Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Chris Procter, CEO of Sealite. Thank you for joining us today. Your business is fascinating. You're a navigational expert providing assistance in maritime and in aviation sense. Tell us a bit about Sealite.

Skip to 0 minutes and 21 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah. So we manufacture all sorts of marine and airport lighting products. On the marine side, think ocean buoys channel markers, telemetry equipment, anything that safely guides a vessel into port. On the aviation side, similar type of thing for aircraft. So we do helipad lighting, heli-deck lighting, obstruction lighting which marks aerial obstructions for bridges and towers, as well as airfield lighting systems for commercial airports and defence.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So literally illuminating the way for commerce.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Correct.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Fantastic. But an interesting blend of domestic and international markets in your business. Can you share with us a bit about that?

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Well, 86% of what we do is export. I know that because we just submitted our export awards. And that was the number that fell out. Largest markets would be the United States, the United Kingdom. Middle East, we do a lot. Asia, we do a lot because of our location. And Africa is an emerging market for us.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So here we are are your manufacturing facility in the southeast of Melbourne. The launch pad for servicing a global market. How have you nurtured such an international presence through the business?

Skip to 1 minute and 27 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: The business was set up by my old man. So it was his hobby for years and years.

Skip to 1 minute and 32 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So for our international participants, old man is an Australian colloquialism for my father.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Father.

Skip to 1 minute and 37 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]

Skip to 1 minute and 38 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: That's right. And we were in the garage for about 2003. And in the early, early days, we would just sell to anybody. And for an Australian business, sometimes it's easier to build a stunning website and export before you really took care of the home market. So some of our earliest markets were export. The first export market for us was New Zealand. And it was an introduction by Oz Trade. And then behind that, the UK and the US whilst the domestic market grew.

Skip to 2 minutes and 6 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So always an international disposition.

Skip to 2 minutes and 8 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Correct.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: But technology has really opened the door to those markets for you?

Skip to 2 minutes and 12 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah. It has. So one thing for us is, without a doubt, we would build the best quality product on the marketplace today. So it's the technology, and it's the product differentiated by technology that's driven our export markets by far. We still face competition in the United States. We've got a domestic manufacturer. We have a manufacturer in Canada. One in Finland. A number in Asia. But it's certainly the technology that being the best at that has paved the way to get the market share overseas.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: In fact, some of your work as a supplier is part of a bigger solution that your customers might be driving.

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah.

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Whether it's a Port Authority or something like that. With your niche expertise, how important are those relationships?

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Oh, they're critical. And when you talk about a customer for us, they've got many, many different faces. So if you're looking at, whether it's our own office or a distributor, they're the customer, but they may not be the end user.

Skip to 3 minutes and 8 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Right.

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: And often the end user is not even the one that is making their decision. And the guy making the decision might not be the advocate. So there's many, many different influences, advocates, end users that we've got to maintain a relationship with in that supply chain. If you look at-- we're doing projects in the Middle East at the moment. If you look at some of our partners in the Middle East, we supply directly to Chinese dredging companies. But they're working off specifications that have been supplied by the end user. And that end user might be Saudi Aramco, or some other big client, or operator of that port that then specifies what equipment the dredger has to instal.

Skip to 3 minutes and 47 secondsSo there's many different relationships that we've got to nurture, and maintain, and influence.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: And it's interesting, you're in the supply chain both as a provider of capability, but also a receiver of other people's contributions in the supply chain. A real opportunity for a SMEs, given the horrible economy and digitization that's happening.

Skip to 4 minutes and 8 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 8 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Talk to me about what does a successful participant in a supply chain look like?

Skip to 4 minutes and 13 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 14 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: And what do you look for, as well?

Skip to 4 minutes and 15 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah. So we-- our supply base is really broad. So we global source. So we source Asia, United States. A lot of materials come from Europe and the UK. But also a lot out of the Victorian area, in particular. And, in particular, like in Dandenong and Carrum Downs. We've got some great suppliers in Dandenong and Carrum Downs. What we look for is-- cost is one thing. You know, it's the start, but it's not the end. It's not all things. We look for response time, ability to provide a product that meets spec. We do a lot of sort of inwards goods inspection and quality assurance of our supply chain. So--

Skip to 4 minutes and 50 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So before you put what you've got from them into something you'll produce yourselves--

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah.

Skip to 4 minutes and 56 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: --there's a QA process to make sure those--

Skip to 4 minutes and 59 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Exactly.

Skip to 4 minutes and 59 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: --inputs are exactly what you need.

Skip to 5 minutes and 1 secondCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah. And it might be just the material selection of what they've specified for a plastic part of ours. Or it might even be conformance to our drawings on a fabricated part. They're the types of things we look for.

Skip to 5 minutes and 14 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So, accuracy. Am I hearing that good suppliers are the ones you can really count on?

