David Leydon (DL): How did you choose your first international dealer, and what was that experience like?
Ronan Boyle (RB): The UK market was the easiest opportunity from an expansion point of view. For a few years, we operated through one sole distributor in Northern England. They weren’t the ideal partner. They were selling for you one day and competing against you the next. We had to make a decision. It required a lot of time and effort, but we decided that we couldn’t be dependent on one dealer to service the UK, so we introduced another dealer. This gave us confidence that we needed to get people on the ground there ourselves to really understand the market.
DL: How do you vet your dealers, and do you look at exclusivity?
RB: Exclusivity is not a road that we like to go down. If we take on a dealer, we agree an area that they can operate in. If a dealer is performing, then we don’t have to look for another dealer in that area. It’s about building that relationship with the dealer. In terms of recruiting new dealers, you get a feel about a new dealer. It’s like a marriage. It has to work for both parties as we’re in it for the long haul. Its important to get out there and meet them. Bringing them to Ireland is important as well so they can see who we are and what goes into the development of our products.
DL: How do you maximise international shows and really make them work for your business?
RB: So Eurotier is a great example. It’s one of the biggest international Agri shows in the world. We would typically have a stand there and use it as a recruitment exercise for new dealers and new territories. It’s a great place to display our products and although we don’t tend to do a lot of direct sales to customers, in terms of dealer recruitment, it’s a very good starting point.
DL: When it comes to marketing in local markets, how do you structure that?
RB: All our marketing is maintained in-house. We have a great, young dynamic team who are very strong on digital executions. We have a dealer development manager who sits in between, and he is the link with dealers so when it comes to doing stuff at a local level, like co-branded fliers, he acts a link between the two. We also have an account manager or sales manager who adds further support at dealer level in key markets.
DL: How do you manage currency fluctuations? It could be a big risk if not actively managed.
RB: Very simple, invoice in Euro, get paid in Euro. We also get paid before the goods leave our warehouse. At the start, we didn’t have a choice not to look for prepayments because we simply didn’t have the cashflow. With some dealers we may operate on 30 days credit, but they are long term partnership with established records.
DL: What role does Enterprise Ireland (EI) play in your market expansion strategy?
RB: EI are a very valuable resource that can be utislied in markets. Our experience with EI has always been very positive. We have secured funding for market development; we have worked with them to explore new market and we have done inward buyer visits. A lot of the success comes down to the local market contact that you are dealing with. To really maximise the relationship, your local EI contact needs to understand your company, the product and the market.
DL: Has the Irish agtech network helped you to expand?
RB: Totally, if we are going to an international show, it’s all the same faces that you will see on the plane! We have great relationships with a range of other agtech companies. It’s about sharing information and a bit of cooperation. It’s very informal but it works well.
DL: What advice would you share with other agribusiness looking to build an exporting business?
RB: Get on the plane and go meet people face to face. I can guarantee that your competition isn’t doing that. They’ll be trying to do it over email, and you’ll have the deal done coming home on the plane.
Special thanks to Agtech Ireland for permission to share this interview.