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From Cinderella to Princess

Turning a Cinderella product into the belle of the balance sheet

The early 90’s was not a good time for the engineering industry, especially one with a heavy defence and aerospace focus. So given such a situation one obvious course of action was to find out what could be done with the other markets that the company served, albeit rather modestly and which together came under the title of ‘ industrial’.

The brief was simple: Turn ‘industrial’ into the life raft and income generator that would fill the hole left by the other two divisions, especially aerospace. With the diffuse nature of the ‘industrial’ markets one possible course of action was to ‘do a detailed analysis’. However the situation facing the company was urgent, so the first step was to ‘win next Saturday’s match’, ie convert the current enquiry base into orders where possible. From this collective experience the business would start to show where the better and more promising market sectors lay, and so it did.

Up to a point, those who seek, find, and it turned out that the enquiry pipeline included some very large enquiries from some major OEM’s. So if these could be turned into orders they would provide on-going incremental business for years. However two crunch issues needed tackling; one was securing ample engineering effort to support them and the other was investment in an injection moulder which would produce them at the right speed and price. The key issues were communication and confidence. So while the sales team worked with the clients, I worked on making sure that the resource was there to support them. This combination delivered both the orders and the investment.

Like any other company who’ve been around for ages there are odd ‘cinderella’ products which aren’t sold in a any great volume but are none the less good. Once a sensible enquiry chasing process was running effectively it was worth devoting some time to finding out what these ‘other’ products did, who bought them and why. One product, a very robust unit for the OEM marine power market was sold regularly to a small company in this business. Some brief research showed that this client was one of about thirty such companies around the world, of whom the larger players included names such as Caterpillar, Cummins and Volvo who were potentially in the market for thousands of these units. This lead to a simple initiative to engage local agents to make contact with these companies and see what they could do. Two years later this market turned from almost nothing to being worth the better part of £ 1m.

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