"Don’t be a parachutist – persistence is key to export success", says Toby Albrecht of Weidmann-Whiteley

26 November 2014

Perseverance and ability to build lasting relationships are crucial to building export success, says sales manager at specialist industrial paper mill, Weidmann-Whiteley Ltd, Toby Albrecht.

He says: "One visit to an export market will not be sufficient, Companies that do this are known as parachutists! In and out with no follow up.  Prospective customers need to know that you are in it for the long term."

Originally recruited from a postgraduate export-marketing course in 1987 by   artist materials manufacturer, Daler-Rowney Limited. In 1990, Toby Albrecht joined Inveresk Plc., specialist papermaker and then came to Yorkshire in 1997 to   Weidmann-Whiteley, where he sells industrial grades of paper for a wide variety of applications worldwide.

The mill's main product line is electrical insulation paper used in distribution transformers, which are sold through the Weidmann Group network worldwide.

Toby Albrecht says that one of his biggest export achievements while at Inveresk Plc, was the doubling of the volume of cheque paper sold into Colombia, from 350 tonnes pa to 700 tonnes pa.

He says: "This involved building a close relationship with the customer with regular meetings, two-to- three times a year. It was an exciting place to visit. Another recent success has been breaking into a new market for us, The Middle East. Volumes here have been running at 50 to 70 tones a month. Once again, building the relationship has been important."

Another success in 2014, has been a very large contract obtained by the Weidmann Group to supply electrical insulation to India which has led to recruiting six extra staff in the company’s Fabrication Department at Pool-in-Wharfedale, as well as keeping the fabrication departments at other units within the group in Switzerland and the Ukraine busy.

Weidmann-Whiteley has also recruited a new sales executive to help with desk research, field research and sales of industrial products.

Customers, Toby Albrecht adds, are attracted to Weidmann-Whiteley’s products through "Consistent quality, technical expertise and our  ability  to design products  to  customers’  exact requirements. We are a bespoke speciality mill where we have to make every tonne of the 12,000 tonnes we manufacture pay."

Exporting, he says, definitely needs to play a bigger role in Leeds City Region’s economy: "If it were not for exports, this mill would not be here today. The UK market  is not big  enough to sustain the volume  of niche bespoke  products  we produce and other businesses will be in a comparable situation."

“The Tour de France did put  Yorkshire on the map,  our overseas  customers  refer  to seeing the film footage. This is something the region’s aspiring exporters  can build on,  or at least talk about, when they  dine  with their new customers.”

Other useful exporting tips from Toby Albrecht are: "Research, research, research! Novice exporters must not assume that their product will automatically be suitable for all markets just because it sells well in the UK. Also, do what you have said you will. Do not make promises you cannot keep, as trust and reliability are important to building long-term export relationships!"

"Finally, try to learn the language of your target market. Whether it is French or German or Spanish, having the language just helps  to open the door."

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