Friday, January 13, 2017
On the cusp of the Six Nations Championship, Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd., explains why he is backing Wales but respects England for setting an example to follow.
The 2017 RBS Six Nations Championship gets underway on the first weekend of next month (February). England are clear favourites to retain their title with the nation open about its ambitions to challenge New Zealand and become the number one ranked team in the world.
I’m a football fan, as regular readers of this blog will know, but as a proud Welshman I always support the rugby team and it’s a massive occasion when the team play, especially at the national stadium in Cardiff, which is about 40 miles east of Rope and Sling headquarters in Bridgend. I hope Wales can pull off a shock but I think the bookmakers are right in expecting England to lift the famous trophy.
This isn’t a sports blog but the upcoming tournament provides interesting analogies that can be applied to business, in particular the UK lifting equipment marketplace. I’ll explain.
Eddie Jones, England’s head coach, will probably accept that the line between confidence and arrogance is thin, and his side must be broad-shouldered, in more ways than one, if they are to realise their potential and sit on top of the Six Nations table again—and eventually the world. But he knows that achieving that is based on his side’s ability to focus on the next game (tackle, even) and keep their feet firmly on the ground.
I wonder if Hewden and Lloyds British, two fallen institutions in our industry, would change their tactics if they could have their chance again. Administrators from Ernst & Young recently released the first breakdown of plant hirer Hewden’s financial plight following its collapse in November. Administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were called in at Lloyds British, also in November, before Speedy later purchased the brand, business and assets.
Sports teams can be like businesses in many ways. A poorly managed side will lose matches. A badly run company is, equally, doomed to fail.
To some extent, the better a team or business gets and the more its reputation grows, the tighter the guard needs to be against complacency. Eddie Jones knows that. It’s why on the morning of their opening match against France, all the focus will be on the first phase of possession and making a positive start to the game, not winning by a big margin or lifting the trophy a month or so later.
Often, results come without concentrating on results. Management and employees at successful companies don’t come to work every day thinking about the end of month figures. Same as sports teams don’t think about how the league table might look at the end of a competition or season. Instead, they concentrate on the pieces of the jigsaw—communication, leadership, strategy, belief, etc. Winning teams, on the pitch and on the shop floor, achieve results without them clouding judgement on a day to day basis.
Once England have battered the French out of sight (as is likely to be the case), only then will Jones and his team look forward. Their next game is the big one at the Principality Stadium here in Wales on 11 February. If England turn up thinking they’ve got a divine right to win, they’ll lose. But Jones and the team seem more astute than that and they’ll give us everything they’ve got.
Many in the lifting industry criticised Hewden and Lloyds British for trading on their reputations and the strength of their brands. That’s dangerous. In rugby terms, running a business like that is the same as balancing the ball on one finger going into a tackle with Wales lock forward Alun Wyn Jones. (He might even be captain when the Six Nations gets underway given speculation about Sam Warburton’s future.)
The red flags were there at Hewden and Lloyds British for a while. High staff turnover wasn’t a good sign, for example. Most good companies have excellent staff retention. It’s also a hallmark of a successful sports team—a strong spine or group of key players that the side is built around. They learn their roles and hone their skills over a number of years. People want to play for a good side. And they want to stay at a good company.
I’ve blogged before about the importance of challenging staff and investing in their future. Jones has proved in recent times that he isn’t afraid to make changes if he thinks someone has taken their foot off the gas and business leaders need to be mindful of that too. Loyalty isn’t about giving someone an easy ride in any walk of life.
The game of rugby fascinates me in how different people’s physiques and skill sets come together to form a team. Put simply, the big guys play among the forwards and the smaller, more agile, players are in the backs, but it’s more complicated than that. Same in business; it’s not about putting people in labelled boxes, but a science in blending together engineers, welders, marketers, accountants, influencers, drivers and others. It’s about developing apprentices, valuing the experience of those approaching retirement and combining them with everyone in between.
Rugby teaches us a thing or two about taking hits too. Watch a footballer who loses possession in a tackle; he writhes around on the floor as though a sniper has taken a shot from the stands. When a rugby player is on the receiving end of a crunching tackle, even from someone far bigger than them, they get straight back up unless they are genuinely injured.
Not every day in business goes smoothly from early in the morning to late at night, but they go a lot better if one is prepared to pick oneself up and tackle the next phase of the day. I also like the way rugby players respect the officials, which is something lost on most modern day footballers.
How has 2017 been for you so far?
It’s been a good start to the New Year here at Rope and Sling. We recently supplied lifting and rigging equipment for the Mare Harbour upgrade project, part of a massive modernisation of the military infrastructure on the Falkland Islands, a British overseas territory off the coast of Argentina. Wire rope slings, web slings, round slings, shackles, hydraulics, chain slings and wire rope were included in the landmark order. Meanwhile, we’re closing in on a number of other large infrastructure contracts as we continue to punch above our weight.
Perhaps the Welsh rugby team can do the same in this year’s RBS Six Nations Championship!
Thank you for reading—and keep engaging with us on Twitter at @RopeandSling #RopeandSling
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd