"We do business in a number of regions with a variety of economies," says Neill. "Some of them, like Australia, aren’t seeing the same recessionary effects as over here. In business terms, these are the regions that are doing fantastic things for us."
Neill’s firm designs and manufactures vehicle tracking systems. An international footprint comes with the territory: Navman Wireless’s 7,500 customers have staff across the globe, so it must too.
But this strategy comes with advantages.
"Australia and New Zealand aren’t experiencing the same pain and panic as the UK," says Neill. "My guess is that they lag a little way behind because of the distance. But that means that while we’re struggling over here, sales will be strong there. Once the recession hits Australiasia, Britain should be recovering. We’re spreading the risk over a greater number of customers."
While having a diverse customer base does spread the risk, it hasn’t made the firm entirely recession proof. "In 2008 the company grew 41 per cent globally," says Neill. "We’re only expecting around 20 per cent this year.
"But haven’t you heard that new phrase: flat is the new growth?" he jokes.
Navman Wireless currently ranks third in vehicle tracking worldwide. But Neill hopes to change that over the next five years. "We currently have 100,000 connections worldwide. That’s the number of vehicles we are tracking simultaneously at any given point. We want to increase that to 250,000. That may involve embracing a policy of acquisition – so far it’s all been organic growth.
And what an expansion it’s been. Navman Wireless saw turnover rocket from £13m in 2006 to £17.6m in 2007 with £4m profit.
There is a downside to being a global player, however.
"We trade in both euros and dollars," says Neill. "So we’re currently getting hurt twice by the plunging pound. But my bank manager assures me that GDP will recover soon. I hope he’s right!"
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