Olivier Haegeli, what role does the US market play in Willemin-Macodel's international activities?
It plays a central role. We have been present in the US market for more than twenty years, mainly in medical and orthopedic technologies, but also in the aerospace industry. Over the years, we have been able to build up a loyal, diverse and ever-expanding clientele. Today, the United States represents a significant part of the group's total turnover.
What are the specific challenges of the US market?
When doing business in the United States, dynamism, speed and efficiency play an even more crucial role than they do in many European countries. Business partners, like customers, hate to waste time; the proverb "time is money" is omnipresent. There is also fierce international competition that affects all sectors.
How can Swiss exporters prepare for these challenges?
First of all, you have to be aware that in the United States, no one will be waiting for you. Even if you've been able to convince a customer of the quality of your product or service, this doesn't mean that the customer will remain loyal to you. You must always strive to maintain the high level required by the market while demonstrating to customers that you are better than the competition. Without doing this, you have little chance of surviving in the US market.
So basically it's a constant struggle...
To some extent, yes. But I see it as something positive: thanks to the high demands of the US market, our entire organization has learned to work more efficiently and dynamically. And it benefits us today, wherever we do business.
Compared to most European countries, niche markets can be huge in the United States. Does this mean that it's easier to grow your business in the United States than elsewhere?
It depends on your point of view. If we are only talking about the potential for expansion, this is probably true. Our subsidiary in the United States is mostly active in very specific niches, and it has experienced strong sales growth since the outset. Now that we have reached a certain size, growth is of course a little slower. But thanks to the dynamism of the US market, new business opportunities regularly appear. From a legal and regulatory standpoint, however, the United States is not an easy market, especially for SMEs, as there are many different rules and administrative obstacles. Setting up a company in particular is much more complicated than in European countries such as Germany and France.
About Olivier Haegeli
Olivier Haegli has co-headed the SME Willemin-Macodel SA, based in Delémont, since 2003. Join him on September 23 in Lausanne for "Exporter Demain!", the major annual event for exporters from French-speaking Switzerland, where he will be a speaker. This year's edition is devoted to "Growth in mature markets."
Willemin-Macodel has successfully established itself in the United States. Would you like to find out about your chances of success in this country as well? Register for a free country interview