”Do not underestimate how much ‘made-in’ or ‘supplied from the UK’ counts”, says Surfachem Group Ltd managing director, Dr Richard Smith. “It opens doors to overseas markets.”
Originally R&D chemist for Courtaulds Research Ltd, Coventry, Richard Smith took on a series of UK and international sales and marketing, management and director, roles at Courtaulds, Dead Sea Bromine Group, Oxford Chemicals, Vivimed Labs before returning to the UK in 2012 for his current position at Surfachem.
His first exporting experience came as a sales executive for Courtaulds Sulphur Chemicals Ltd, Manchester, selling organo sulphur based corrosion inhibitors for lube oil additives to the USA and Japanese markets. More recently he was the COO for Vivimed Labs based in India.
As head of Surfachem Group Ltd, which has 97 staff, Richard Smith oversees exports to 72 countries and also through subsidiaries in Norway, Benelux and Poland. “We mainly export direct from West Yorkshire. We export 21 per cent of our business with 37 per cent of this to Western Europe.“
Surfachem is to extend its exporting. “We have a sales office in Poland. During Q4, 2013, we established Surfachem Nordic to focus on Scandinavia. We are also evaluating several projects for our other country-based presence in 2014. UK companies, products and services are welcomed in all countries. Customers and suppliers outside of the UK trust us and this is a great starting point.”
There are many misunderstandings about overseas sales. “People think that it is difficult, too bureaucratic, that there are too few overseas customers for UK goods but most are amazed to discover that the UK is usually a few % of the potential demand.”
He and his team are advising local businesses as part of Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership’s We Are International campaign. “We have logistics and associated documentation expertise to send products to most countries. My time in India helped me understand how India views external markets and the tremendous opportunities available there.”
What is his advice to novice exporters: “Try, try and try again. Also attend relevant major overseas trade shows - they are a fantastic source of information and opportunities.”