“It’s absolutely vital for us to have local people on the ground, who understand the market,” says Marketing Director Keith Tripp.
UK-based James Walker has been providing high performance sealing products and technical expertise to industry for over 100 years. Yet even now, as the business builds its operations in Brazil, it is still learning.
James Walker is operating in more than 20 markets across the globe but each one is chosen with the key tenets of growth, profitability and sustainability in mind.
When the group first started investigating the prospect of doing business in Brazil, there were opportunities that matched its strengths across a variety of sectors.
The company has had to adapt that strategic plan to meet Brazil’s stringent local content rules
“Most of the sectors we’re strong in are booming in Brazil but it’s not just a case of going for every industry,” says Marketing Director Keith Tripp. “We chose to focus initially on the Oil & Gas industry because of its substantial growth forecast and the global linkages that offered real sustainability for us.”
Think global act local
While operating across the globe in a wide variety of markets that all offer their own individual challenges, the company never loses sight of the importance of local knowledge.
“We have a global industry strategy but we always establish companies in the local territory and translate that strategy into territorial business development plans,” explains Keith.
“It’s absolutely vital for us to have local people on the ground, who understand the market. Our challenge then is to train them up to truly understand the value we’re offering so they can communicate that to our customers.”
And Keith feels that local presence is even more vital in Brazil where the building of relationships requires serious commitment.
“People want to spend a lot of time with you because it is all about relationships. I have been involved in two-day meetings with potential clients that would have needed three hours elsewhere. They weren’t only ensuring that we had the ability to meet their objectives but also wanted to know that they could trust me and work with me.”
Be ready for the talent crunch
That building of relationships is made more challenging in a market where there is a squeeze on talent in what is still an emerging industry in Brazil.
“There’s a real fluidity of people within the sector in Brazil and that, allied to a local workforce that is, in some cases, new to the industry, presents a real challenge for us,” says Keith.
“We find that we’ve built up a relationship where the client trusts the knowledge and information that we’re sharing and then a staff member will move on.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time making as many contacts as we can in the market and getting them up to speed to understand what we can offer. You have to be prepared to put in the time to communicate effectively to your potential customers the real value that you can deliver to them.”
Be prepared to change your plans when doing business in Brazil
When the company first started doing business in Brazil, it set up a sales office with a view to establishing a local manufacturing operation further down the line. However, the company has had to adapt that strategic plan to meet Brazil’s stringent local content rules.
“It’s only in the last two years that we’ve really understood the significance of local content, where you are fined if less than about 90% of your product is made in Brazil.
“So we have to move a lot faster in establishing a manufacturing base there than we had originally planned.”
Be a sponge
Despite many years’ experience of setting up operations across the world, Keith is in no doubt that he and the company still have a lot to learn, especially in Brazil. For that reason, he’s pleased to have the chance to gain some real insight at HSBC’s International Exchange in Brazil.
“The opportunity to spend time with other businesses operating in the market, no matter their industry, is invaluable. It can provide a different perspective on the challenges we’re facing and how people are overcoming them.”