Shortlisted for the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards Emerging Markets of the Year Award, we meet Allan Joyce, Managing Director of Balmoral Tanks who says "exporting is about learning and reflecting on your failures as much as your successes."

What does your company do?

Design, manufacture and install bulk liquid storage tanks for the water, wastewater, fire protection and process industries. Our tanks are manufactured from a range of materials including sheet moulded compound (SMC), galvanised steel, concrete, epoxy and glass coated steel. 

When was your company launched, who by and why?

The company was founded by our Chairman and owner, Dr James Milne. The group started in 1980, and the tanks business in the early 1990s. It started with an opportunity to meet the demands of a market and where Balmoral believed it could add value for clients.  

How long has the company been exporting?

In terms of tank products, since around 1996, albeit the volumes and product range at that time would not be significant in today’s terms.  

What do you currently export, and where to?

All of the products listed earlier with the exception of concrete tanks. We export to many countries including Argentina, Canada, USA, Middle East, Africa, Malaysia. Last year we exported to around 20 countries.  

What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?

We have always been interested in growing our business and export provides the opportunity. It comes down to demand from target countries and having a product which they believe adds value and cant be sourced locally.

Our offering is both product and experience. Like most things in life, exporting is about learning and reflecting on your failures as much as your successes. We would be reluctant to put a timescale on it as it's not a simple timeline calculation. It is complex and requires many skillsets to succeed.  

What is the easiest part of exporting?

Easy is not a word we would use when it comes to exporting. Knowledge is what makes most things run smoothly and we have developed our knowledge over many years. 

What is the export challenge you’re most proud of overcoming? How did you manage this?

We successfully bid for a large project for an Australian contractor running a project in Africa. The strategy to succeed involved travelling to Australia, inviting the client to visit our facility and meet the team.

The experience of doing business with Balmoral is not something that is easy to market. The real experience comes through engagement. The core strengths and values of our business played their part in the successful result of this project. 

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and how did it help you?

In the early days, we used the OMIS reports through the British Chambers and DiT. Most of what we do now is driven by us, for us and is unique to us.  

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?

Understand what you offer and how it adds value. Think about how you will support the projects and consider various routes to market in order to achieve your objectives.  

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time?

We continue to look for projects around the world where we know we can be successful and utilise the core capabilities of our business. Significant investment in manufacturing facilities made in the past two years will give us a platform for the next five to 10 years.  

How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards and what does it mean to your business?

It’s always positive to be recognised for the achievements of the business and the staff appreciate it. Nominations such as these reinforce the understanding that we must all continue to improve if we want to build a strong and sustainable future for the business. 

Amanda Armstrong
Article by Amanda Armstrong
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