A word on companies that produce within the so-called subcontracting field. I’m referring to those companies that supply specific capabilities like mechanical work, carpentry work, etc. and that, even if small, often work with advanced technology. These companies usually have a clientele consisting of 2 or 3 main buyers that represent almost the entire turnover of the company. These are usually medium/large clients – very often located nearby – with whom there is a long-term relationship.
The problems arise when these large clients reduce their volumes or begin to look for suppliers who can offer a lower cost. The repercussions on our small businesses are instantly felt.
I have met some of these subcontractors in my region and the request is always the same: to look for new buyers abroad. This is also to get around the problem of payment conditions which are getting longer and are paid late. Usually the potential markets they want to target are: Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.
In the face of this request, however, the advice I usually give is to explore other regions within our own territory before crossing its borders. In the case of companies in the Veneto region, for example, the invitation is to seek new buyers in the Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna regions.
The reasons why I suggest this are varied. Our small subcontracting companies usually do not have the language skills to deal with: reading German-language drawings, unexpected problems that arise during production (which should be handled immediately with a telephone call), as well as obtaining the necessary certifications that are being requested more and more often. Plus, besides these, the thousands of other details that customers, especially the German ones, demand. Usually, in these small businesses there is no one person dedicated to the sales side of the business. The owner, who is almost always technically-oriented, is often overseeing the work in production and it would be impossible to imagine him being absent for a week for a round of visits to German customers (obviously accompanied by an interpreter). From this point of view, too, it becomes easier to search and manage new customers outside the supplier’s region rather than abroad.
If you have already covered the country’s entire area in the various mechanical fields then, yes, you will just have to cross the border. In these cases my advice then is to rely on experts with a solid knowledge of the product. For example, technical studios with the linguistic skills and the contacts abroad. This type of know-how is also spreading.