Since 1952, Grafton-based Gilman Precision has been dedicated to the advancement and development of customized slides and spindles for machine tool manufacturers. The company serves manufacturers in a variety of industries and applications, including aerospace, automotive, packaging and medical. In 2011, Gilman was experiencing slow sales and witnessed its business dwindle down from $25 million to $4 million. Part of the decline was attributed to the sluggish recovery of the automotive industry, one of the company’s largest industries. In addition, Gilman saw much of its U.S. customer-base move their operations overseas. At the time, the company, which was under new ownership, did not have a succinct international business strategy. With the majority of its customer-base located outside of the U.S., Gilman had to decide whether or not to expand its global reach.
Gilman chose to follow its customer-base and develop an exporting strategy. They started by reaching countries with the largest concentration of manufacturers – Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. While targeting a variety of manufacturers in these countries, Gilman quickly realized that many of its competitors were also reaching these markets. At that point, the company enrolled in WMEP and WEDC’s ExporTech™, an export strategy development program, which helped them create a customized international growth plan. “I am a huge proponent of ExporTech,” said Doug Biggs, vice president of Sales and Marketing at Gilman Precision. “It really helped us drill down and realize where our optimum markets are located.” The program helped the company identify Canada, Australia and Singapore as key markets they could quickly enter to begin growing their international business. These markets offered Gilman a large concentration of manufacturers with very little competition to consider. With sights set on Australia and Singapore, Biggs participated in the Council of Great Lakes Governor’s Trade Mission to these countries in the spring of 2013. There he met with potential importers and distributors to develop the initial sales operations in the markets. Today, Gilman is experiencing increased success since employing its international business strategy. The company has more than doubled its business, with sales up 45 percent year over year. Gilman is anticipating further growth into Canada in 2015, and, through WEDC resources, is actively researching growth opportunities in Mexico.
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