8 lessons from supernichist

Hidden Champions of the Twenty-First Century: The Success Strategies of Unknown World Market Leaders by Herman Simon

What do Baader, 3B scientific, McIlhenny, International SOS, Hoganas, Tetra, Bobcat, Gallagher, Seas Getter, Hamamatsu,Arnold and Richter, Petzl, Lantal, Tandberg, WET, De La Rye, Belfor, Ulvac, Orica, CEAG, Gartner, Zimmer, Technogym, Gerriet,Embrear, OC Tanner, Klias, Electro-Nite, Sappi, Essel Propack, Plansee, Dickson, Molex, Jungbunzlauer, Nivarox, SGS, Brainlab, Delo, Enercon, Omicon, Beluga, Nissha, Amorim, Jamba, Netjets and EOS have in common?

They are all companies you probably have never heard off, who have global market shares of over 50% and have been around for a long time. Hermann Simon calls them hidden champions.

The book is the German version of “In search of excellence”. With a number of lessons we all should pay attention to. Particularly owner managers of medium sized businesses.

What can we learn?


They are all extremely niche focusses and have embedded themselves in the value chain of their clients and are the undisputed market leaders in their niche. They usually focus on narrow, small markets. And become the best in that market. Making them he market leader. The claim to market leadership is not confined to market share alone, but includes performance attributes such as technology, innovation, quality, and reputation. Their tactic is to dominate our market niches by transforming general markets in which they are a nobody into market niches where they are somebody! They are supernichists.

What do they do

They are mostly family businesses. They are based in rural communities. They have a long term perspective. They have CEOs that have been there for over 25 years. The CEO is most likely to be the owner. They are very customer focussed. They are global. They look after their staff extremely well. They invest in training.They invest in innovation. They are ambitious, have vision and set themselves long term, some times generational stretch goals. They stick to what they do best. And most of all they all deliver superior quality.

Extreme segmentation

They refuse to employ customary or traditional market definitions. Instead they define their markets in autonomous and innovative ways and it becomes part of their strategy definition. Not “washing machines”, but “washing machines for quality linen, for the restaurants in 5 star hotels only”. Extreme market segmentation if you like. Which means that they are also very, very close to their customers

They have grown by going global

All of the companies have an international focus. They on average 24 subsidiaries in other countries, a surprisingly large number for midsize companies. They are all in China and have been for a long time. The triad they focus on is China, Russia, India. They know that Japan is a source of innovation (“What happens in Tokyo today happens in the rest of the world tomorrow”), but is not their focus yet. All their managers speak at least 3 languages in the company, and increasingly the staff reflects the diversity of their client base. This as part of getting as close as possible to their customers.

Selling versus marketing

Approximately 70% of the hidden champions only sell directly and maintain intensive, lasting relationships with their customers and  enter into a long-term commitment with the supplier. They don’t have marketing departments or marketing titles. They have 5 times more contact with regular contacts then “normal” business. As a result, they have extremely close relationships with their customers, embedded in the value chain of the customer, nearly symbiotic. With emphasis on high performance rather than at low price. They offer complex product and service programs, more often systems solutions. Such programs cannot be sold off the peg, but require detailed consultation processes. They brand themselves by high visibility projects in the niche, focus on being know by the people that matter and the message is simple. Being the best, the number one, the market leader, are excellent communication messages both for the market and for the employees. The statement: “We are number one” is clear and comprehensible for everyone.

Innovation is key

They spend double the average spend on R+D. With a higher emphasis on process innovation, but also in distribution, pricing, design and sometimes technology and patents. If they go for patents, their patent intensity is 5 times higher!  Because they involve staff in vision, values and strategy, innovation is easier. With active involvement of the management team, who are invariable domain experts themselves. And of course they involve their customers in the innovation process. The main focus is on ongoing improvement versus breakthrough innovations. Even many technical breakthroughs were the result of a development policy of small steps.

