Peter Janis is President and CEO an founder of Radial Engineering, a Vancouver-based supplier of professional audio products. The company ships more than 90,000 electronic items and hundreds of thousands of square feet of sound-absorbing acoustic panels to customers in more than 70 countries worldwide each year.
What was your first export sale?
I suppose it was to Bruce Springsteen’s sound company in 1996. They had heard about our direct boxes and wanted them on tour. It grew from there.
How did that first export opportunity arise?
With our sales climbing in the U.S. and Canada, we gained recognition and soon, we had a small but solid roster of heavy duty artists using our gear. This of course attracted attention. We hired an export rep firm and they brought people to the table. I think the UK was the first export market.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started exporting?
That everything takes time. The market is a huge cargo ship and you are but a rowboat trying as hard as you can to push the ship in a new direction. Moving the market even by one degree is tough with a rowboat.
How has the business world changed since you started in business?
Today, with the Internet, you can buy anything from anywhere. So competition is no longer regional. This means that if you intend to keep your customer, you really have to work hard to bring them your way and make sure you offer the type of product selection that will keep them coming back. It is also imperative that your brand be strong. With a solid, recognizable brand you have the chance to stand out from the crowd of copies.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
A well-financed distributor will pay in advance before the shipment leaves. Trying to collect abroad is difficult. Also, make sure you give your partners enough margin to work with so that they can be profitable. It is super smart to set a global pricing strategy with anticipated margins for everyone. Keeping prices on an even keel is important as profitability for everyone should be your main concern and grey marketing lives in all markets around the globe.