Skip to 5 minutes and 19 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah. Absolutely. You can count on people in a number of ways. So one is just the transactional relationship. You know, you pay them on time. You don't shop around too much without reason. A supplier, small or a medium-sized supplier, gets really, really annoyed if you're often sending RFQs to them and then just bidding it to the lowest operator. So we're really conscious about how many times we ask a particular supplier to quote for something and that the conversion rate is medium so that they don't just tell us to get stuffed after a while. And then the other is that I can deliver on time.

Skip to 5 minutes and 53 secondsWe've got some projects that have real critical parts that we might be supplying into large, say, dredging contracts, which would be an example. So if their supply is critical to our overall project schedule, that means that we be able to rely on that supplier to meet their commitments. So it's not only price, but it is price. It's not only quality, but it is quality. But it's also the reliability that they can deliver on time.

Skip to 6 minutes and 17 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So dependable--

Skip to 6 minutes and 18 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Correct.

Skip to 6 minutes and 18 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: --partners in your business, essentially.

Skip to 6 minutes and 20 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah. And then working closely enough, and giving them enough work, and paying them on time that when something really urgent comes up, they can drop other customers and work for us. And that's sort of evidence of a really good relationship, that they're willing to stop work and do something immediately for you.

Skip to 6 minutes and 36 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Well, let's flip it a bit.

Skip to 6 minutes and 37 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah.

Skip to 6 minutes and 37 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: You're also in the supply chain in your marketplace.

Skip to 6 minutes and 41 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah.

Skip to 6 minutes and 42 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: What do you do to make sure that the partners that turn to you for your capability keep coming back and want to be a part of your story and have you a part of theirs?

Skip to 6 minutes and 52 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah. Well, the first is, it's just simply got to work. So when you look at our products, when you look at, for example, our marine products. A marine and ocean buoy with a navigation light on it might be a $40,000, $50,000 system. But that could be deployed four or five days steaming in the North Sea. Or it could be way off past the Barrier Reef. So the actual cost to repair something if it fails far exceeds the purchase price of the equipment itself. So for one, it's got to be absolutely reliable, otherwise they won't touch it. The next is that our own supply chain needs to fit into our project schedule.

Skip to 7 minutes and 29 secondsWe need to fit into our customer's project schedules. So we need to put up really robust delivery times and meet them. And I'm not saying that we do every time. But it's really important that when we quote something with a lead time and we've got contractors or end users mobilising works, mobilising vessels, we've got to make those delivery days.

Skip to 7 minutes and 50 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: So you've been on a journey with the old man--

Skip to 7 minutes and 52 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Yeah.

Skip to 7 minutes and 53 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: --and yourself really doing world class stuff. What's the three big tips you'd give a current SME business owner or an aspiring SME business owner with specialist know how or a particular expertise to support their prospects of success?

Skip to 8 minutes and 9 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: We've been fortunate in the old man, or my father, was very much focused on engineering, and production, and operations in the early days. I've come from a sales and marketing background. So whilst he was at the back of the garage making it, I was at the front of the garage, building websites, building literature, building our distribution network. So I guess the one, two, or the one, two, three--

Skip to 8 minutes and 32 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Complementary capabilities.

Skip to 8 minutes and 33 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: --complementary capabilities. Yes. It's the operational capabilities to be able to make the equipment cost effectively. It's the engineering capabilities to make sure that you can lead the marketplace and give technology that really adds value and is world class. But then it's the sales and marketing. And to make sure that you can sell it and market it profitably.

Skip to 8 minutes and 52 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: Chris Procter, thank you for your time with us today. Thank your old man, too--

Skip to 8 minutes and 56 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Thanks.

Skip to 8 minutes and 56 secondsBRUCE BILLSON: --for the Sealite journey, and sharing your insights with our audience.

Skip to 9 minutes and 0 secondsCHRIS PROCTER: Thanks, Bruce.

Supply chain participation

Many SMEs both benefit from and rely upon other businesses to support their growth. How do you become a valued supply chain participant?

The importance of supply chains and how they’re managed is underscored by Rob O’Byrne who states that the success of your business is linked to the performance of your supply chain.

O’Byrne argues the supply chain can be the least understood part of a business, despite its central role in business success.

According to Investopedia, a supply chain is a network between a business and its suppliers that allows it to produce and distribute a specific product.

Effective supply chain management will help ensure SME survival as it helps drive SMEs’ ability to:

produce more, at less cost, in less time, with few ‘defects’. (Thakker & Deshmuhk 2008)

Your task

In the video, Chris identified a number of key characteristics to being a valued participant in a supply chain.

In the comments, discuss these characteristics and what they might mean for your SME, or one you’re familiar with, if it’s to increase its supply chain participation.​

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This video is from the free online course:

SMEs and New Markets: Trade, the Chinese Powerhouse and Online Opportunities

Deakin University