Thursday, May 18, 2023
While I agree that if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk, I do think that this old adage can give talking a bad name. I know that the saying warns people to always back up what they say, which is important, but it’s a great shame to walk the walk without showing people how they might follow those leaders on the pathway to success.
There are lots of sayings like this; we’ve all heard:
Don’t blow one’s own trumpet.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
He or she talks a good game.
Someone likes the sound of their own voice.
I could go on. They’re all based on sound advice, and I’ve probably given versions of them to my children over the years, but if we take them too literally, we’d be put off from ever communicating our success and, unless we do, further victories can be limited, and we fail to educate others who could learn from us.
Think about each of these phrases differently:
If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk: but talking about the walk is interesting.
Don’t blow one’s own trumpet: unless you can play a tune people want to hear.
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak: but we do have both.
He or she talks a good game: then we can learn from their strategies.
Someone likes the sound of their own voice: perhaps they’ll become a good teacher.
I’ve long been a believer in shouting from the rooftops—not at the expense of honest, hard work and relentless ambition, but in tandem with it. That’s why I take time to write this regular blog and you see so much content from the business on social media platforms and in trade journals. We attend exhibitions and toolbox events too; all the while, we’re talking, educating, and inspiring. This is different to sharing sales messages and catalogues, you understand.
A journey’s beginning
I remember a conversation Alan Varney, engineering services director, and I had back in November 2015; we were stuck in traffic during the near 200-mile drive from South Wales to Merseyside, where we attended the LiftEx trade show at the Liverpool Exhibition Centre. Our aim was to join, or even surpass, the select group of companies in the UK’s lifting industry who educated and communicated with their audiences through content marketing. It’s something we had been thinking about for a while but, on the cusp of a new year, it was time to act.
We partnered with a leading consultant in the sector—they talk a lot too—and this blog became one component of a triangular content marketing strategy. The two other elements were invigorated social media activity and regular communication with trade magazine editors.
Over the eight years since, we have continued to talk the talk, and walk the walk. It’s led to increased turnover and substantial growth. Further, over time we have been given more respect as a larger entity. Even in those early months, being seen in the magazines stakeholders read, and in the digital feeds they scrolled through on coffee breaks, the business was given a sense of scale that made people take note. They listened. The more we talked, the more they listened.
I’ve lost count of the times it’s been said to me since:
“You must be doing well; we see your company name everywhere.”
“I read your latest blog; that was a brave but interesting stance to take.”
“You must be turning a healthy profit to pay for all that marketing.”
We always walked the walk, but we got comfortable talking about it. Existing customers were constantly reminded of our capabilities through educational, entertaining, engaging content and potential clients saw it too. Of course, so did competitors, but we didn’t let that unnerve us. So what if a competitor saw that we were serving a major client and tried to undercut us? If the contractor wants to buy exclusively on price, we’ve never been interested in prolonging the relationship anyway.
We accepted that another consequence of opening a window to our operations was that people would try to copy us. That was good because, one, they typically did it worse than us, so we looked even better; and two, the industry was promoting itself in a way it never had. Ultimately, these collective endeavours mean that concepts like Global Lifting Awareness Day—#GLAD2023—have a chance of making a real long-term difference. I wonder if this would’ve been possible 20 years ago.
It’s important that we continue to educate (talk) because we need to succeed as a sector in elevating ourselves above the plant and tool hire sector. As #GLAD2023 messaging says, fighting gravity is inherently dangerous and getting it wrong can lead to accident, injury, and even fatality. Lifting and rigging gear isn’t equipment you can walk into a high-street store, buy, and safely use. This is a highly regulated industry, and we must communicate like one.
There are many reasons why I encourage all of my staff, even those working in ultra-competitive markets, to share information about the projects they work on. It might be a story about chain blocks for a central London construction project, or radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips capturing details of periodic Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) inspections. It might be a social media post, press release, or something else.
Of course, there has to be a clear strategy behind it because non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are often in place, and there are approval processes to respect with third parties. Sometimes they do prevent a business from shouting from the rooftops, and we respect that, but for every one we can’t talk about, there’s another one where we can.
Over time, a well-managed team can start to enjoy the process of talking about their success stories; they like people stopping them on jobsites to ask how they did something and become energised by reactions and messages on LinkedIn that they can read over lunch. In a world where personal branding remains important, especially in small, niche industries, it pays to be seen to be commentating on one’s work and giving back to a market. Become a thought leader. Be respected as an expert.
I’ve heard the argument that salespeople don’t want to show competitors what they’re doing, but we’ve already tackled that issue above. It’s the same for the individual as a business or brand; if they’re doing things right, there’s no need to worry about competition. And there’s a good chance they already knew where you were delivering product or providing services anyway. If a contractor really says, “Ok, you’re cheaper, let’s ditch our long-time, reliable below-the-hook partners,” they know deep down that they’re making a mistake. As such, it isn’t really common practice, especially as a business grows—via all the strategies above—and works on larger projects.
One of our recent press releases quoted a customer as saying that we were a “sole lifting tackle supplier because I know they recognise the unique demands of a project like this and will stop at nothing to make sure we have what we need to stay operational, while constantly adhering to the highest safety standards… Very few companies can work to such demand.”
I’m quite happy for my competitors to call them because I know how long that conversation would last.
Maintaining a high public profile helps with staff retention and recruitment too.
Instead of people having their head turned, businesses that have a strong image turn the heads. Once in the door, the distractions from outside are drowned out by the energy within. When staff go out into industry, they hear people talking about the company they’re already at, and when they scroll through social media and search sector-specific hashtags, their existing employer is making more relevant noise than others. That’s in addition to the aggressive growth curve that communicative businesses often find themselves on that generates more opportunity than those that stay quiet.
The people that do leave are often the ones such companies can afford to do without. And continued improvement is typically represented by their replacements and future recruits. Once a company starts recruiting to senior, strategic positions, a healthy brand image is a prerequisite. Kevin Moyes, our recently appointed group manager, is a good example. It’s fitting that Kevin will himself be responsible for attracting the right personnel we need to execute future expansion plans.
You can tell a lot about a company by its recruits from the C-suite to the workshop, and everywhere in between. Have a look at who’s come in—and gone out—of your place of work recently; are you attracting the best and replacing good with better? I’ve always found this a good barometer by which to measure progress.
Big around the Midlands
Regular followers of the press releases and articles referenced above will know that we recently opened a new depot in Birmingham, UK, to serve the wider Midlands market. It became our 10th location, including the Gemmak Engineering fab shop. You’ll remember that we named Paul Smith to support our growth in the area.
A company’s visibility and the wider perception of its size are a great help when trying to give new facilities and departments a head start. As we’ve explored, it helps to attract the right people and it gives them easier access to decision makers.
Not just any business, with any representatives, can pitch up in Minworth, Sutton Coldfield, knock on the door of Phase One worksites for HS2, and start selling lifting and rigging gear. Not only does our company have a legacy of successful delivery of products and services but we’ve spent a lot of time and money telling people about it. Customers have peace of mind that we can deliver because we get people that’ve benefited from our service in the past to tell them about their experiences.
As I committed to trade media recently, we remain in confident growth mode and committed to our successful blueprint; we hope to open a further three depots over the next two years. The UK’s Midlands remains a target for additional facilities.
Tell me about yourself.
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd