EXPORT AWARDS SHORTLISTED: REACH AND RESCUE
Shortlisted for the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards High Growth Markets of the Year Award, Stuart Glover, Marketing Manager of Reach and Rescue tells us how they are saving lives in 48 countries.
What does your company do?
Reach and Rescue manufactures long-reach telescopic water rescue poles that are the only one of their kind worldwide – and they are saving lives in 48 countries. The product enables emergency services, search and rescue teams and the public to conduct swift and directionally accurate rescues by retrieving casualties from safe distances minimising the danger posed to themselves whilst also boosting casualty survival chances.
Without our rescue pole – the world’s longest at up to 20m – rescuers would need to enter into water in an attempt to save a life thereby putting themselves at extreme risk. To date, our long-reach telescopic rescue poles have prevented the deaths of 50+ people during potentially life-threatening situations.
When was your company launched, who by and why?
Reach and Rescue was launched in April 2010 by Jo Taylor MBE and co-innovator Sean Burke. Our innovative rescue pole was developed in collaboration with UK Fire and Rescue services to give them a much needed to tool to aid in water rescue. The rescue pole proved extremely effective from the get-go; it was swiftly adopted by 80% of the UK Fire and Rescue Service.
How long has the company been exporting?
We have been exporting almost since the company’s inception a decade ago.
What do you currently export, and where to?
Reach and Rescue currently exports to 48 countries worldwide. We supply our rescue poles and water rescue equipment primarily to the emergency services sector with our biggest export markets to date being emergency services, the military and search and rescue teams in China, India, the USA and Australia. In fact, China is our biggest export market with 40% of our sales going to the country in the last 12 months.
What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?
The speed at which the pole was adopted gave us the realisation that our product can be used in every country worldwide. As such, substantial reinvestment was put into the business with Reach and Rescue officially launching the rescue pole internationally at a major firefighting trade show in Germany.
What is the easiest part of exporting?
Building strong partnerships is an integral part of any successful export enterprise. The communication tools available, such as Skype and Zoom, enable us to build partnerships quickly and make forming those essential bonds one of the easiest aspects of exporting.
What is the export challenge you’re most proud of overcoming? How did you manage this?
In late 2019, one of our key distributors in Shenzhen placed a substantial order corresponding to 1,425 items plus 75 rescue poles. The most challenging aspect with this order wasn’t just it’s sheer scale – delivery was urgently required before the end of the year. The successful completion of this order – delivered on time and to specification – represented a huge progression in Reach and Rescue’s manufacturing ability in the last 12 months.
In summer 2019, we moved into new 178sqm premises six times larger than our previous facility. The move was commandeered by our freshly appointed Production Manager who, having spent the previous 17 years at one of the World’s largest food manufacturers, brought invaluable production and manufacturing experience. Through their guidance, we’ve been able to streamline our manufacturing process and boost the skills of our production personnel.
The progression since the move into new premises has been astronomical; this huge order for Shenzhen couldn’t have been delivered in such a short time frame had the order been placed in 2018.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and how did it help you?
UK Trade & Investment (now replaced by Department for International Trade) helped us massively by offering grants to exhibit in new countries in addition to introductions via their contacts. We also attended their workshops which gave us valuable advice and insight in the best ways to do business with other countries.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Our international sales growth is driven by working closely with a network of distributors. Rescue equipment is usually subjected to strict rules and regulations as it is most likely used by Government or publicly funded organisations. These rules and regulations will differ between countries.
Harnessing distributors’ local knowledge has enabled us to not only access these markets through ensuring we’re compliant but also to keep abreast of any changes or Government safety initiatives that can drive sales.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time?
The maritime industry is our fastest growing market in the UK. Growth in this sector is driven predominantly by the UK Government’s ‘Marine Safety Action Plan’; a policy which aims to safeguard the lives of those working in what has become an increasingly dangerous industry.
The risks faced on a daily basis by those working in the marine sector are repeated across the globe; safety initiatives akin to the ‘Marine Safety Action Plan’ are replicated across the globe too. For instance, The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore’s ‘Safety@Sea’ campaign is a now integral part of an industry-wide effort to increase awareness of safe practices at what is indisputably one of the World’s busiest commercial ports.
Our strategic marketing plan therefore has identified Singapore as an export market. Additional Eastern / South East Asia locations – in particular South China, Hong Kong and Shanghai – are being targeted for growth.
How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards and what does it mean to your business?
Investing in our home region and the north of England in general is extremely important to us. Our corporate policy already dictates we support our local community where we can, be-it through using local suppliers for components and tools, local couriers for transport and prioritising employing from the local talent pool. Having our fundamental principles affirmed by Northern Powerhouse in being shortlisted for an award is great and gives us strength to keep doing what we do.