Stage 1: A long-term plan
When they span Gardner Aerospace out from its collapsed parent company in 2003, the aircraft part manufacturer's leadership team knew its future lay overseas.
Stage 2: Getting it right at home
First they needed to put the Derby-based company's domestic operations in order.
"First we had to sort out what we had inherited and get the UK business into better shape," says one of the founding team, Nick Guttridge, EVP, business development.
Stage 3: First steps in a crucial overseas market
Three years later and their attention turned to France. "France is terribly important in aerospace," explains Guttridge, not least because Airbus, Gardner Aerospace's biggest customer, is based in Toulouse.
The company began by sending an employee to stay permanently in the southern French city.
First we had to sort out what we had inherited and get the UK business into better shape
Stage 4: The right people
However, a lot more legwork was required, Guttridge says: "It's tough in aerospace as most countries regard it as a strategic business. We needed to establish relationships with French customers on a broad and deep level to build credibility and trust."
The company capitalised on relationships it had already developed in the UK. "Lots of us went back and forward, using our Airbus UK connections to help with introductions in France," says Guttridge.
Stage 5: Acquisitions
Having secured some initial orders companies including from Airbus France, the company was then ready to take a bigger leap into the market. Helped by funding from private equity house Better Capital in 2012, it acquired France's Airia SAS, a specialist in manipulating sheet metal and producing complex sub-assemblies, and supplier to Gardner's French customers including Airbus.
In a competitive market, this enlarged French business has benefited from Gardner's growing low-cost manufacturing facilities in Poland and India.
The company's strategy in France - as well as in other aerospace industry hubs including Germany and the US - has paid off and it has grown overseas sales from just over GBP2 million in 2009 to GBP74 million last year. Fittingly for an operator in the global aerospace market, Gardner Aerospace has shown the value of making carefully planned connections.
Gardner Aerospace featured on the Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200 in 2015. For more information on the league table see www.fasttrack.co.uk.
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