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International success factors

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 00:00

Often I am asked about what factors make some US aftermarket companies more successful than others selling their products globally. There are three important traits that internationally successful companies share — let’s explore these success factors.

Factor No. 1: Successful companies go where the cars and people are located. Did you ever wonder how the world population is spread? Here is the break down:
• Europe 11%
• North America 5%
• Asia/Middle East 60.6%
• South America 8.6%
• Africa 14.1%
• Oceania 0.7%
(Australia, New Zealand)

The easiest U.S. aftermarket items to sell to the above markets are chemicals, tools and accessories. Why? Because they are universal, unlike hard parts that tend to be designed for a particular car, chassis or engine.

Factor No. 2: Successful companies understand success must be led from the top. In 2009, I traveled from Hong Kong to the US seven times to visit more than 20 US companies with under $50 million in sales to explore taking them global. Unfortunately, many of these companies were extremely challenging to help. What all these companies had in common was that international expansion was not a critical focus of the owner or the CEO. In these companies, they still saw their business as being US based, but “heard from friends that there was money to be made in China, Europe or the Middle East.”

Conversely I have worked with two companies that grew amazing international businesses — Loctite and Meguiar’s. The common international success ingredient in both these companies was that the CEO made international his job. At Loctite, Ken Butterworth and David Freeman were huge zealots of international expansion. At Meguiar’s, Barry Meguiar made going global his focus.

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