Mike Budd works in International Sales at Triad Speakers Incorporated and completed the 2014 International Trade Small Business Management program at SBDC.
Can you tell us about yourself?
I work for Triad Speakers which is a manufacturing company here in Portland. We employ 48 people and we design, manufacture, and sell loud speakers for home cinemas, screening rooms, and whole house audio systems around the globe. We've been in business since 1985 and it's an interesting industry to be a part of - there’s a lot of competition around the world.
Why does exporting make sense for your company and what countries are you exporting to?
For us I think a lot of other companies may have a similar story - we stumbled into export business through our growing domestic business. And so in the early days of our exporting it was really just to very a small number of costumers that had found us and liked what we were doing and we took care of them like we would anybody else, but we weren't necessarily focusing on international business. For markets like Japan, some of the South American (Brazil and Argentina), we were talking earlier because of the high taxes and tariffs on American made luxury goods - it's really a barrier to entry in some of those markets. Places where we're doing most of our business would be Europe,
Australia and New Zealand, Asia, Canada is a very strong market for us as well.
Is planning necessary? How important is an export plan, and if it is important how do I do it?
You know there are really two levels of planning - and I think it's true across all industries - that you want to have a long term vision and a long term plan. For Triad speakers that means looking at what products we need to plan to develop for international markets that are unique to our export business and not so much our U.S. business. There's also the financial planning of where we're going to go in the next 3 to 5 years. The real work is done in our yearly planning because the economic conditions and political conditions of a given market can change so quickly.
What would you say is one of the biggest challenges that you did not expect for your business, and how did you overcome it? For us, having done the majority of our business in the early years in the U.S. the product that we designed is designed for North American architecture (stud framed walls, sheetrock, very specific to that type of construction). So an obstacle for us was creating ways to install our existing product into those different types of architecture that were found around the world while also getting support within our company to develop products that were maybe not going to be successful in the U.S.
How do you respond if the distributor says "I want to be your sole distributor."?For the most part that's the way I like to do it - I like to have an exclusive distributor in a given market. Now what comes with that is a tremendous level of responsibility on their part. To earn the right of an exclusive distributorship you need to hit all the sales numbers, represent the brand and so on. There are some markets where an exclusive distributor just doesn't exist and then we'll have more direct relationships with a number of customers. But having one really strong partner in a given market not only keeps your messaging clean, it keeps your pricing clean, and actually it keeps your work load a little bit easier because you're managing one customer.