Simple organisation

The typical hidden champion is a one-product, one-market company with limited organisational complexity. The top management of the hidden champions is very lean. They manage their global businesses with the aid of network organisations that make use of the latest information technology to the greatest possible extent. The hidden champions prefer to promote their leaders from within and have a long term view. The hidden champions have high-performance cultures and are intolerant of shirkers. Shirkers get fired. If you stay, you stay for a long time. The average length of service is 37 years. Which allows the organisation to retain a lot of the knowledge and expertise. Employee loyalty, training, motivation and flexibility are seen as pronounced competitive strengths by the management team. They always have more work than people, which develops a high performance culture. The high performance culture is achieved through the formation of small units that make the performance of individual employees transparent. The hidden champions are enthusiastic decentralises and rely less on formal systems and key figures when it comes to mobilising employees’ creativity.

In core competencies, the hidden champions continue to favour high vertical integration and avoid outsourcing. Hey strongly outsource noncore competencies. They prefer to go it alone and have an aversion to strategic alliances.


  1. .Willpower and goals always come first. Leadership means inspiring employees from all over the world to be the best, to become a world market leader.
  2. Ambitious goals can only be achieved by focusing one’s resources. The definition of the playing field itself is an essential means of getting the focus right
  3. High performance requires intolerance against shirking and swift dismissal of employees who do not pull their weigh
  4. Uniqueness can only come from within and cannot be bought on the market. It therefore requires depth and a certain reserve toward outsourcing.
  5. Decentralisation is the most effective way to retain the strengths of the hidden champions, even in larger and more complex structures. Decentralisation should be put into practice wherever possible.
  6. Globalisation opens up unprecedented growth opportunities, even for small companies. In order to use these opportunities, leaders and employees must put aside their national and cultural boundaries. Incessant stamina and perseverance are required to survive the multigenerational globalisation process. The greatest challenge is the internationalisation of the people.
  7. Innovation is the only effective long-term means of succeeding in competition. Innovation is primarily a question of creativity and quality, less so a matter of money.
  8. Closeness to customer almost automatically creates competitive advantages. Top customers, like top competitors, should be employed systematically as drivers of performance.

Other lessons:

  • Thinking in generations instead of over a short period of time, (e.g., three, five, or ten years as is common in strategic planning);
  • Maintaining high continuity in top management;
  • Resisting management fads, and observing timeless maxims instead;
  • Fostering the loyalty of the employees and the entrepreneur’s reciprocally high responsibility
  • Simplicity
  • The condition “more work than people” also favours simplicity. Parkinson’s law that employees invent the work which keeps them busy doesn’t stand a chance.

You can do it

The end of the book is brilliant. The message is simple, you can do it too. Hidden champions teach us that instead of managing only one great thing brilliantly, good management means doing many small things better than the competitors. The sum of many small advantages ultimately leads to success. Genius is not required. To become a hidden champion, we must do many small things a little better in a targeted and consistent way and with stamina.

Focus, clear and specific market definition, extreme customer care and focus, high quality, high performance and a long term perspective are all you need.

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How to Choose the Best China Purchasing Agent to Grow Your Business

A lot of businesses need a helping hand when importing from a country like China because it is becoming the major manufacturer of industrial products due to its low price and improved quality. But the diversity of products, language, culture and business practice pose a problem for most foreign buyers and thus, having a good rapport with the suppliers is very important. This is where a China purchasing agent comes in.

What is a Purchasing Agent?

This refers to an individual, working as a freelancer or employed by a company in order to help companies overseas import from China. Although a purchasing agent isn’t a requirement to import from China, a very good agent is really valuable in your overall product procurement strategy.

Why You Need a Purchasing Agent?

Handling these Chinese suppliers can be time consuming and finding the right one requires a sound and tactical approach that completely weeds out the bad suppliers (about 80 – 90 percent), which constitutes the majority. If you don’t have the time to spend ten hours a week for each product and each supplier, follow development and production then you need to good purchasing agent.

