In January, John Copeland asked Network for advice on breaking into a new market; more than 20 readers responded. Other queries provoked some interesting observations as well (see The Inc. Network, April, [Article link]). Among the new issues this month: weaning a company from government contracts; pursuing career opportunities in small companies; and, yes, breaking into new markets.
Swords into Plowshares In 1984 our company turned its focus from manufacturing specialized polymer coatings to conducting government research under Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contracts. We have been successful in winning SBIR grants, and almost all our work now is with them. In the process, we have developed two products: stealth coatings that prevent detection by radar and coatings that keep boat hulls clean.
Now, however, the government is sponsoring less scientific research, and we've decided that we must switch to commercial manufacturing and marketing. But how do we change from scientist/entrepreneurs to entrepreneur/scientists? The transition seems to depend on a change in our attitude, and on securing money beyond our own resources. We could look for a joint venture, but where do we find a partner? And where do we find the money?
Thomas W. Oakes
In Search of Distribution I recently purchased a 29-year-old aerosol manufacturing and packaging plant down in Texas. We take raw materials such as TF solvent and other chemicals and package them in cans, using only nontoxic, ozone-safe propellants. My problem is distribution. I have only limited distribution in Texas and practically none outside the state. I'm not quite sure how to contact a reputable manufacturers' rep who could distribute for us. Our product is superior, our prices competitive, but we are operating at only 10% to 20% of our capacity.
York Chemical Inc.
Career Counseling I'm a first-year M.B.A. student at Indiana University pursuing a career in marketing management. Professors and recruiters at my school talk only about careers with large corporations, and I'm wondering if Inc. readers can give me advice on pursuing opportunities with smaller companies. How does a career in small business differ from life in a large firm? Are there any small companies that offer summer internships?
Heads in the Sand? My company helps small and midsize companies meet the regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Our programs are aimed at prevention, rather than remediation (we don't remove hazardous waste or asbestos). But our marketing efforts fall on uninterested ears. Comments range from "Those agencies don't scare me" to "We should do something -- maybe next year." OSHA and the EPA report that only 15% to 20% of companies comply with regulations. In the media, though, I read reports that environmental and workplace safety will be major concerns in the 1990s.
What do Network readers think? Is their attitude "I don't put money into it unless I'm caught"? Or is there an awakening environmental conscience? In short, how do I sell to this market?