Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Parasol Modular Systems
Parasol Modular Systems Ltd is a family-run business which has been designing, constructing and installing Animal Housing for over twenty years. They have a manufacturing facility in Harlow, and are the preferred supplier to the UK’s MOD and UK Border Agency for housing security dogs.
Whilst most manufacturing companies were changing their business strategies and exporting their products abroad in order to survive the economic downturn, Parasol had considered the idea but were not proactively pursuing it, preferring instead to focus on the domestic market.
It was only when the Parasol team was given a copy of the American Veterinary Association’s handbook by a contact at the University of Hertfordshire, which had a photo of their own ‘Parasol’ kennel on the front, that exporting became a reality.
“Becoming an exporting company was something we had thought about as a tactic to help get us through the recession, but we hadn’t seriously considered it or put together a strategy” said Colin Taylor, Parasol’s Managing Director who, even though he is approaching his 70s has been revitalised by the success the company has had in trading abroad.
“However, within days of seeing ‘The Parasol’ on the front cover of the handbook we had taken a call from the Belgian zoological society telling us that we have the best systems in the world. They wanted to use our installations for their animal rescue centres in Antwerp” he continued. “It turned out that our military contacts had recommended us to them, to contacts in New Zealand and to the Irish Prison Service.
“It became very obvious very quickly that there was a market for our products abroad, but we had no strategy or plans in place to deal with the huge opportunity straight away. We knew we had been handed a great opportunity to develop our business. However we also knew we had to use the right channels and make sure we did it properly.”
It started to become clear that the reputation of Parasol’s Kennels was as acclaimed overseas as it was in the UK. The business started experiencing a snowball effect, and Colin was conscious that he didn’t want to lose control. “Within just 4 weeks of receiving that first phone call we had contracts signed to deliver products overseas. This all happened between August 2011 and January 2012 and although we wanted to take full advantage of what was being asked of us we needed to ensure we managed it properly. I decided to contact UKTI and within days our designated trade advisor Bob Hammond had arranged to come out and see us.”
Bob, who is an International Trade Advisor for UKTI East, set Parasol up on the UKTI Passport to Export Scheme which offers businesses assistance in the way of free capability assessments, support in visiting potential markets, free action plans, customised and subsidised training, and ongoing support. However, before getting into the intricacies of the scheme, Bob needed to put some fundamental management strategies in place.
Colin can’t speak highly enough of the assistance he has received from Bob and UKTI. “We look forward to Bob’s visits. He always brings us quality leads, sound advice and is always willing to go the extra step to ensure he answers any questions we have.
His expertise, guidance and back up has been invaluable to our exporting journey; he has helped us control a situation which was starting to snowball and ensured we weren’t wasting any time by following avenues and markets which weren’t quite right for us.”
Through some targeted and controlled research, Parasol is gradually building up a substantial list of contacts and potential clients, as interest in their products grow.
They have great expectations that this interest will quickly turn into confirmed business and so turnover will start to increase, resulting in a subsequent need for more staff.
Colin summed it all up: “The UK really should be shouting louder about what we’re good at. UKTI is leading the push to drive forward British expertise and all businesses should take a look at what they have on offer. The UK used to be a manufacturing powerhouse and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t hit those lofty heights again.”
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