‘You get so much more out of a face-to-face meeting.’ A spotlight on Paul Griffiths.
As our Business Development Manager, Paul is often the face of aae technologies – talking to both existing and prospective clients about their needs and how we can meet them. Having only joined us in June 2021, he still feels like a newcomer, but his long experience in subsea technology – progressing from initial engineering roles into a flourishing career in client acquisition and sales – means he’s a familiar face to many in the industry.
With events, exhibitions and meetings starting to return to normal, Paul can’t wait to get out and about more often to meet people and share his enthusiasm for aae technologies’ equipment. We grabbed a few minutes out of his Monday morning schedule to learn about him and his role here.
How would you describe your role at aae technologies?
It’s a varied role in the sales department that involves looking at both new and current business in the acoustic positioning sector. With existing customers, it’s about developing and continuing the relationship – providing them with new information they might not have seen, getting them up to speed on everything we manufacture and sell, and looking at ways we can do more business with them.
Circumstances are still evolving, but it feels like my time is divided around 50-50 between new and existing customers. As I’ve only been here a few months and things are just starting to open up in terms of meetings and events after all the Covid-19 precautions, I still feel like the new boy!
What was your background before you came to aae?
I was at a competitor company in the subsea equipment sector for around 22 years and then moved to another firm that specialise in environmental monitoring sensors. From there, I left the industry and spent some time with a company that produces equipment to measure and improve air quality in working environments before deciding to make the move back into subsea positioning technology with aae technologies.
I was familiar with applied acoustics, always respected the work they’ve done and wanted to get back into the industry. I knew Gavin and Hollie, so I reached out and the rest is history!
So, you already had an interest in subsea equipment?
Yes, I’m quite interested in it in general. My first job out of college was a junior sales position with a company that sold electronic components, but within a year I went on to Thomson Marconi Sonar, which was local to me at the time, where I got to know all about subsea sonar and acoustic systems, mainly in a military or defence context.
From there, I joined Sonardyne as an electronics test engineer and worked my way up through production and manufacturing into a sales role. But my original qualification was a GNVQ (Advanced) in manufacturing.
So, I’ve seen all sides of the business, and this helps when I come to sell our products, as I understand where they came from, how they were designed and how they’re put together. It’s a little different now, as I haven’t done the whole journey with applied acoustics, but I had the established knowledge of a very similar product and the end result customers need.
How has your career progressed since joining aae?
It’s been going well so far! It’s a very enjoyable place to work. The people are great. Now we’re starting to get out into the world again with everything opening up after Covid, and I can think about customers to go and visit rather than Zoom calls or Teams meetings, everything feels very positive. I much prefer the face-to-face work. There are things that come out of face-to-face meetings that wouldn’t necessarily come out of a video call.
What’s been your biggest highlight?
Making a sale is always good! The recent Ocean Business exhibition event was really good too. It was great to be back at a physical event and getting myself around, because people know me from my previous roles and a lot of people knew I’d moved, but didn’t know exactly what I was doing, while others didn’t know at all. So that was definitely a highlight, getting to see everyone again and simply being at the whole event.
Because you haven’t seen someone in over a year and a half, while they might have posted a job change on social media, it’s only when you see them standing under a different sign or working with different people that you really twig that things have changed. It was great to make those personal connections again and catch up.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Getting to know people and products. Although I knew of the company and their systems from the past, you don’t actually really know them until you’re there and it’s a challenge to really get down to the nitty gritty and get to know all the people as well. Maybe not the most difficult challenge – and not unpleasant either – but still a challenge. You just need to get on and start talking to people, which is not a problem at all.
“In the long term, it’s all about looking at what else we can do for clients and to push innovation in the industry.”
What do you love most about your job?
The varied work – it’s never the same each morning! There’s never any tiresome routine tasks or meetings. Having varied work to deal with keeps things interesting, and interacting with different people about a wide variety of applications and projects.
I also obviously like getting out for face-to-face meetings, and I love travelling. That was another thing that made me want to get back into this industry. In the last month, we’ve been away to two exhibitions in London and Southampton, and before that we travelled to Aberdeen. I’ve got another exhibition coming up in Amsterdam and the spectrum of where I could go is anywhere really, as this is a world-wide industry.
Do you have a set process with clients?
There are a few stages. Often, an enquiry will come in and from there we’d need to qualify that enquiry to make sure the equipment we suggest in our quotation is suitable for their requirements.
So, they may say they need to position an ROV accurately to within 15 metres. This is fine, but there’s still a lot of information missing from that, so we need to go back to them and ask a few more questions about things like water depth, how deep their ROV will go and more. Without that, we won’t know what system to quote or beacons to quote, either. For example, we wouldn’t want to supply beacons that are only rated to 500 metres when the depth could be much more.
Every project is different. Because our systems are accurate to a slant range, you’re looking at water depth straight down, then the working distances horizontally from there, and so the actual necessary range that the signal has to travel is the length of the diagonal hypotenuse of that triangle. We work on a percentage of that slant range accuracy, but this can change all the time.
In the end, it’s all about just speaking to customers, finding out as much information as possible about their project, taking it all in and providing the best equipment for the job. We very rarely get all the necessary information sent over straight away, there’s always something we need to go back and ask about. Which is fine, as it opens up the communications and we can do a better job.
We can do specials and one-offs for clients, and sometimes I’ll be going to the engineers to see what’s possible on a particular job. If they need something our specification doesn’t quite meet, then it can be an opportunity to enhance something we already have – maybe with software or an adjustment to the hardware. We are an engineering company and one of the plus points in dealing with us is the way we can find solutions.
Would you say customer care is a key part of what you do?
Massively. The customer could be onboard a vessel that might cost anything from $100,000 to $500,000 per day to run. So, if your system is causing downtime, that has a big impact on the customer. The team really needs to be at the top of their game in terms of how they perform in our customer relationships, but it’s something they are very good at, we all are.
Engineers here will have a mobile number they’re available on any time of day or night in case customers need help, because customers could be calling from anywhere in the world. Three o’clock in the morning here could be ten in the morning somewhere else. It’s so important to be able to help them. I don’t deal with customer care myself, as I’m not an engineer, but we do have a dedicated team to handle it.
What are you excited about for the future?
Growing the business and continuing our success. Looking at ways we could change what we do in terms of the equipment and introducing new equipment. All of that kind of thing is exciting moving forwards. In the short term, it’s about making sales, but in the long term it’s all about looking at what else we can do for clients, what new equipment we can design, and to push innovation in the industry.
There’s a new piece of equipment we’re just putting out now actually, the Pyxis USBL system, and that’s exciting. You have to make sure you release a new system correctly – that it’s been thoroughly tested and any issues found and fixed, so it doesn’t fall over in the field. We’ve just launched Pyxis and should be getting those properly out of the door in the next couple of months. I’m looking forward to that!
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