Interview with Sandra Gillanders, CEO of Hy-Performance Fluid Power, Winner of the Craig Senger Excellence in Export Award
Hy-Performance Fluid Power were the winners of the 2015 Craig Senger Excellence in Export Award, so we caught up with CEO, Sandra Gillanders to get her insights into why export markets are so important for Australian METS right now, and what new entrants to export should be aware of.
Congratulations on winning the 2015 Craig Senger Excellence in Export award! What do you think made your application stand out?
I would say there were a couple of things. We have a really clear vision for the future, especially relating to export, plus a successful track record exporting in a variety of markets. I would also say our demonstrated use of proven research and proper preparation and planning for the business growth overseas.
Why does Hy-Performance Fluid Power believe focusing on your export markets is so important in the current climate?
As we know, the “pie” is now smaller in Australia; it has shrunk in terms of available business. Australian businesses need to increase that pie and essentially export markets will produce that opportunity. However, having strong export markets also spreads risk from local downturns, and ensures you don’t have too many eggs in one basket. Too many businesses out there don’t react to what’s happening in the market and go under. This is relevant not just in a downturn, but also in relation to identifying opportunities. For us export markets are important regardless of the climate - but even more so at the moment because of it!
What key lesson did you learn from expanding your export markets? If you were entering a new market now, what would you do differently based on this lesson?
I learned previously that people need to be aware that every market is different, to keep their eyes open, and don’t assume anything! What does that mean in summary? Research, research, research. Make sure you are basing your decision to export to a new market on data, not just a hunch. In particular, making assumptions about a new market based off conclusions drawn from your existing market(s) can be dangerous.
Another common mistake I’ve seen is the misconception that a new market is automatically the biggest market. Be clear on what you’re after from your export market, where your product fits into that and in the wider lifecycle of that market. Sometimes it can be the small market that’s good for you: you may not have a competitor in a smaller market!
For Australian METS looking to just start exporting, would you have any tips, or advice for them?
The first thing is get yourself export ready, by which I mean get your house in order. If you have problems in your business now such as being understaffed, or cash flow issues, not getting orders out on time, these will only increase once the export orders start to flow.
Next, make sure you don’t neglect your existing customers. This is a common mistake I see businesses make, where they focus exclusively on their new clients and forget those who’ve been with them for years.
Do your due diligence and really research and understand who will be your buyer; understand their needs and objectives, and build your plan around those. Be culturally aware and don’t assume business will be done the same in an overseas market as it is done in Australia. Also prepare yourself for the fact there will be differences in timelines, language, and cultural taboos. Be ready to visit the market as it will be expected and this can help you with some of the above.
Make sure you manage your agents or customers. They need to know you and trust you and that will mean visiting them.
Never assume anything.
Ensure you manage your credit risk, as there are a lot of things beyond the customer that can impact you getting paid.
Lastly - be patient, resilient and tenacious!