Also, choosing the right supplier requires a certain amount of product knowledge which is an asset that is not possessed by a lot of inexperienced importer. You definitely need a China purchasing agent if you do not have the basic technical understanding that is needed to speak intelligently about your product and the requirements of your market or you cannot go to China to inspect factories and get to understand the people you work with.

With that said, it is really up to you to choose whether to work with a purchasing agent or not. If you have the wealth of experience and a high level of “in house” expertise that can manage the often time consuming and risky tasks, then do not hesitate to do it on your own and save a few dollars.

Importance of finding a Good Purchasing Agent.

The responsibility of a purchasing agent is to look for quality products and reputable suppliers and handle everything you need in China on your behalf while looking after your every interest in it. Below are some of the duties of a reliable purchasing agent.

It is his role to keep an organization’s inventory of either finished goods, raw materials, or important services at a satisfactory level in order to keep business tasks at minimum possible price or cost.

He should verify purchase requisitions and compare items requested to master list, clarify unclear items and recommend alternatives. It is the duty of the Purchasing Agent to forward available inventory items by verifying stock and scheduling delivery and also verify price and specifications in order to prepare purchase orders and obtain recommendations from suppliers for substitute items.

His duty also includes obtaining purchased items by forwarding orders to suppliers, monitoring as well as expediting orders. He should be able to verify complete receipt of items by comparing items ordered to items received and resolving shipments in error with suppliers. It is their duty to accomplish purchasing and organization mission by completing related results as needed.

What to look out for in a Purchasing Agent?

A qualified purchasing or sourcing agent in China must have good command of English or any other foreign languages both in written and verbal forms as language is extremely important in communication among businessmen world. A good China purchasing agent should know much about the policies in China and should have good links with local government authorities.

A purchasing agent should also have proper methods on purchasing and sourcing the target items as soon as possible. He should also have a good knowledge of international laws and regulations. He should be familiar with international practice, certificates issue, quota issue, tax issue and anti-dumping issue, etc.

As more and more businesses seek to expand and make their operations more efficient, getting a purchasing agent to handle all the time consuming tasks is a wise approach to take. The guide discussed above should be able to lead you in the right path so that you can get a China Purchasing Agent that is trustworthy, reliable and efficient.

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Maven TM, a leading B2B telemarketing and lead generation agency to the technology industry, has been shortlisted for two major industry awards.

The Carlow-based company is in competition for the Best Small or Growing Contract/Shared Services Centre and also Best Customer Acquisition or Sales Campaign categories for the 2014 Irish Contact Centre & Shared Services Awards.

The awards ceremony – organised by CCMA (the Contact Centre Management Association) – will take place on Saturday, 15th November in the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Burlington Road, Dublin 4.

Competition is fierce as Maven TM is up against such major companies as Dell, UPC, eBay, Sky Ireland, Paddy Power, Vodafone and AA Ireland.

“We are thrilled and proud to be short-listed for these awards which are a very big event in our industry”, said Mr Mark Cradock, Managing Director, Maven TM, adding: “It is an acknowledgement that we are doing things right at Maven TM and making real pogress.”

Set up by Mark Cradock in 2011, Maven TM has been built largely on self-funding without external investors and has achieved strong results, growing to over 30 staff and building an impressive client base of over 60 leading technology companies across eight countries.

Providing its services in 12 languages, Maven TM finds and qualifies, through data analysis, digital marketing, social media and targetted telemarketing activities, new sales opportunities for its clients, boosting their sales revenue.

Only recently, Maven TM announced an expansion of its international business with funding support from Government through Enterprise Ireland which included the creation of eight new jobs in its Carlow office in the areas of Operations, HR, Training and Project Management.

Find out more about Maven TM on www.maventm.com.






