Leap into overseas markets pays off

A sluggish local economy, advancements in technology and communication and an ability to supply upward global demand have prompted small WA businesses to embrace international opportunities.

With the Australian export markets hitting a record high for the month of March last week, it’s the perfect time to find out how to take advantage of opportunities at the inaugural CCI International Engagement and Growth Conference on May 29.

Ayres Composite Panels, which manufactures light-weight aluminium systems for the marine industry is based in Bayswater but also has an office in Mobile, Alabama, north America, that CEO Chris Becker says has helped them through the downturn.

“The marine market is very volatile, and excuse the pun, it does come in waves – there are peaks and troughs,” says Becker.

“If you spread your business in different countries and if one market is stagnant, you have a fall back.”

“There are times when we see our sales overseas at 80 per cent and domestic within Australia at 20 per cent. Then it may flick around – and that’s the beauty of having two bases. It really does make sense.”

Ayres Composite Panels knew north America offered them lucrative operations as the US Government was investing in its military ships and had a bigger budget than most countries.

“We knew we the had potential for good sales, but we had to approach it in the right way. Our research showed that Americans liked to do business in person, so it was sensible to have a presence there.

But there’s more litigation in the US, so we had to put measures in place to protect ourselves with different warranties and insurances.”

Inevitably there will be more opportunities for staff to travel too, according to Becker.

“Personal contact is important to nurture the relationship,” he says. “That’s especially true in manufacturing. You need to look at the product and see how it works and pass on information. So there’s been plenty of travel for our staff.”

Becker believes there are far too few companies seizing the opportunity to expand overseas with small firms hesitant because of the fear of risk.

New technology and reduced communication costs has gone someway to break down the barriers to success, but Becker believes there’s still too many who are cautious of change.

“We’re an Australian company but more than 50 per cent of our business is international. Without that business, we would be in a different economic shape.  If you have a product good enough for the world, then you really would be stupid not to take it out to the world.”

►Need help to explore new trade opportunities? Contact our International Trade and Investment Centre on (08) 9365 7620 or trade@cciwa.com.

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