Let's talk... selling to Asia

"There are so many opportunities that lie beyond your own backyard"

We spoke to Graeme Hall, Managing Director of multi-award winning Leeds-based Brandon Medical, to hear his thoughts on growing a business with his brother, targeting Asia and building export confidence as part of our #LetsTalkRealBusiness campaign.

What is your attitude to trading overseas?

The world is a very big place and there are so many opportunities that lie beyond your own back yard. Although we can and have grown our business substantially in the UK, it is ultimately the market’s maturity which restricts us. Which is why we see exporting and international trade as integral parts of our long term growth plan.

What is your business?

Brandon Medical is a UK manufacturer and designer of world-leading technology for operating theatres, critical care areas and primary care institutions. We have been providing healthcare professionals with reliable, high quality and affordable medical equipment for over 70 years.

My brother Adrian and I are joint managing directors of Brandon Medical. It’s been great working together and really rewarding too, as we have seen the company grow from a small engineering business to a respectable, international medical-tech firm.

Currently, we sell a number of different products; medical control and power systems, medical architectural systems, medical lighting and medical AV systems. Like any company, we have to continuously invest into our products, in order to keep up with the changes of consumer demand and the healthcare industry. Definitely something that keeps us on our toes!

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How did you find out about CommonwealthFirst and what has been your experience of the programme so far?

Leeds City Council Growth Manager told us about CommonwealthFirst. We only have positive things to say so far. It’s great that the LEP decided to partner with CommonwealthFirst as before, there wasn’t really an initiative in the region that helped SMEs trade and invest internationally. We’ve had access to some high profile events, an experienced business mentor to help and advise us on international growth, and, we've had the chance to network among other businesses that are part of the scheme. That aspect has been great, as it has enabled us to share and hear experiences on key export markets.

Find out more about CommonwealthFirst, or call the Growth Service team on 0113 348 1818.

You are a finalist for the Export Excellence in Asia award, why is Asia a target market for you?

We are thrilled to be nominated for this award. We have been so grateful for all of the ones we have achieved so far; especially winning the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards – Small Exporter of the Year. That was a great feeling.

In regards to Asia, it's widely predicted that it will come to dominate the world economy in the 21st Century, due to its sheer growth of population, wealth and demographics. This has resulted in rapid developments in the healthcare industry, which is obviously great for businesses like us. Another aspect which has been really beneficial is that English is Asia’s common business language. So it’s been a lot easier when dealing with legal and commercial systems.

If you are interested in exporting to Asia, read about the LEP’s partnership with Chinese E-commerce platform Kaola.com.

How important do you think brand Britain is? Do you use it when you promote Brandon Medical abroad?

Being British has a distinct advantage in many countries. I think it’s because Britain has a trustworthy reputation when it comes to business. From talking to national and international companies, I get the impression they feel that British produce is stylish, innovative and high quality. Generally, people buy British products because they expect premium quality and service.

In your opinion, what international locations have had the most positive effects from exporting?

Although many countries are positively affected by exporting, in all honesty many of those don’t have a domestic medical equipment manufacturing industry. A lot of international companies need to import high quality, good value equipment which meets all the international regulatory requirements for medical equipment. Something which we feel we can provide!

What are Brandon Medical’s plans for the future?

In three years, we would love to double in size - then do it again!

What have been the most challenging aspects whilst trading overseas?

Building up a market presence has definitely been the most challenging. It has taken a long time for us to build brand recognition in each country where we export. However, after regular market visits we have now managed to build up strong relations with our suppliers and distributors, who are now trained to sell our products in their field.

What tips would you give to a fellow MD of an SME considering trading overseas?

Just do it. The hardest bit is the first step, but after that it's not that difficult. Definitely visit exhibitions – even exhibit if possible - go on trade missions and do as much research into the target markets and consumers! Although (like us) a few mistakes will be made, over time confidence builds and the ultimate goal will definitely take shape!

To have an informal conversation about business support in general and help to try new markets, call our team on 0113 348 1818 or email businessgrowth@the-LEP.com.