Cheshire’s Crawford Healthcare has successfully disrupted the marketplace when it comes to caring for wounds, an area of pharma which hadn’t evolved for decades. With a US subsidiary and sales in Europe, Richard Anderson tells us about their worldwide ambitions.
What does your company do?
Crawford is a leading international advanced wound care and dermatology business based in Knutsford, Cheshire. We develop and sell advanced wound care and dermatology products and are the UK’s fastest-growing advanced wound care business.
We’re supported by key figures within the Treasury and this year won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade for the first time. Our success has been in no small part thanks to our R&D partnership with the University of Manchester, with whom we’ve developed world-first wound dressings utilising patented technology.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
I started Crawford in its current form in 2009 and we entered the high growth phase we’re currently enjoying in 2012. The global wound care market is expected to be worth $26million (US) by 2018, and it’s an industry that, like big pharma, has lacked any real innovation in treatment for the past two to three decades.
With the rising age of the global population, plus growing healthcare issues such as diabetes and antibiotic resistance, we saw an opportunity to challenge the big multinational businesses in the sector by developing disruptive new treatments.
How long has the company been exporting?
We opened our US subsidiary in 2014 and have been building on the foundations of that ever since. We now have multimillion dollar sales and a growth rate of close to 100 per cent per annum in the US, which is really encouraging given that it is the world’s largest market for advanced wound care. We also have a direct sales presence in Germany and this is supported by distribution arrangements in other key territories.
What do you currently export, and where to?
The success of our wound dressings in the US and the UK encouraged us to create a joint venture partnership to take our products into mainland Europe, starting with Germany – again, the continent’s biggest market. We recorded our first sales there in 2015 and have plans to replicate the success by pursuing opportunities in other targeted geographic markets.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
The issues that cause stubborn wounds such as leg ulcers – diabetes, aging populations and antibiotic resistance – are not just local but global concerns. No one was innovating and we knew from the rapid growth of our UK business that it could be replicated in overseas markets where, arguably, healthcare is actually more accepting of new treatments. We managed to set up pretty quickly by acquiring a sales vehicle and then hiring the best local talent to build it up.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
Our most innovative product, and the cornerstone of our future pipeline, features a world-first silver technology that was first developed in Canada, so the North American market was already very receptive at our point of entry. We’ve since secured the exclusive proprietary rights to the technology so we are in a strong position to combine it with the already FDA-approved products driving our success in other territories.
And the most challenging part?
The first challenge for any business operating overseas is getting to grips with the regulatory environment. For example, in the UK, the reimbursement system is relatively straightforward whereas the German and American versions are entirely different animals, involving multiple complex systems. In that respect, recruiting the best possible senior management in each territory has been essential.
Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?
The main cultural element we’ve had to address is adapting our sales and marketing to different audiences. While our patient demographics are pretty similar wherever you go, our point of contact changes. In the UK, for example, the nurse decides on the most appropriate treatment for a wound whereas in Germany that responsibility would be with the doctor.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
We’ve always been well supported by UKTI and the Treasury. As our local MP, George Osborne is a big supporter of the business and we’re working in partnership with UKTI and the IoD to further the cause of the Northern Powerhouse initiative. The Cheshire Science Corridor is a massive employer of northern talent and our Life Sciences industry is right at the heart of what the region has to offer to an international audience.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Before you consider entering into a new geographical market, make sure you have a niche. Know the USP of your product or service and how it can better what’s already on the market. You are likely to be competing with local and international rivals with long-established relationships. If you aren’t adding something new then why should you expect the market to accept you?
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
We have a very real aim of reaching £100million turnover by 2020, and that will involve spreading our wings further into Europe and further afield. This will be via a combination of our own sales force where strategically appropriate, and quality distributors in other targeted markets.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) are a partner for the Around the World in 80 Trades feature.
The Northern Powerhouse team of DIT offers a whole host of support for businesses across the Northern region that wish to export. Regular regional hosted webinars and events include topics such as strategy, finding the right market, finance, e-exporting and research. The sessions are very practical and provide guidance from those who have experienced exporters. For brand new exporters there are taster missions and trade missions, to a number of countries, where DIT find opportunities in a particular country and take UK companies to meet with potential buyers.
The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) has overall responsibility for promoting UK trade across the world and attracting foreign investment to our economy. We are a specialised government body with responsibility for negotiating international trade policy and supporting business.