This post was originally published here - http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/carlow-based-maven-tm-takes-global-players-major-awards/ on thinkbusiness

The profiles of the Ulster finalist of the business achievers

Find below the profiles of the the business achievers Ulster finals. They now go for the big prizes at the final on 4 December. Which one is your favourite? Tweet us @smallBC, #businessachievers

Business Start Up: Arklu (Donegal)

Arklu is a children’s entertainment company, specialising in dolls. Having launched their doll brand Lottie in August 2012 they are now selling in 30 countries via a network of 16 distribution partners. The character is being developed through a series of books and through animation. Lottie is described as “a wholesome alternative doll based on a nine year old child” who “does not wear make-up, jewellery or high heels”.

Small Business: Cornerstone Automation Systems (Londonderry)

Established in 2001, the company now employs 60 people in a 70,000 sq. ft. facility in Campsie.

It manufactures and integrates a full line of cutting edge product handling systems for manufacturers and distributors. Automation systems include shipping systems, in-motion scales, sortation, box opening, order picking, receiving systems, dispensing systems, print and apply systems, robotics as well as necessary software and controls to integrate.

Established SME: BA Kitchen Components (Cookstown)

Established in 1990 by Brian McCracken, BA Components has grown steadily to become a major manufacturer of kitchen, bedroom, bathroom doors and accessories.

Its  customer base ranges from small UK retailers to large kitchen, wholesale, furniture, DIY manufacturers, contractors and retailers throughout the UK, Europe and  Asia Pacific.

The headquarters are based in an 80,000 square foot factory in Cookstown with a workforce of 95.

 International Business: Almac (Craigavon)

Headquartered in Craigavon, Almac is an established contract development and manufacturing organisation providing an extensive range of integrated services to over 600 companies globally within the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors. Services include state-of-the-art drug discovery, world leading cancer diagnostics, research and development, manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients, formulation development and the support of global clinical trials. Today the global organisation employs over 3,500 staff in a diverse range of activities

 Social Enterprise: Employers for Childcare Charitable Group (Lisburn)

EFCG encompasses a registered charity and two Social Enterprises, Employers For Childcare Vouchers (EFCV) and Employers For Childcare Solutions (EFCS). The aim of the charity is “to make it easier for parents with dependent children to get into work and to stay in work”.

 Food and Drink: Avondale Foods (Craigavon)

Established in 1965, Avondale Foods the family-run company is located just outside Lurgan on Chestnut Farm. Avondale initially grew and sold vegetables before moving focus to research and development and subsequently diversified into vegetable processing. With products supplied under own label and Country Kitchen brands, the company supplies most major supermarkets.

 Agri Business: SlurryKat (Waringstown)

Slurrykat specialises in the design and engineering of the very latest cutting edge, world class agricultural machinery. It is at the forefront of technological innovation and is currently exporting over 140 different products to more than 20 countries worldwide. A global brand Slurrykat is now widely accepted as the trendsetter and market leader in slurry management systems.

 Women Led Business: Moy Park (Craigavon)

Moy Park is headed by Janet McCollum who was appointed Chief Executive in January 2014.

The company offers a range of fresh, high quality and locally farmed poultry and complementary convenience food products to all the leading retail and food service customers in the UK and Europe. As Northern Ireland’s largest private sector company it employs 12,000 people with 14 main sites in the UK, Ireland France and the Netherlands, accompanying mills and hatcheries and 800 farms in its supply chain.

Special Recognition Award: Vita Liberata (Doagh)

Vita Liberata is a luxury self-tan and skincare brand and its products are sold in 24 countries worldwide. Vita Liberata is recognised as the world’s most advanced non-toxic, organic tanning brand. Founded in 2003 by the current CEO Alyson Hogg to offer innovative skincare that truly delivered, in 2007 Alyson saw a gap in the marketplace for a luxury self-tan with skincare benefits combined, suiting the needs of women on the go.

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This post was originally published here - http://www.smallbusinesscan.com/profiles-ulster-finalist-business-achievers/ on thinkbusiness