15 February 2017
A ‘virtual tenancy’ at Silverstone Park is working out just fine for automotive marketing agency CMB Automotive which, with perfect timing it seems, may just have hit on a golden opportunity for UK motoring and motorsport supply chain companies looking to break into the USA.
It’s been a hectic few years for CMB director Chris Bowers since he became one of five winners in a small business competition run by Silverstone Park developer MEPC in 2014.
A new contract with an automotive client in Detroit enabled him to think his dreams of an office in ‘Motor City’ (Detroit is where he was raised) might just be possible.
And while some voice fears over ‘Brexit’ and a new government in America, he sees both as an opportunity for his CMB name and those in the automotive and motorsport supply chains.
“Initially I’d set myself up as a design and marketing business but increasingly my client base became automotive so it ended up going that way,” says Chris.
“I was in a period of growth when the competition came up and I’m still in that with a consultant now working for me in Detroit. Winning the competition certainly re-lit my fire and the next thing we won a contract with a client in Detroit which got us the foothold out there. But just when we were some way into that project it came to a halt when the client had a restructure of its business.
“That put a dent in our plans for a while but in the end we decided if we’re going to do this we need to do it now and get on with it. You can always find a reason to hold off of talk yourself out of something but this is something I’ve wanted for a long time. It’s a case of throwing in all your chips and seeing what happens…”
That ‘dent’ is perhaps typical of the knocks a small start-up/SME might face during its formative years. Chris, though, has used it as motivation to press ahead.
He continues: “We’ve had a re-think and, while we’ve already got a couple of other clients in the USA, have decided the focus short-term will be to work with UK companies who are looking to get into the US marketplace.
“We have a presence there, know the marketplace, know the culture, have contacts and I’d argue there’s a better prospect for UK companies to do it through a company like us who know the lay of the land.”
And he adds: “The political climate has changed significantly in the USA! You can look at it with doom and gloom or look at it as a real opportunity. The strength of the pound vs the dollar at the moment makes British products and innovation much more affordable to a US market – particularly in the high performance or motorsport markets.
“They’ve always looked at the UK as a centre of innovation and quality but perhaps the cost of importing UK products has stopped them to a degree. But now that seems to have changed and there is an opportunity for them to move forwards there.”
Companies such as some of CMB’s existing clients – Cummins (engines); DC Electronics (wiring looms); Vortex (exhausts) – stand to benefit from Chris’s marketing expertise. And timing…
“Us going for it and then the fall-out from Brexit, the value of the pound being more favourable out there, a possible new USA-UK trade deal… I suppose it’s a happy coincidence but you make your own luck,” he continues.
“One area a lot of companies perhaps don’t look at is the performance after-market which is very popular in the USA. Fans out there love to get involved in racing and install the same parts used on their favourite cars or by their favourite drivers on their own cars or trucks.
“It’s an untapped market from the UK end. Maybe it’s because they don’t understand the USA market whereas that’s a definite strength of ours.”