Thursday, November 21, 2019
Don’t let the cyclical nature of business make your head spin, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd.
Business is a merry-go-round,
And all the businessmen and women dizzy.
Hardly Shakespearean, but that was the conclusion I drew nonetheless after last week’s LiftEx show, hosted by the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA) in Milton Keynes. We were an exhibitor and the event’s gold sponsor.
This is a broader issue about adopting a more dynamic mindset, as I’ll explain, but the Marshall Arena is a good place to start…
The feeling of being discombobulated wasn’t (only) because of the frivolities of the awards dinner on the middle night, but attributable more to the reality that we spend too much time going around in circles. Trade shows are the epitome of that; people go back year after year and do the same thing, often with the same folks. I’m not questioning the merit of that per se—if it’s a profitable endeavour and a good time, why not?—but it’s important you’re not seeing double when trying to focus on a target.
Trade events are a good example of the spin we can find ourselves in; they come around every year (quickly) and explore the same themes. In some sectors, the innovation from one event to the next is limited and the wares on show dusty from the year before. There are other shows that take place too often to stop a competitive concept entering the marketplace, which doesn’t help matters. Say the leading show in your sector went biennial; would all the magazine publishers and events companies resist launching a get-together of their own on the off year? Of course not.
We’ve got to constantly challenge events to deliver against our expectations, as organisers, exhibitors, visitors, speakers, etc.; and repeatedly look at how we participate to get the best out of them ourselves. Otherwise they become stale. LiftEx has an obsequious following but its organisers are proactive regardless and I applaud that. Next year, it’ll take place at a different venue after a two-year residency in Milton Keynes and return to its 2015 home at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool. Perhaps more significantly, it’ll move away from its graveyard November slot and happen on 13-14 October, with the gala night again after day one.
A LiftEx journey
We’ve come full circle back to the city where our LiftEx story began. The journey serves as a case study for anyone looking to leverage participation in a trade show to contribute to business growth. Every time we’ve interacted with the event over five (to become six) shows, we’ve altered our tactics to extract more from the experience. I don’t hear about enough companies doing this, nor do I subscribe to the theory that one strategy works every time or that you don’t try to fix things that aren’t broken.
My reply is always: I never said it was broken; I said I wanted to make it better.
In November 2015, Alan Varney, our operations director, and I endured the near 200-mile drive from South Wales to Merseyside, where we walked the LiftEx aisles. We made notes and strategised. The following year we attended the show at the Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre where we were on a specific mission to assess the worthwhileness of us exhibiting 12 months later. We took the plunge in 2017 and booked a stand at The International Centre, Telford, before the Marshall Arena hosted us as gold sponsor for the last two years. Even then, we changed location from 2018 to 2019 to get a better position on the floor.
It’s worth adding that one of the changes we made to this year’s LiftEx stand was to make the JD Neuhaus (JDN) range of Mini Next Gen air hoists, which we distribute to the UK market, a focal point. Last time, we noted the attention being given to our reflective Glow slings and we built on that concept with a display about the explosion-protected products in 125kg, 250kg, 500kg and 980kg capacities. It was great to have Steve Walker, managing director at JDN UK Ltd., on the stand to walk visitors through the near field communication (NFC) sensor with accompanying app, among other product features.
It’s fitting that we return to where it all began next year knowing we’re doing everything we can to make our participation impactful. We’ve already agreed with the organisers to open up a third side of our exhibit—it has previously had two—to create even more access to traffic. Other plans are afoot too, which might mean taking a higher or lower profile. It doesn’t matter either way; it’s about being proactive and not sitting on the merry-go-round going nowhere fast. Some exhibitors skipped this year’s show and will return next time. They got scornful looks from several members of the community but provided it fits in with the long-term plan, that’s better than scowling through an event without changing one’s game plan.
As I said, this article isn’t meant to isolate trade shows, however. The merry-go-round mindset exists beyond the fairground. Pace is necessary in business but it’s important that it remains a journey and doesn’t become a spin. The trouble is, once it does, it’s difficult to see the wood through the trees and slow it down to the point where you can troubleshoot.
I urge my team never to make a move unless it’s forward. I live in fear of becoming a busy fool and I constantly remind those around me not to get sucked into the whirlwind. Acceptance is a dangerous word in business because it’s passive; good companies want to challenge anything that tethers them to an anchor or pivot point.
If you’re like us and business is favourable (inspection and testing is continuing to generate revenue), continuously think of the changes you can implement to be even more successful. If on the other hand you’re busy going nowhere, it’s not too late to step back and consider your options. You know the feeling when you first try to walk when dizzy and you stagger from side to side. Remember that it doesn’t take long to re-gather your senses and take purposeful strides towards your next destination. Business is like that sometimes as well.
Maybe it’s time to refocus.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd