Delta Fire – Case History by the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.
Delta Fire manufacture and supply a comprehensive range of fire fighting nozzles, fixed and portable foam making equipment, fire hoses and valves, all from their modern, purpose built Norwich factory.
Major clients both in the UK and abroad operate in the following sectors: – Oil and Gas Petrochemical (both onshore and offshore), Public and Municipal Fire Services, Marine, Defence and Aviation.
Delta has a relatively small workforce of 30 personnel. Part of the Export teams remit is to identify and select new opportunities in different countries.
Having traded over 24 years, Delta Fire has established a worldwide reputation for product innovation, quality and reliability. It is now a serious global player, exporting to over 50 countries worldwide including Europe, the Middle and Far East, North America, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand. It is now in the process of breaking into South America.
Steve Easter, Delta Fire’s Export Manager, reveals how the company approaches trade overseas. “Delta Fire was already exporting when I first joined the company. As we became more successful in the UK, branching out further afield was a natural progression. We knew our products were highly suitable for a wide range of overseas clients and applications.”
“We have invested in excess of GBP £1,200,000 in a new state of the art CNC machining and test facilities. This has significantly helped our production costs and improved our production time. These new facilities also mean we can machine most of the integral components in-house that are needed to manufacture our products. In general we are now much more efficient when responding to clients and this has contributed significantly to our success.”
“When we identify a potential market, great care is taken to select an appropriate agent or partner. We use a number of resources to help us search out opportunities in a particular region. We often attend Norfolk Chamber courses on new markets – one recent seminar on Mexico proved very useful in our drive to break into Mexico. We also use the UKTI for advice, do a great deal of desk research and attend trade shows in the UK and overseas.”
“We prefer to appoint a local agent in every country we export to. Local agents have the contacts, know the market in that region and can sell on our behalf. We always ensure our agents’ portfolio complements our own. They receive the maximum support from our Norwich based facility. Ideally they will not already be marketing a competitor’s equipment but in some cases we have provided agents with a very useful and viable alternative to similar product they already market.”
“Norfolk Chamber is an invaluable resource for us when exporting. The team are very helpful, very knowledgeable and above all very patient! The service received is always excellent. We use their services for Export Documentation, translations, and very often for general help and advice. We are also considering using them for Letters of Credit.”
So what challenges does Steve face and how does he overcome them?
“Cost is always an issue to an end user and the recent worldwide recession proved very challenging. Being competitive is a constant battle. There are many cheaper products being marketed from India and China, but the quality they offer is rarely comparable to ours. Delta Fire quality is well known worldwide. We also find that British manufactured goods in general are gaining in popularity as cheaper overseas product often cannot satisfy the quality and reliability demanded in our specialist industry. Our customers demand reliability and they are often prepared to pay a little more for that guarantee.” The balance is achieving a price acceptable to your client without compromising on the quality which sold the product in the first place.”
As an example, we have now begun exporting into the Far East in direct competition with cheaper Far Eastern manufacturers. Our equipment is safety critical. While price will always remain an issue, quality and reliability are now recognised as equally important.
“Documentation and legislation can be both frustrating and time-consuming – especially Letters of Credit,” he says. “But it’s something you cannot short circuit. You just have to be patient, diligent and go through the necessary processes.”
Steve says “Getting product to customers quickly and efficiently is of paramount importance. Road transport into Europe is still the most cost effective and reliable method, beyond Europe we use container ships or air depending on the urgency of the cargo. Fast response is integral to any export operation.”
With his years of export experience, can Steve offer any advice to companies aspiring to overseas trade?
“You must listen to your clients, respond to their needs and be flexible in your approach. Not every customer is the same. Be persistent and patient – it takes time to convert potential into real business. So you need to hang in there.”
“Lastly, it is imperative to keep your promises!” Be honest at all times or your customer will lose faith. If you cannot meet his needs then tell him. Those customers will come back if you have their trust. It’s all part of building a solid and trusting relationship that will stand the test of time.”
Mr Steve Easter – Export Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs Judy Flew – European Sales Manager email@example.com