the lifting industry worldwide.

Frankly, to retain that status, certain rumours and uncertainty need to be put to bed and the AGM presents a perfect opportunity, with the industry’s protagonists in one place, to set the record straight. I hope the hierarchy are prepared to confront these issues head-on so LEEA can move forwards without the burden of speculation. On the morning of 29 November, members, end users and industry stakeholders alike have a right to expect some long-awaited clarity.

I hope exhibitors do their bit by staffing exhibits in an equally exemplary fashion. Beyond the obvious, it’s crucial that we don’t put all our eggs in the day one basket. It’s a front-loaded event, as outlined above, but there might be a purchasing colossus walking the aisles at 3pm on Thursday afternoon, who is only going to call upon those still wearing their game faces. Think about it: would you interrupt someone in full breakdown mode and offer to buy his or her kit? Our combined exhibit with Modulift and Crosby will be among those ready to accept 11th-hour opportunities.


The #LiftEx17 hashtag is already making waves on social media, most notably on Twitter. But I don’t think the show, or the platform generally, will be enhanced by a decision to double the character limit to 280. Essentially, a Tweet can now be a paragraph, which even belies its very name. The brand is known for the iconic, tweeting bird, called Larry, capturing the platform’s supposed ethos to give users a small space to share a concise comment. The change has already paved the way for cut and paste fanatics to post great swathes of their website content. It might grow on me but it feels like the brevity, fun and skill in posting a Tweet has been lost. What do you think?

That’s all for this month but look out for announcements soon about two new SP recruits!

Mr. Loadlink