Great Yarmouth might not be the obvious place for a company to begin its export journey, but for Norfolk-based oil and gas company ATAM Group, it was meeting a Brazilian delegation there that began a journey that has also led it to China, Turkey and the Middle East.
ATAM Group, which provides tooling and software for piping maintenance, cleaning and inspection for the oil, gas, chemical, nuclear and renewables industries, met the Brazilian delegation after making contact with the Department for International Trade (DIT) three years ago when it first set up. This quickly led to taking part in a trade mission to South America that was partially funded by DIT via its Get Exporting 2 Programme (GE2). Backed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) this is a tailored programme of advice and assistance for companies looking to sell overseas or expand internationally.
Following this, the company signed up to receive export opportunity alerts from DIT from which it spotted an opportunity in China. This led to a trip to China with the help of the DIT and to a contract with one of the largest companies in China for their robots inspection tools. ATAM will also soon be hosting a delegation of senior management from the company at its Great Yarmouth HQ and has also made contact with another Chinese company interested in meeting with them.
“The funding from the Get Exporting 2 programme is great, as it allows you to go on speculative business trips with minimum risk.”
The ATAM team knew from the start that it would be targeting export markets. “When you have such a specialist service as we do it is good not to have a dependency on a single market,” says the company’s Business Development Manager Andrew Wood. Currently, 60 to 70% of their turnover is in exports or work performed overseas. The latest is a project in Turkey involving its software and patented air tool on a gas terminal construction project. Several meetings in the Middle East are also on the cards. “Our new tooling and software is geared towards new piping construction projects that are not commonplace in the UK where you don’t get the same multi-million dollar projects,” explains Andrew.
Since first getting in touch three years ago, ATAM has found the support from DIT to be invaluable. “The funding from the GE2 programme is great, as it allows you to go on speculative business trips with minimum risk,” says Andrew. “Getting introductions from DIT also means that you know they are reputable companies looking to do business with British companies. DIT is well regarded all around the world so you know companies have a good image of you before they sit down.”
Andrew has also found working with his own dedicated International Trade Adviser to be extremely useful. “Our Adviser has been really helpful. He has lots of time for you and always contacts us directly with opportunities. I’d encourage other businesses to use DIT. It’s a free service so you’ve nothing to lose.”
DIT has also been there to help with any issues and particular requirements. This includes ensuring that they are set up for the different laws and regulations for each country, including whether or not they need to set up a company or legal entity and, as in some jurisdictions, if they have to have a local partner.
“I’d encourage other businesses to use DIT. It’s a free service so you’ve nothing to lose.”
As far as exporting success goes, ATAM has the perfect combination of great products and a positive approach to make it work says DIT Trade Team Manager John Tingle. “ATAM have really good tech and are poised to do well,” he says. “They have also been extremely enthusiastic about exporting and recognise that there are as many overseas opportunities as UK ones if companies show a willingness to go out and get them.”