Thursday, 26 Jan 2012
Fired Up in China
We are a UK and China-based manufacturer of home improvement and hospitality industry products including fires, fireplaces and electrical goods as well as the famous Corby Trouser Press. Operating through four brand companies we sold to over 40 countries in 2011 with a budgeted turnover of £15 million.
My story here focuses on China, starting eight years ago when we first entered the market and culminating in recognition for our achievements with the China Business Award in the Yorkshire and Humber Business Awards 2010 and the award for Rising Star in the Cathay Pacific China Business Awards 2011.
The international business success of Fired Up is due to the synergies between its UK and Chinese operations. Our UK-manufactured products from Huddersfield are exported to the Chinese market and our Chinese-produced goods are shipped all over the world. We couldn’t have maintained our turnover and doubled our profits in 2011 without our manufacturing capability in China.
Our strength in China also lies very much in the time and resources we have invested there; from our wholly-owned factory to the lengths we go to in building our relationships (Guanxi *) and brands.
Fired Up Corporation: Fast facts
Fired Up Corporation was formed in 1999 by Richard Kaye as manufacturer of fireplaces selling under its ‘Adam’ brand.
It has wholly owned operations in UK and China with ownership of brands including ‘Adam’, newly launched Endeva and Corby of Windsor.
It currently has 320 employees (90 in the UK and 230 in China) and a budgeted turnover for 2011 of £15,000,000.
Fired Up plan to recruit 300 more people in China and the UK over the next three years to meet planned growth targets.
Fired Up are winners of the 2010 Yorks and Humber China Business Award and Rising Star in the Cathay Pacific China Business Awards 2011.
‘Endeva’ is Chinese for ‘English Foundation’ – a tribute to an English product produced in China by an English owned business.
*Guanxi describes the basic dynamic in personalised networks of influence, and is a central idea in Chinese society.
Our various brands have an aura of ‘Englishness’ about them, which in the eyes of the Chinese consumer equates to quality and craftsmanship. We have built our reputation in the market on these principles, helping to add to the appeal of our products and influence in the marketplace.
We have also recently enhanced our share in the Chinese domestic market through the launch of our ‘Endeva’ range of kettles and rice cookers. Created specifically for the Chinese market, these products are now stocked in a chain of 85 supermarkets and more than 40 B&Q stores.
Following our takeover of the declining Corby of Windsor business in 2009, we took on the production of the eponymous Corby Trouser Press in Huddersfield. Thanks to our capabilities in China we have now added over 200 products to the range, which we exhibited recently in Guangzhou and Macau to attract buyers in the burgeoning hotel trade across China.
Growing our business in a market over 5,000 miles away has been challenging but worthwhile. You must be prepared to invest significant personal time in the country - this can’t be delegated and the drive must always come from the top.
Success in China has left me keen to share my insights and experiences with other small businesses looking to explore this market which is why I’m supporting this UKTI campaign to get more British companies doing business in Asia.
Richard’s top five tips for success in Asia:
1. Establish and maintain strong relationships – its all about Guanxi
2. Select the right person to head up your operation and share some equity with them
3. Pay better than average wages to attract and retain the best personnel
4. Create products with an international appeal that can be shipped from China worldwide to benefit from low cost production and single ship efficiencies
5. Look at China from angles other than just an import market – it has so much to offer