Thursday, August 17, 2017
I started to think about this blog on the way home from Southampton on Sunday. The previous day I’d seen my team, Swansea, earn a point in a goalless draw at the St Mary’s Stadium. The trouble was, my mind kept going back to the match—Tammy Abraham’s missed header and Alfie Mawson’s solid start in defence were standout memories. Another thought was how are we going to cope when Iceland international Gylfi Sigurdsson finally completes his move to Everton?
As I battled between blog and football, the two started to merge into one and, just like the Swans and the Saints, I settled for a stalemate. I needn’t have worried. After all, for the next nine months, business and football will intertwine. One will teach me a lot about the other and vice versa. There’ll be victories, defeats and draws. Moments of elation and moments of despair. And, as I’ve proved before, business and football can go into the same blog.
It’s not all about Swansea. I manage my son’s Under 14’s football team, Westend, who have already put their first trophy of the season in the cabinet, winning the Welsh Super Cup in Cardiff earlier this month. As a local side, it was a great achievement to prevail over a number of academy and development teams. After last season’s successes and a good pre-season, there’s no reason why the boys can’t lift another title next spring and reach the latter stages of cup competitions.
Like Rope and Sling, Westend are aiming high. It’s anyone’s guess what the future has in store for the Swans with many pundits prematurely talking about a basement battle. Despite Sigurdsson’s imminent departure, I’m quietly confident we’ll have plenty to cheer about this year; we have a good manager and a stronger squad than many other teams in the league—certainly those who’ll be at the lower end of the table. With one or two astute signings, mid-table and beyond could be within our grasp.
As the football season ebbs and flows for Swansea and Westend, so it will at my company and others in the lifting industry and beyond. Sometimes there’s a seasonal feel to business as well. While shutdowns keep us busy in the summer months, it’ll be quieter in the depths of winter when people take holidays and wait for the worst of the weather to pass. Premier League managers long for a winter break (I don’t think they’re ever going to get one) but at least in the lifting gear world there’s a moment to take stock and plan.
Bread and butter
If your business is involved in large-scale projects, you’ll be able to relate to the synergies between a football season and, say, an inspection contract. Take six-monthly Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) inspections, for example. It takes a month to gear up, a month to inspect and another two weeks to complete the process and update the client’s systems. Consider that we have a number of national contracts for this kind of work and it takes the shape of our league campaign. In football, they use cliches like ‘week in, week out’ and ‘bread and butter’.
All depots or divisions within a company have to work together to get the work done in a timely and professional manner. It’s like the positions in a football team—defence, midfield and attack. Without a clear game plan, cohesion and a strategy on how a team is going to score more goals than they let in, it unravels. A business can’t provide an efficient service related to LOLER, PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations) or anything else, without planning and good management.
The latter is key—management. I don’t mean individuals, as such. I’m more referring to management by definition: the organisation and coordination of the activities of a business in order to achieve defined objectives. I’ve found that successful LOLER, PUWER and other projects have resulted from giving ownership to other managers and inspectors. I do the same at Westend and Paul Clement, the Swans boss, will no doubt also hand responsibility out to his players. Just as Rope and Sling’s depot managers represent themselves and their company on the front line, the manager can do nothing once the players have crossed the white line.
This doesn’t mean the manager themself washes their hands of responsibility. They still have a role to play in setting strategy and motivating the team to deliver it. In a football team this might take the shape of a team-talk before a game and, while some businesses have similar meetings and scheduled get-togethers, I’ve always preferred to have processes and procedures that allow a business to operate without the need to stop for such formalities. There’s no right and wrong, however. Look at the recent winning managers of the Premier League; they all had different styles and management teams around them. Successful businesses are equally unique.
Picking the right team is important too, whether it be for a table-topping encounter or a big inspection project. It’s the manager’s job to know the individuals and put them into a position or job where they will thrive the greatest. Responsibility can make or break people. It’s not always as straightforward as moving people up one step at a time. The best youth players don’t always make the best footballers and, similarly, the best sling maker won’t necessarily become the best manager of a team of professionals using a dozen splicers on a busy shop floor.
Up for the cup
One-off orders for lifting gear are like our cup matches. One doesn’t always know who they’re going to play until the last minute and everything is on the line. On one hand, it’s a case of going out of the cup or never receiving repeat business. On the other, it’s going through to the next round or giving yourself a great chance of building a relationship. It might be a first-time encounter with an opponent or customer and it’s an opportunity to match up against an unknown quantity.
In football, the modern way is for a team to prioritise the league. In business, that’s not often possible as we have to cover all bases. At Rope and Sling, for example, it’s just as important that we deliver on our long-term contract work and deal with other orders, whether they are for a few slings or hundreds of pieces for a major offshore project. Managers need to identify the opportunities and staff need to deliver.
They rarely admit it, but football managers identify the games they feel are most likely to yield points. Swansea, for example, will not expect to get much from Old Trafford, but home matches against the league’s lesser lights will be targeted as must-win matches. I guess it’s the same in business in that we’ve got to be astute about what we go for and what to leave alone.
The football season is a long one—the last Premier League matches of the 2017/18 season are on 13th May next year. It demonstrates the importance of playing the long game. Being top of the league at Christmas then falling off the pace is as useless as delivering a great first quarter, only for the wheels to come off over the three months that follow. It’s rare but not unheard of in football for a team to be top of the table with a large chunk of the season gone, only to drop like a stone and end up getting relegated! Complacency must be avoided at all costs.
Rope and Sling, like Westend, are confident of a good season. We have personnel and infrastructure in place, with six national depots servicing clients in a multitude of industries. Where a football team must prepare a squad not only to win in August and September, but right through the winter months, a business must insulate itself against all weathers. We have long-term projects that will take us into next year and a number of others looking set to get underway as 2018 gathers pace. What’s your order book looking like?
LEEA’s annual show, LiftEx, is fast approaching and we’re looking forward to being centre stage of the UK’s lifting industry for a couple of days at the end of November. If Swansea are top of the table then, I’ll buy every delegate a drink!
Good luck to your business and football team this season. Engage with us on Twitter at @RopeandSling #RopeandSling
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd