20 November 2018
Vento: export is an obvious choice
In 1999, Pieter Tsjoen founded the production company Vento specialising in manufacturing sections for rectangular air ducts and pressed fittings for round air ducts. 97% of its revenue is entirely thanks to a smart export strategy.
The key success elements of the international growth of Vento NV by Pieter Tsjoen, CEO
“My father's company distributed similar products from a major international player in Scandinavia. In addition to the products themselves, this multinational also sold the machines to manufacture them. And not just through the head office, but through local branches as well. So, if you were a distributor you had to compete with this manufacturer for large projects. When this Scandinavian multinational decided to open a branch in Belgium in 1997, we decided to set up our own company that could produce these materials.”
During his last year at school, Pieter Tsjoen travelled across the Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, Germany and England visiting potential customers. “From these many discussions it soon became apparent that there was great market potential if we could supply the same products, with the same quality and at comparable prices.”
Strategy makes the difference
“After delivering the first machine, it took us a year and a half to build up a stock of 180 different products. As a supplier to my father’s company, we were able to cover 30% of our investment. We then took part in a specialist trade fair in Paris. After six months, we had already earned the remaining 70% of the investment back.”
Vento made a conscious decision to use a different strategy than that of the dominant market player. The company focuses on large distributors which they supply and support from Belgium. They do not supply installers directly. This approach was the key to their success. It soon became clear that there was a need for a new market player with a different market strategy. After just one year, Vento purchased a second production machine and another year later, an additional press machine was required. “Thanks to our new approach and our excellent value for money, other than during the crisis year of 2009, we have continued to grow phenomenally. Consequently, out of one person’s idea and a revenue of €700,000 we grew into a healthy company with 90 employees and a revenue of 31 million.
Export was an obvious strategy
From the start it was clear that we had to focus on export. “My father's company had a 65% market share in our country. And I did not want to become one of my own family's competitors. The Dutch market was very difficult for the same reason. The greatest potential was in countries such as France and Germany.” Today, 97% of Vento’s turnover comes from exports to 45 countries. The majority of its customers are in Western Europe, but the company also has customers in America, North Africa, the Middle East and Australia.
In addition to the sales strategy, long-term thinking in terms of customer relations has also proved to be an important success factor. “Occasionally, one of our distributor's customers will ask us to deliver directly to them. We absolutely refuse to do so, even if it would give us a larger margin. We don't want to damage the trust-based relationship we have with our distributors. Building this type of relationship often requires a lot of effort and persistence. In Scandinavia, it took us 15 years to convince the right customers.
Multilingualism has also contributed to Vento’s success. “Our customers are often smaller SMEs with ten to twenty employees. When dealing with these kinds of companies in Spain, Italy, France, etc. it is essential to speak their language. That’s why our language skills are so important.”
Pieter Tsjoen points out the added value of trade fairs. “Our participation in major trade fairs in Milan, Frankfurt, Madrid and Paris has given us several leads and customers. Fairs give you good insight into your market potential and your customers. A good multilingual website that makes it easy for people to find you online is also indispensable for acquiring leads and customers.
Do whatever's necessary to keep growing!
In 2005, Vento set up a joint venture with Flexairduct, an Israeli company. “We distribute their flexibles and keep a small amount in stock to handle peaks in demand. In principle, deliveries are made directly to our customers from Israel. Today, this collaboration represents €9 million in revenue.”
Consequently, our hunger for further growth has not yet been satisfied. “At the request of our customers, in 2008, we started distributing handmade fittings from a Polish manufacturer. Over time, however, logistical problems arose. That is why, in 2013, we decided to open our own production unit in Poland, where we had full control of everything. 240 staff now work there, under the name Nowavent, which represents a revenue of 10 million euros. Thus, with the entire group (Vento, Flexairduct and Nowavent) we achieve €50 million in revenue.
Faith in a financial partner
The partnership with ING started in 2007, when Vento was about to make a major investment in the purchase of some industrial land and in the construction of a new commercial building. “Following a market survey, ING’s rate turned out to be the most favourable by far. At ING we could always count on good quality advice. A few years ago, our account manager at ING recommended that we consider leasing as an alternative form of financing the purchase of machinery. After taking advice from a specialist ING employee, this indeed turned out to be much more profitable than our previous method. The people at ING know what they are doing, we get clear answers and they take our sensitivities and wishes into account. Trust and sustainable relationships are key for ING, just as they are for us.”