Widgets Magazine

UK Companies Doing US Business

I am Tim Brooksbank, CEO/Chairman of Calibre UK Ltd.-*-*I,Aeom considered a veteran in the Pro AV industry nowadays, having been involved in one way or another since 1988 – that,Aeos a very scary 27 years.-*-*In that time I,Aeove seen many changes. For example, at the company where I served my engineering apprenticeship I was the first staff member to have a PC with a hard drive. It was a 30MB Seagate RLL type – anyone remember those? I also remember when the VGA 15HDD signal connection format was launched, and I remember what came before it. Before I decide I,Aeom too old to continue, here are my thoughts on doing business in the USA as a UK company.
It can be challenging on many levels for a UK AV equipment company to do business in the USA.-*-*Aside from the leg-pulling and humorous differences such as the USA not spelling things correctly on the product menu, for example ,Aeocolour,Aeo, there are other terminology differences which can lead to misunderstanding. The primary difference, though, is there,Aeos a general reluctance in the USA to engage directly with non-domestic suppliers.
This is a significant difference from Europe and Asia where international business is commonplace for even very small companies.-*-*In the USA, this comes about for two reasons. First, a lack of understanding of how to import goods – US Customs is particularly difficult to negotiate. Second, there,Aeos the concern about the responsiveness of technical support due to the significant time zone difference.-*-*There is also a cultural difference of more brand loyalty in North America to apparently North American suppliers than there is elsewhere, particularly compared with Europe and Asia too, so that,Aeos a cultural difference.-*-*In Northern/Central Europe companies are generally driven by what they consider to be innovative and technically competitive, in the UK and Southern Europe by who is the cheapest, but in the Americas it is more about going with the safe option that you know, there is risk aversion even if taking a risk on something new might get a better result.-* This takes significant effort to overcome for a foreign company like ourselves.-* I write ,Aeuapparently North American,Aeu as often those brands which are perceived as American or Canadian are not really, for example Barco has owned the legendary Folsom Research for many years and people perceive Barco to be American, it,Aeos still considered American by most users but in reality it is Belgian, also Christie which also owns Vista is usually considered Canadian when it,Aeos actually Japanese owned.
To overcome this desire for local supply there is a need to establish US sales and support presence, and for a smaller companies like Calibre this is best achieved through industry partnerships.-*-*We have tried various methods over the years, including having directly employed staff working from home as well as having a retained agent.-*-*Each of those methods has its benefits and costs, but the reality is you only get one point of presence in the USA and in such a large country with several time zones that doesn,Aeot work.
That is where industry partnerships come into play.-*By establishing such partnerships we are able to leverage local market knowledge and US-wide staffing without the upfront overhead costs of creating this ourselves, which in a country as large as the USA is prohibitive for us.-*-*We,Aeove also found it is important to have consistency of industry partner in many countries. For these reasons our main partner in the Pro AV industry worldwide is Kramer Electronics.
By partnering with Kramer Electronics we have a means of providing pre and post sales technical and commercial support, offering a demo program to customers to try-before-you-buy, and a means of shipping from a US warehouse rather than from the UK.-*-*This works well for doing business with dealers and distributors, but since OEMs invariably prefer a direct manufacturer relationship so there remains international trade with others in the USA too.
So the conclusion we found is that if a UK company wants to do business in the USA, then you have to assess to whom you want to sell. If you only want OEM relationships, then you can do this from the UK, but if you want to sell to dealers, distributors, integrators and installers then you must establish a significant presence in the USA, either directly, or by means of an industry partnership.
Twitter: @CalibreProAV

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