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The Importance of Education

In his first blog, Tad Dunville explains why education is the cornerstone of his role as director of corporate development at Ace World Companies.

It was always likely that I would end up in the crane business. When I was eight years old I started helping out at my father’s overhead crane company, sweeping the floors of the workshop where they welded the box girders. I can still recall the sights, sounds and smells of an environment that I found intoxicating as an inquisitive youngster.

I was following three earlier generations who had all looked up in awe, just like me, as they caught their first sight of an overhead crane moving, as if by magic, on their runways above factory floors. My great grandfather was plant engineer at the Kelvinator refrigerator plant where such cranes were integral to production, before my grandfather and his brothers founded the family business. My father, now a crane consultant, sold the company only a couple of years ago.

Beside my schoolwork and studies (always a priority in the household growing up) it was fantastic education as I took on varied roles within the business over the years, from overseeing an overhaul team to designing cranes. Probably the steepest part of the learning curve was when I was chief financial officer during the last recession. It was an extremely eye-opening, educational experience and one that saw me draw on every bit of knowledge I’d gathered from my various roles in the company and two degrees in finance and law from Miami University in Ohio and University of Kansas respectively.

Blogger’s apprentice

That brings me to the major thread of this article—education. As soon as regular blogger Camron Ghanemi, our vice president, invited me to submit a guest blog, it was the first idea I had. Camron is of astute commercial mind but readers appreciate the advisory tone he strikes, and I wanted to replicate that.

Education isn’t all about sitting behind a desk at school. Broadly, my role at Ace World Companies centers on finding opportunities for growth through avenues such as partnerships, acquisitions, new markets and new products. It’s a role with education at its heart. Here at Ace, we don’t sell a price-driven product. That’s not what makes us tick. I mean no disrespect to any companies who do compete at the low end of the market; every sector needs breadth in its supply chains. It’s just not for us.

It means we need to constantly engage in educational dialogue. In simple terms it’s about explaining to purchasing decision makers what they are buying in an Ace product and why initial investment is worth it. But it’s more than that. Education is in the company’s DNA. From our suppliers, to the factory floor, through the sales team and to the board, we’re constantly surrounding our products with information and reinforcing stakeholders’ knowledge. We engage everyone in the process; I will even network with competitors to this end.

Take a built-up hoist, for example. Many are based on the early George Armington design, but that’s not a robust enough sales pitch. Why shouldn’t a facilities manager in a paper mill just get the cheapest option? What separates our trolley from an European open winch or a baby built-up? That mindset often exists among end users, which is why it’s important to outline why components make a difference and how efficiency, productivity and lifetime cost of ownership are all at stake when making purchasing decisions. Why wouldn’t a facilities manager want a crane that lasts longer and requires less maintenance? It’s about education.

Learning hotbeds

Trade shows play a role in this education process, both in terms of imparting our knowledge on target audiences and gathering intelligence. As Camron reported in his last blog, I recently joined him on our first visit to the HydroVision International show, which took place at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Minnesota at the end of July. I spend a lot of time researching vertical markets and assessing their potential to consume high end lifting equipment. The hydro sector is well suited to Ace given the volume of custom products, mainly gate hoists, that are key to its ongoing productivity.

I’d encourage the industry to more effectively utilize the education and other opportunities trade events present. Most see trade shows as a problem. Fact. If a person dreads a fair, clock-watches the day away and can’t wait to get back to their desk, it’ll be written all over their face when they’re on a stand or in the aisles. If a university lecturer is disinterested, students will lose heart in sessions. Likewise, if a student is thumbing a smart phone during lectures, the teacher will lost faith in them. It’s the same at a trade event. I see them as a great opportunity to support my day job. You should too.

Market research is as much about identifying the industries to avoid as it is the ones to target. For example, if a marketplace is already saturated with suppliers, or requires equipment with limited engineering, we don’t waste our time. If the opposite is the case, it warrants further exploration. Ports are at the center of my wheelhouse at the moment as we look to enter the sector in the near future. Port applications require tough equipment for high duty and they are always looking to increase volume and capacity. If there was a checklist for an ideal vertical market, ports would tick most boxes. Watch this space.

I’m already speaking to Camron about follow-up blogs. I have other material—installing new cranes on existing runways, ensuring cranes meet your expectations and why used cranes are rarely a good idea are just a few ideas. What do you want to see Camron and I blog about as we continue to engage, entertain and educate our audiences?

Thank you for reading. Follow us on Twitter at @AceWorldCompany

Tad Dunville
Director of Corporate Development, Ace World Companies