"In today’s oil and gas market, uncertainty rules because of the global decline in oil prices, and everyone both at home and overseas is feeling the impact." BQ caught up with Aiken Group to see how they're battling against the falling price of oil to continue expanding overseas ahead of the HSBC Scottish Export Awards.
What does your company do?
Aiken Group is a leading and innovative supplier of integrated, out-sourced and solutions-based engineering and specialist services principally accommodation, engineering, construction and modification, and technology and project management.
Aiken Group provides services across a wide range of geographies, disciplines and applications covering fixed and floating installations.
How long has the company been exporting?
The company began exporting in 1995.
What do you currently export, and where to?
Aiken Group Limited currently exports A60H120 and blast rated DNV modules, control cabins, power cabins, workshop cabins modules etc. as well as onshore laboratory modules, and skilled multi-discipline labour and project management services.
The company is UK-based and has a truly global reach having completed projects in the likes of Algeria, Angola, Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Nigeria, Netherlands, Senegal and Singapore as well as the UK.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
In 1995, the Aiken Group management team was motivated to seek additional, overseas business outlets.
This was fuelled by a drive to attain further company growth, and explore international markets and these were seen as crucial in expanding the customer base and opportunities.
Over the years Aiken Group has completed numerous overseas projects and in the fourth quarter of 2015 the company defined a strategic plan which will further develop overseas markets in 2016 and beyond.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
Put simply, there is no easy part when it comes to exporting! In today’s oil and gas market, uncertainty rules because of the global decline in oil prices, and everyone both at home and overseas is feeling the impact.
And the most challenging part?
The most challenging part of taking your business and its products overseas is to first make sure that there is a definite market for your range of equipment, expertise, labour and management services and interested clientele.
In our experience, it is always advisable to work with good, established, local-based companies – life can be made a lot easier by setting up local joint ventures and working closely with reputable local agents to overcome language barriers, achieve speedier access to processing work visas and importexport paperwork, logistics, taxes, and local knowledge appointments and customer support.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
As Aiken Group sees it, language differences and currency changes are generally not a problem in today’s modern society, but in all cases issues such as etiquette and culture need to be checked out before Aiken Group personnel make direct contact with foreign nationals or prior to visiting each individual country.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
Overseas trade missions, information and advice provided by the likes of Scottish Enterprise, UKTI, EIC, British Embassy staff, and Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce have all proved excellent sources of advice, information, and support.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
It is important that any company carries out thorough due diligence before dealing directly with any overseas company.
It is also important to check out factors such as local etiquette, culture, employee security during visits, local taxes, import and export costs and regulations, accommodation availability, health cover, insurance cover, etc.
A new market entrant should always ask itself: “Are we competitive enough in price and quality to beat the alternatives in their home market?”
It’s also a good idea, if possible, to join an organised trade mission to any country of interest to check out first-hand the market potential and pitfalls.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years’ time?
Within the next five years Aiken Group aims to target West and East Africa, Qatar, U.A.E, Libya, Iraq, Kuala Lumpur and China to examine business opportunities and growth in the areas of modularised land camps, offshore FPSOs upgrades and maintenance and environmental support projects.
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