I had the pleasure of chairing the SME break out session at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce (BICC) annual conference. The panel included Alan Sullivan of Meditec. Meditec Medical, a wholly Irish owned company, with headquarters in Dublin, designs, manufacturers, and delivers cutting edge technology in the area of pressure relief mattresses, and patient support surfaces.
Alan Sullivan shared the lessons he learned:
Be the absolute best
A medical product (tackling bed sores) company, Meditec has to go through a lot of testing. It will enter a new market only if it can become number one in all the tests that were applied. If not number one, it goes back to drawing board, re-designs and goes again.
Meditec pinpointed certain segments, geographical areas and key opinion leaders. Because public tendering is very difficult to get access to, it offers free trials of its product. The trials prove the quality. This gets Meditec on the preferred supplier list and justifies the business case.
A lot of time
Exporting takes time and hard work, stressed Sullivan. It means stepping on a plane on Tuesday and not being home until Friday. The price paid is high and Sullivan is not sure if this is appreciated. He argues that because Irish SMEs are so small, the risk and opportunity costs are much higher than SMEs in other countries.
Meditec also used acquisition as a tool to enter foreign markets.
While on the subject of M&A, Peter Smyth of Broadlake Capital, talked about how most acquisitions fail. He explained that a lot of failures could be avoided. He argued that it is all about people, you should kiss a lot of frogs and acquisition is not something you can leave to consultants. You have to do it yourself, which again means stepping on a plane and being away from home (a lot) visiting lots of candidate companies.
Susan Hayes, the positive economist, talked about the opportunities of going online. The English spend £ 1000 online per year and 70% of buying decisions are researched online. She talked about the opportunity of the grey(ish) market. 44% of all family spending is by people over 50. How elderly friendly is your website? Or your workplace?
Susan herself is focusing on Manchester as her target market in the UK. She mentioned a long list of support agencies in the UK. UKTI, Growthhub, Enterprise Network Europe, IIBN and the Irish Post. She writes for the Irish Post now as a columnist.
Hug an SME
The BICC has an SME subcommittee. Its job is to make sure that the BICC stays relevant to SMEs. Nicola Byrne, CEO of 11890 and another member of the committee, couldn’t put it any better: “hug an SME”. They’re very important tot he future of the country.
As BICC in 2013 we are going to do a lot of hugging. We are going to ensure that SMEs can link into the impressive list of the large corporates members of BICC in the UK and Ireland (on Friday morning SMEs had an opportunity to pitch to a group of them).
BICC will also be embracing technology and it is our ambition to create an online interface where SMEs will get “warm” access to the 50,000 Irish directors of UK companies.
If you are interested in joining BICC (and you should), give me a shout.