The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Friday Guest Blog

Tips For Choosing An International Partner

Ken Primrose, Managing Director of Industrial Tomography Systems

Finding an international partner requires a lot of hard work and diligence, especially when in a niche industry such as the one ITS operates in. Any company should begin by looking at agents/distributors to see if they are suitable, doing thorough research in to the work that they do and who for and finally, implement a rigorous selection process.

It is not necessary – or adviseable – to use a third party in a partnership, who can often distort the communication process and lead to confusion and misleading information.

Finding potential partners can be done through a variety of different means; internet research, conferences, exhibitions, industry associations, sometimes advertisements – depending on the work - and support from groups such as UKTI and the Chamber of Commerce. If using one of these bodies, it is crucial to give a detailed brief about what the company does and is looking for and, regardless of the means in which an organisation finds a potential agent, it is important to manage expectations – how much of the sales process can they undertake and how much support will they need? Look for partners who have the right resources, contacts, customer base and capability and above all, who understand the industry the organisation works in.

Approaching a potential agent can be a time consuming, drawn out process, so it is important to be patient and expect that the process from targeting to negotiation to appointment can take far longer than expected. Do not jump at the first positive interest – it is better to take longer and appoint the right partner than to waste both time and effort on the wrong one.

Choosing a larger distributor is beneficial in that they often have more resources and coverage, however it can be disadvantageous if they are too large to dedicate enough time to your company. It can be better to be a larger contributor to a smaller company rather than a less significant contributor to a smaller one.

Always request – and take up – references before deciding on a partner, but do your own research also. Trade bodies can be an endorsement through membership, but should not be relied upon soley as a reference point.

Finally, remember that partnerships only work if both parties feel that they are getting the results. Make sure any appointed agent knows what the company’s targets and expectations are and that they regularly communicate back with accurate data. Be careful with the intial agreement and any legal issues – sometimes it will inevitably go wrong and a well-drawn up agreement will ensure that there is a legal get out clause should targets not be met and results achieved.

World leader in process tomography, Industrial Tomography Systems (, started life as an incubator company, bringing technologies developed at UMIST to market. ITS has now commercialised the technology so successfully that it trades in companies as far afield as Brazil and the US and boasts an impressive client list including household names such as GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever and DuPont.

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