Why did you enter the Queen’s Awards?
We entered the awards because of Surrey Chambers of Commerce! The chambers hosted an event at McLaren last year to raise awareness of the awards. We were inspired by the credibility the Queen’s Award offers companies like us, and the recognition it gives to companies for their contribution towards the UK economy. We were delighted to be successful in the International Trade category as this recognises our key business focus in growing our international sales.
What are you hoping to achieve from the win?
The award is recognition to all the staff for all their hard work. It also demonstrates to our customers that we are a credible and successful business and we think it will open new doors for us.
Was the entry process difficult?
The process is certainly robust and somewhat time consuming but a number of the team came together to work on the submission to ensure it was the credible and compelling entry that won us the award.
The process requires you to reflect on your successes, your vision and strategy and to celebrate your achievements. We had a deliberate strategy to grow our overseas sales and our determination to stick to this plan means we’ve achieved our targets and now we have been recognised for our success.
The application also required us to demonstrate the active role we play in the local community and it gave us the opportunity to talk about the way we look after our staff, the support we give to local charities and what kind of business we really are. The application is not just about the numbers and business success, it’s about your culture and values too.
What do your employees think of the win?
I think they are really chuffed with it, but I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet because we are waiting for the Lord Lieutenant to come and present the award.
I’m going to Buckingham Palace this month and I think that is when it will start to sink in for me.
Once we can fly the Queen’s Award flag outside our building, we will have a visible sign for our customers, suppliers and other visitors to see. We’ve made the announcement through the press and other social media channels and have had a great response from many of our customers and others in the industry.
It really is good for our whole business. We are focussed on providing the right environment for our staff and making Semmco a great place to work, it’s one of our big driving factors, and this demonstrates what a successful and ambitious company we are, which should help us attract and keep talented people in our business.
Are you planning on a big celebration?
When the Lord Lieutenant visits later this summer to make an official presentation, we will definitely take the opportunity to celebrate with the whole company!
How has winning the Queen’s Award impacted business already, has there been an increase in products sold?
It’s much too soon for us to see a real impact in sales but the recognition and feedback from customers and clients has been rewarding in itself. It’s an excuse to renew acquaintances and a point of discussion for conversations with new clients, so the long term benefits should be excellent.
But it’s not just about the export sales – it’s about how we operate as a business and is a huge stamp of approval. We are exhibiting at the Inter Airport Show in Munich in October and we will be proud to have the Queen’s Award logo on display on the stand. It will make us stand out from our competitors.
It’s going to make a real impact with our growing number of American customers, who we expect will be particularly impressed with our royal seal of approval!
What would you say to businesses who are looking to export?
The first thing I would suggest is taking a strategic approach to business. We adopted a very strategic approach and identified the markets where we can optimise our products both in sales and in revenue. We identified the Middle East and North America as the best opportunities for our business for two reasons: the overall market opportunities for our types of products and the routes to market.
Our trade in the Middle East started ten years ago and it’s grown to the point where we have an office and a manufacturing partner in the Middle East and this set up is working really well.
At the same time we had enquires growing in North America which have matured and been very successful. So we made a strategic decision to focus on these two overseas markets, where we thought the major opportunities would lie.
What are the easiest countries to export to?
Every country has its obstacles. America and the Middle East were potentially big markets for us as we were dealing with likeminded people and cultures; who know and understand the benefits of our products. Some markets have their own challenges in the way they do business but we take a completely professional and ethical approach to this and have chosen these two markets as we know this approach has the potential to work.
British manufacturing as a whole is suffering from one of the worst slumps for more than two and half years, how has Semmco managed to keep their business strong and profitable?
We’ve been affected a certain amount by Brexit. We were conscious that because we are a British manufacturer in Surrey our overheads may be higher when compared to other parts of the country.
We have a loyal and skilled workforce which we are committed to as well as to the community we work in. Some of our employees have been with us for five, ten maybe fifteen years and we feel a real loyalty to them, as they do to us.
At Semmco we are constantly innovating new products to meet the market demands, which provides us with an edge. We offer flexibility around purchasing and leasing products with some of our customers.
If you read all the trade magazines they say you have to go the emerging countries, such as Russia or India to grow your business, but there are issues with lead times to get into those markets, as we have found when we have sold to them. We feel it’s about sticking to your
focus and strategy and constantly evaluating what your costs are, constantly reviewing your target markets and where you hit your margins and that’s how we’ve grown to the business we are today.
Have you consciously made any major changes to the way you do things with Brexit looming?
We don’t have many European suppliers but we have found alternative UK suppliers where we can and have bought additional stock so that we are prepared should there be any problems in order to maintain our supply to our customers.
We have really benefitted from the support of Surrey Chambers of Commerce, particularly the workshops for local businesses where we can learn about what lies ahead and get excellent advice on the current situation and how to deal with it.
For Semmco, it’s all about moving forward, looking for the next opportunity, continuing to innovate and design products that our customers need. Now that we are Queen’s Award winners, we are looking forward to even greater success for the business.