The Amazon Growing Business Awards, which celebrates exceptional businesses and outstanding entrepreneurs, has been running since 1999, and most of the businesses have gone from strength to strength. Here, we take a look at a couple of winners in the export category: Alba Power (2014 winner) and Sun Mark (2013 winner).
Being an award-winning exporter takes a lot of hard graft – there’s a lot involved, from language barriers and meeting international standards to protecting IP and the sheer weight of admin involved in running a business across continents.
Alba Power, a gas turbine overhaul supply service, quickly realised that adopting a global model was necessary for the success of the business. Campbell Archibald, sales director and president of Alba, said a global offering can help to “cover some of the downturns that happen occasionally.”
“Whether that’s oil or whether it’s Brexit – there’s always something happening. Whereas if you’re global it tends to soften the blow.”
Sun Mark, a marketing and distribution company formed in partnership with its sister company Sea Air and Land Forwarding, had to meet the challenge of operating internationally head on, as it has always been necessary for the business model. Founder Rami Ranger explained: “We offer logistics as well as distribution and marketing of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG).
“We offer a special service to many multinationals by helping them to sell in challenging markets which have more difficult environments than those seen in the G20 region. They focus on their core countries and we contribute to their success in their non-core regions. It’s a win-win relationship.”
Sun Mark operates out of Dubai, Djibouti and Kenya, and from these offices it exports to 130 countries worldwide, with further expansion planned in the future.
For Alba Power, the approach was fairly strategic at first, but gradually began to fall in to place organically.
“Every country is slightly different,” said Archibald. “I think initially we chose English speaking countries because it seemed like the obvious choice.” From then on, each country the business looked to expand into was reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and once there was an element of established globalisation it naturally slotted itself into some smaller countries too.
Alba Power and Sun Mark may make exporting look simple from the outside, but of course the two companies have seen success through hard work and devoted research. Archibald claims that for him, the key is to grow with demand and not outpace yourself, whereas Ranger is looking to aggressively seek new markets in the coming months by exhibiting in trade shows in various countries.
Ranger’s company is also looking to having a firmer presence in its core markets. If you’re hoping to take a leaf out of these expert exporters’ books, be sure to assess first what method would work best with your business model.
Advice from our expert exporters
According to Archibald, new businesses looking to export should not overlook the help that’s out there – try and gain some assistance from embassies or UKTI.
“We probably came a bit late on that,” he admitted. “We just kind of did it ourselves and went out there rather than speaking to UKTI or the embassies, but now we’ve changed that as we’ve learned from that process.”
Archibald also explained that a business should never lose sight of those it aims to serve, and customer service is paramount. “If somebody phones, the phone gets answered,” he said. When your worldwide competition is quite large, small businesses must play to their strengths and offer the best service available.
However, while research is doubtless important, Ranger also insisted it is fundamental to the success of a new company to “stop talking and start doing business”.
“As they say, the longest journey begins with a first single step and we should take that magic step and the rest will become history.”
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