Mike James – From digging the hole to selling the whole

When Mike James, Leica Geosystems machine control sales specialist, walks into a customer’s office to discuss the latest technologies for excavators, dozers and pilers, he doesn’t come in with a background in measurement and surveying. He doesn’t talk about the intricacies of GNSS and positioning. James doesn’t sell from carefully crafted pitches or value statements.

James sells from experience – he sells the solutions as he knows them from first-hand use in the field.

“I don’t think of myself really as a salesperson. When I’m talking to customers, I’m still the guy out there digging the holes, sharing my experiences,” explained James. “Lots of times, the customers think I’m a surveyor at first. When I start to tell them how I actually used the solutions, like Leica iCON iRD3, and saw real savings, such as 32% less fuel consumption, then my credibility with them automatically increases, and I can show the whole picture of what this technology does.”

Raised with machines

From an early age, James heard the calling for a career in construction. Around heavy machinery from the time he could walk, he (literally) cut his teeth in and around mechanics shops.

“As kids, we moved around quite a bit as my dad (Tommy) worked on open-cast coal mining jobs. He would take me on the sites, and I was fascinated by the big equipment,” reminisced James. “I always knew I wanted to be in civil engineering.”

With the family settling in the small village of Caldicot in South Wales, England, as a young teenager, James worked part-time with Tommy in the mechanic shop founded by his uncle, P.J. Gallagher, an Irish immigrant who returned from Canada to start the business. There, the young James grew up working on all sorts of machines and going on to study mechanical engineering in college.

Upon entering the workforce, James discovered the technology side of the heavy construction industry. Working as a manager in various machinery rental (for hire) businesses, he experienced just how much contractors and other heavy construction professionals could benefit from new innovations for the machinery he had grown up admiring.

“Working for well-known companies like Ambrose, Orford, McBurney and even in GE, I got to interact with many machine control solutions. When I saw how much it helped save resources and made sites safer, I knew this is where I wanted to be in the business,” remembered James. “Today, the heavy construction industry it at the start of its digitalisation journey and it’s a fast track. I’m seeing more customers used to traditional methods start to demand the technology that will connect their sites and help them reap the benefits of going digital across their business.”

Boots on the ground to loafers in the office

In his last position before joining Leica Geosystems, James learned first-hand just how valuable these types of innovations are to the industry. Working on the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in the U.K., James was first introduced to Leica Geosystems machine control solutions. As one of the largest construction projects in the world, Leica Geosystems solutions can be found throughout the site. James worked specifically with Leica iCON machine control solutions for excavators, dozers, compaction and drillers.

When the company James was working for closed the area offices, he was asked to join the Leica Geosystems machine control team by Neil Williams, the heavy construction business development manager assigned to the Hinkley Point C project.

“I met Mike working on the Hinkley project , and his enthusiasm and passion was infectious. When the opportunity came to have him join our team, it was a very simple decision,” said Williams. “We had a credible team in place and the only area I felt we needed additional skills was a working knowledge in heavy plant hire - a sector that dominates the U.K. market. The fast-paced world of plant hire takes a certain individual, one with a desire to always meet customer needs and go over and beyond to make things happen. Mike’s style and drive fitted our team ethos perfectly.

“He has extensive knowledge and contacts within this sector and can call upon this when required. Mike has learnt machine control and the wider survey industry quickly, and he brings a new style, dialogue and viewpoint to the team. He is keen to always learn new technology and has now gained a reputation as an industry go-to person for machine control in the region.”

Stepping out of his role as direct user of Leica Geosystems machine control solutions and stepping into an advocate for the technology was new but not difficult. Covering the south U.K. region, James is now responsible for adding value for customers, dealers and OEM partners with Leica Geosystems machine control solutions.

“I knew Leica Geosystems to be a progressive company from the technology I used on site at Hinkley Point C, and I knew I wanted to be a part of sharing those innovations from the start with my colleagues in the industry,” said James. “I go into every meeting with current and potential customers with the mindset of educating them on what this technology can do for them, how it can solve their pain points. Using my experience at Hinkley Point C, I can more easily establish trust with them, and that always makes the conversations easier.”

Bringing home the technology

When the younger and elder James get together to argue over which football club is better (Liverpool for James and Fulam for Tommy), the inevitable shop talk also comes around. After retiring twice from the industry, Tommy likes to not only reminisce but also talk today’s trends with James.

“I showed Dad the AR video from ConExpo and explained how our customers can now just plan their jobs from models on the screen, and he just can’t get his head around not having reference points or profiles,” explains James.

In his travels across the U.K. for work, James comes across many people who know Tommy. They remember fondly the heavy equipment operator, and they are impressed with the son who is now showing, not just telling, them how the work his father did for so many years can now be made more efficient, productive and safer with the latest innovations in machine control solutions.

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