Fresh approach to doing business in Europe

Flextraction’s export sales have gone from zero to 15 per cent of turnover since the company began working with UKTI. The Leicestershire manufacturer’s dust and fume extractors are installed in workplaces in France and Germany

Established in 1997, Flextraction is a leading independent UK specialist in the supply and manufacture of Local Exhaust Ventilation products for dust and fume extraction in the work place. The company manufactures extraction arms and hood positioning devices at its Melton Mowbray premises, and also supplies a wide range of products from other manufacturers. Its extractors are used in many sectors, including the food industry, pharmaceuticals, factories and education, to remove hazardous dust and fumes.

UK regulations on hazardous substances stipulate that control measures are installed and tested at least every 14 months.

But when it comes to exporting, not all countries have the same regulations, although most are catching up with the UK’s health and safety standards.

We spoke to Flextraction Managing Director Lee Darton about working with UKTI.

What led you to look at overseas markets?

We began to think about this in 2010 once we had completed the redevelopment of our Hood Positioning Device (HPD). The take up in the UK had been very well received so we felt it was a great opportunity to see how this equipment would sell in other countries.

Initially what did you need UKTI’s help with?

We were complete beginners at exporting, and we needed advice from an expert. The first thing we wanted to do was to find one particular country that would be right for our product.

How did you begin your exporting journey?

We signed up for UKTI’s Passport to Export programme which was excellent. Throughout we had a dedicated manager looking after us who helped us to put a plan into place for our next 12 months of business.

We narrowed the target countries down to France as there was not already a manufacturer like us there. In order to make in-roads into France we commissioned UKTI staff in the Paris Embassy to undertake some in-country research via their OMIS service. This research found over 30 French contacts for us to follow up. We have also used the International Student Placement Office (ISPO) based at the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce. The staff there found a foreign student to come over and work for us. This was ideal, as we needed someone who could speak fluent French to help with the export work. With help from UKTI and our French intern we translated our brochure and made several successful trips to France to visit prospective clients. We wouldn’t have known how to get to this point without UKTI’s help. The knowledge and guidance they provide is incredible.

What other help has UKTI given?

We applied for and were granted funding for our trip to France. UKTI also helped with the cost of the brochure translation, printing and artwork. We attended UKTI’s one-day courses to learn about French and German language and culture.

Company name: Flextraction

UKTI services used: OMIS Passport to Export,

Website: www.flextraction.co.uk

What would be your advice to businesses thinking about exporting?

Definitely speak to a UKTI expert. I would also advise taking advantage of the service offered by the International Student Placement Office, as working abroad without a native speaker is very hard.

Would you recommend UKTI?

Of course! Karen, our UKTI adviser, is remarkable. It is sometimes easy for us to take our eye off the ball but with Karen on hand she makes sure that things are done. The networking element is great. You meet people who may be able to help in the future with their contacts. It is a ‘no brainer’ that all UK businesses thinking about exporting should work with UKTI.

Contacts

If you are interested in developing your business overseas please contact your local International Trade Advisor.

Sectors: Construction
Countries: East Midlands and France
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