GKB Machines, the company behind sustainable, reliable and robust maintenance machinery for natural, synthetic and hybrid turf are offering you a closer look into their company and an employee spotlight on Tom Shinkins, the UK's Operations Director.
Tom Shinkins has worked at GKB Machines since GKB Machines Ltd founded in 2015. Tom offers some knowledge from his past experience, his love for the company and how the UK side has had to adapt during COVID-19.
How has GKB Machines Ltd had to adapt the business during COVID-19?
We've had to do online training and sales calls using digital channels such as Zoom, which has proven to be a manageable alternative given the circumstances. Demos have become very different with social distancing. There have been fewer people on site during the demonstrations and we've been prioritising essential meetings that allow us to work within government guidelines. Now the rules have been relaxed slightly, we're able to travel further and showcase our products throughout the entire UK. The main issue has been that I've had to drive to and from each meeting on the same day as I don't have the luxury of staying in a hotel after a long journey.
GKB have recently launched the Deep Tine Aerator (DTA), how has launching a new machine gone during COVID-19?
Very well, we have had lots of enquiries and interest for demos and seeing the product. We're now able to follow up on these requests and are still receiving new enquiries daily. As an innovative company we are continually striving for success and this was a big factor in the launching of the DTA during this time. We were determined to not let the current crisis stop us from celebrating our successes in product engineering. We believe a time like this is perfect for driving forward and offering customers the best machines yet. In terms of the actual of launch of the product, we had to adapt. Usually we would have invited lots of dealers and customers to see the machine first hand however, instead we sent out videos to our dealers of the new machine and complete video training of the product. With any new launch we also do social media and PR around this and this didn't change.
In your opinion, what do you think life will look like for the sporting industry post COVID-19?
I believe that golf has the potential to cash in and reset itself. This is simply due to more people not having the access to other sports for prolonged periods. It's more likely for both men and women to be dusting off their golf clubs and finding their local course to play. Having said this, I think it may be a more difficult time for greenkeepers. As footfall increases, hours may change, and it will become hard to keep maintenance up. Equipping themselves with the most efficient and effective equipment is key.
In terms of football and cricket, I cannot see these happening on a local level for a while, however maintenance of the ground will still continue. It's great to see local clubs getting help from larger clubs in ensuring their grounds are kept in the best possible condition.
Tom working as an apprentice at Peterborough Milton Golf Club
As the only UK Sales Director and Operations Manager, are you able to explain more about you?
I started helping my dad when he worked at BLEC Machinery, I was 15 years old and helped during school holidays, evenings and often weekends. When I left school at 16, I was given the opportunity to join Peterborough Milton Golf Club as an apprentice, where I studied an NVQ in sports turf management and greenkeeping. At just 20 years old, I spread my wings and 'officially' joined BLEC as a sales demonstrator. I spent working here for 15 years and I found my passion and love for demonstrating, travelling worldwide and selling turf equipment. In 2006, BLEC became the UK distributor for GKB equipment. This allowed me to develop a long working relationship with the directors at GKB and their robust products. I also was able to gain a full understanding and experience the true reliability of the machines for when I started GKB Machines Ltd in 2015.
What is a 'day in the life' like for you?
Definitely early starts and late finishes, as well as many miles and constantly charging my phone. But in all seriousness, it's a way of life for me. I love visiting my customers, making new deals, doing demos and looking at the latest product developments.
GKB Machines praise themselves for being a contracting company, what is the benefit to this?
We've got a team of nearly 200 people across the road from the factory in Holland whose sole responsibility is maintaining sports fields and landscaping throughout the city of Rotterdam. Having these guys doing the job every single day means when we design and a build a new machine, we take the advice, knowledge and experience from these people and use that to build the ultimate machine. After all, The Worker Is King!
Offering a full suite of extensive turf maintenance machines, if you had to pick your favourite GKB Machine what would it be?
Apart from all of them being amazing, my favourite would be the GKB Sandfiller. This is simply because it encompasses a long-term concept and takes on a completely new innovation. I love demoing this machine, looking back at customers faces and seeing them in awe of how simple yet effective this machine is. To sum it up in three phrases what I love about GKB Machines would be build-quality, ease of use and affordability.
Tom changes the blades on a GKB Combinator at BLEC in 2013
Having worked with GKB Machines in some form since 2006, how has the range developed?
When GKB started in the early 2000s, we had only 4 machines. The GKB Combinator, Ecodresser, Drainmaster and Dragframe. Today, we have a full range of natural, synthetic and hybrid turf maintenance for sports fields and golf courses. Adding the GKB DTA to the range this year is a key part of our development, giving customers their complete maintenance package.
GKB pride themselves in company values, what is a key value of GKB that you believe in and why?
To me, being a family company is incredibly important. We believe our customers are an extension of that family. That's why we work with our customers on a daily basis to keep them onboard and in the loop of all of our engineering progresses.
How does social media and PR play an important role in supporting you?
Social media is very influential in the turf industry and therefore it is critical that I have the best team to support me in relaying professional messages. The turf industry relies on not just our word but user feedback and by being able to share our customers experiences through social and PR, it reinforces our brand messaging and robust machinery. We also receive a lot of enquires through social media as we're able to showcase the latest innovations through video and imagery to all of our followers.
For more on GKB Machines and their reliable and robust range of machinery for natural, hybrid and synthetic turf, please visit www.gkbmachines.com or contact Tom Shinkins on 07495 883617 to enquire about the GKB Sandfiller to help give you the best playing surfaces possible.