Entering this market was not a fluke. When Wayne Temple decided to found Lightning Protection International in 2002, together with a group of colleagues, he had more than two decades of lightning protection experience under his belt. So it is no surprise that business is thriving, and Lightning Protection International is now exporting to 41 countries.
Temple however, as general manager, believes their success is due to the company offering more than just a product. “Essentially, what we do is provide an engineering solution,” he says. “We don’t just sell. We go to customer sites and look at the potential problems, then come up with an engineering solution.”
All this is done by a team of 15 employees, who take part in manufacturing and supplying the direct strike lightning, surge and transient protection equipment, and earthing solutions internationally.
“Anywhere around the world close to the equator is a potential market for us because that’s where the majority of lightning activity occurs,” says Temple. And so while Lightning Protection International’s primary market is Southeast Asia, they also export to North and South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
But it is more than their engineering solution that makes them attractive to these world markets. Temple lists their innovative products, and their ability to be in front of the customers on a regular basis, alongside their ability to win customers. “It takes a long time to win customers’ trust,” says Temple. “This business is as much about trusting each other as it is about promoting products.”
To win this trust, much time is dedicated to face-to-face interaction, and their international sales manager spends, on average, seven months of the year overseas personally marketing Lightning Protection International’s services to clients.
These export efforts were recognised at the Tasmanian Exporter of the Year awards, where they were the overall winner in both 2006 and 2007.
But business doesn’t always run smoothly, and Temple has been burnt. “The biggest compliment you can be paid is to have somebody in Asia copy your product,” he says. “That’s happened to us, and we perhaps should have patented some of the products we have to try and avoid that.” However, mistakes are made and lessons learnt, and he now knows that patent issues cannot be ignored.
Looking to the future, while the long-term goal is to grow the business, in the short-term Lightning Protection International will not be opening into any new markets, at least not for the next 12 months.
“Obviously we want to continue to grow the business,” says Temple, adding that they have doubled their turnover annually since the business was founded, and that they hope to do so again this year, but current plans are to first consolidate their present place in the market. “We would like to think that we can become a market leader.”