In his final blog of the year, Mr. Loadlink explains why a presentation at a recent networking event provided much food for thought heading into 2017.

They say breakfast is the most essential of feeding times. It turned out to be just that earlier this month (December) when I was invited to attend a networking session over the all-important, opening meal of the day.

Not only did the coffee and sustenance prepare mind and body for another big day, but also the content was equally nourishing. Guest speaker was Henk Potts, director of global research and investments at Barclays, who touched upon all the hot topics that have been aired in boardrooms all over the world of late.

Potts wrapped up anecdotes and bite-sized forecasts about Brexit, the state of the oil and gas market, exchange rates, Donald Trump, and more. He shared them with those present almost as though they were breakfast treats. The difference, however, was that these snippets, while just as moreish, offered more than a short-term sugar rush.

The insights Potts was offering were more dietary supplements or stimulants that will help us business owners and thought leaders run faster, last longer and hit harder in 2017, providing we took the right dosage and consumed them sensibly. To be taken after eating and washed down with a soft drink, the brainy banker’s breakfast bites were hugely satisfying.

If I had to take just one thing from Potts’ morning message, it would have been his references to uncertainty. He said nothing is more certain heading into next year than the damage we can do to businesses, the economy and our all-round stability, by being indecisive or using these all too familiar signs of our times as excuses to dither.

Trump cards

Show a bias to act, he meant. Get stuck in. It doesn’t matter whether one is a Brexit backer or has a Remain campaign t-shirt screwed up in the bottom of a wardrobe. Regardless of the percentage of business contributed by the oil and gas market during its last (barely memorable) boom. Despite fluctuating exchange rates and one’s opinion of the new USA president elect. The only Trumps that really matter are those among the cards we play.

Imports, exports, production, even the cost of breakfast, are all negatively impacted by uncertainty, Potts argued. If the market and outside world aren’t providing the security we seemingly crave, we’ve got to at least be certain about our own goals and the actions we need to take to achieve them. If it feels right, it fits the business model, an audience is ready to consume it, go ahead and launch the load cell, hoist, hydraulic press or whatever else it might be. Invest in the equipment, team and marketing. Create certainty.

To be clear, Potts didn’t add the next bit—but I’m going to. I think industry could finish the calendar year stronger, and do so with a greater degree of tenacity and certainty. As the cultures that celebrate it prepare for the Christmas season, there is a tendency to coast towards the festive period and the end of the year. I’m not going into Ebenezer Scrooge mode here—I hope everyone has a restful and enjoyable time with his or her friends and families—but do we really have to go into a holding pattern for a month?

We’ve had a strong second half of the year, like many other businesses we network with, but I fear valuable momentum is lost by a ‘Leave it until next year’ attitude. It’s the same as the ‘Let’s wait and see how the oil and gas market looks in Q2 2017’ or ‘I’ll see how hard Brexit hits’ mindsets that Potts warns us against. Feasting on turkey is one thing, but starving a business or industry of productivity for weeks beforehand doesn’t lead to a Happy New Year for anyone.

Culture of certainty

I’ve blogged about diversification before and it’s been a big part of the culture of certainty that we’ve created at Straightpoint. It’s not an attitude of presumption or arrogance about end results, but of confidence in our direction and conviction in our methods. We went ahead and launched StageSafe, a 3t load cell dedicated to the theatre and live events industry. We pressed the button on a research and development programme before unveiling Proof Test plus (or SW-PTP) software. We immersed ourselves deeper into the marine sector. And we committed to go the distance with the transportation industry. All because we were certain it was the right thing to do—so we did it.

We’ll stick at it too. Yes, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has reached an agreement on lower oil production that will surely fuel growth, and oil prices might be about to hit $60 a barrel, but that isn’t going to signal a Straightpoint walkout from the markets we’ve diversified into. Certainly not.

We’ve worked hard to broaden our horizons and we don’t want to revert back to increased dependency on the oil and gas market. Of course, we welcome a likely bounce back in the offshore sector during next year, but we’ve had record months in H2 2016 without being reliant upon it and it’s important we retain that diversification to lessen the peaks and troughs associated with too deeply embedding oneself in any cyclical marketplace.

Preaching to the converted

I remember referencing Potts’ speech to Mike Duncan, managing director of the Gaylin Group of companies during a recent trip to Dubai. Neil Brodie, of Rigmarine’s (a Gaylin company) Kazakhstan facility; and George Ball, of the company’s Azerbaijan location, joined us for productive meetings. As I alluded to in my last blog, Mike and his team have shown conviction and certainty in recent times to continue a growth strategy despite the oil and gas market’s coolness. It was good to reflect on 2016 together.

Actually, I’ve extended an invitation to Mike to guest blog in my place early next year. He’s accepted and I’m looking forward to giving a kindred spirit the opportunity to connect with our audience. Having recently opened Gaylin’s sixth hub in South Korea—others are in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and China—it’ll be good to get a different, and truly global perspective on the offshore and other markets. Watch this space!

After formalities, we took the opportunity to go to the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens, where we saw England start the day with a dramatic victory over Scotland in the quarter-finals. Given the Scottish roots of Mike, Neil and George, it was good to punctuate the business babble with friendly banter as England continued their quest to what was eventually to be a bronze medal-winning campaign. If you get a chance to attend the event I’d thoroughly recommend the atmosphere, carnival spirit and world-class sport to anyone.

Distributing the plan

Upon my return I’ve been engaged in planning activities, largely centred on business development and marketing for 2017. A presentation will be given to all staff early in the New Year, including many of the core values shared in this blog over the last 12 months. Prevalent throughout are references to our inbound marketing endeavours, for example. I also travelled to Straightpoint Inc. headquarters in Camarillo, California this month where much of the focus was on reviewing the year before I’ll return in January for 90-day planning.

A significant change in global focus is a commitment to develop our existing distribution network rather than looking to significantly expand it, as might have been the case in earlier years. In 2016, for example, we named around 20 new partners across the world. That was very much aligned with a goal to add partners to the network, but now it’s about motivating, educating and inspiring existing distributors to be the best ambassadors for the business possible.

Others who sell through distribution channels might consider a similar change of focus. It’s one thing to have a rapidly growing network of partners, but what opportunities might be slipping through the net because they’re not fully aware of the capabilities of a product range or are lacking sufficient knowledge to effectively communicate a solution out in the field?

Barclays’ Potts will be pleased to hear we have committed to a number of product launches in 2017, which I can’t say too much about yet but they’ll certainly feature in upcoming press releases and blogs.

That’s all for 2016! Continue to connect with us on social media over the holiday period and use the hashtags #loadcell and #belowthehook to engage.

Mr. Loadlink