The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 11 months ago

Expanding Into International Markets w/ Ashley Madray


I asked listeners what topic they wanted to learn more about on the podcast. 

You said "expanding into international markets."

So I put the word out among my network and discovered today's guest. He founded a gas company in 2002 that now does business in many foreign countries.

My guest on this episode is Ashley Madray, executive vice president of Gas Innovations, a producer, purifier, and packager of specialty gases.

Ashley and I discussed:

  1. Who he is, how his company began, and how it expanded internationally
  2. Common challenges to international expansion
  3. The impact of doing business globally

To ensure that you never miss an episode of The Manufacturing Show, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, or Spotify, or here.

When I talk about export with mostpeople, they sort of have an Aha moment andmost don't realize that it is not as difficult as maybe they all firstthought welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving midsize manufacturers forward here. You'll discover new insights frompassionate manufacturing leagers, who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and youill learn from btob sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive Podcast, the shows being brought to you by oursponsor cadinus part solutions, I'm Josalliv and your houst and a cofounderof the Industrial Marketing Agency Gerilla. Seventy six there's some things about running ormanaging a business that sound plain intimidating until you just get yourhands dirty and start doing it, and one of those things is expanding. YourBusiness into international markets, all of a sudden you're, faced with newchallenges that you haven't necessarily dealt with before from languagebarriers and time zone, differences to international logistics and dealingwith customs. Well, my guess today is someone who's been through. All of thatand his still standing to tell the stories. So let me take a moment towelcome Ashley Madre to the show today. Ashley is the principal and executivevice president of gas innovations, a producer purifier and packager ofspecialty gases based in Houston, Texas Ashley has over forty years ofexperience in industrial, specialty and hydrocarbon gas businesses. He beganhis carer, one thousand nine hundred and eighty one as an industrial gassales representative with the Lindy Division of Union Carbide Corporation,which is now prax aire in one thousand. Nine hundred and ninety acthllyparticipated in the management by out of the Lindy UCC Subsidiarya. He becamevice president and sales manager, directing acquisitions managing salesbranches and operations for the company and growing it into a forty twolocation business, an the early twosands, actually traded, hydro,carbons for Duke Energy, procuring hydrocarbons from producers andmarketing to commercial users and other trading antities. Then, in two thousandand two alongside Jason, Willingham, Ashlly, cofounded gas innovations andseveral related companies, gas innovations is now a multinationalcompany serving the industrial, gas, oil and gas and petrochemical andrelated industries. Ashley. Welcome to the show. Well, thank you, nice to niceto be here and thank you romme absolutely well. Actually, one thing Itry to do here with this podcast is ask listeners what topics they want to hearabout, and a few people have recently brought up this idea of having a gueston here that that can speak to expanding their business outside the USgetting into international business, and so I kind of you know dug aroundthrough my network a little bit and that's what led me to you, and so whatI was hoping you could kind of start out here by giving our listeners alittle bit more background about what exactly you do and how you landed whereyou are today. Well, thank you. We package gases, that's the simpleversion of what we do and those gases are typically hydrocarments. There area few that are not, but how D Yo Cal in the family we package, we purify, weenhance their shot ability and we shipt them anywhere. People want to have themdomestically and abroad. We shipin reail cars, we ship, indisposable, nine,Ouc, cylinders and everything in between in terms of how we got here, Ifinished school a long time ago and...

...joined Union carback corporation andthey've, probably been in every petrochemical plant between Brownsfolland mobile in my life and learn the industry there and a grew up, anindustrial gas and through a series of events wind up starting myow companyhere with a part with a couple of partners in two thousand and two gasnivations and we've been very forrtunate, grown up to almost ahundred people, and now we serve most of the states and many of the foreigncountries from around the world with those products. So actually you guys started out doingbusiness domestically and then moved into international markets somewherealong away. Yes, we had always flirted with supplying a little bit of productto Mexico, where in Texas it makes sense to that bordercrossing from Texasto Mexico, its fairly veally simple. So we've done that and we purchase productdown there, but we really got started. I went to a networking breakfastsponsored by a group of attorneys tankers and service providers for themiddle market, companies that they survive supplied and the featurespeaker was an old Federal Reserve Guy who was serving at the University ofHouston and Economics. CPASTIN is chair of the Economics Department and he madea speech that really resonated with us was almost like treating me like alittle school boy and getting onto te for not paying attention to the exportmarket, and he explained to us how the rest of the world craved manyof the Western ways, whether it was western technologies or Western ideas,but also the ways of doing business and in Texas and in Houston, particularly.We have the heliburtons of the world, an we have Exxon and Shell and allthose big guys and and he chastised for Believ for us, believing that thosewere the only people that they were interested in. He said they'reinterested in you as well, you middle market compans, and it really awakenedus, and so I came back to my office and I gathered our team and, I said: Listen. I've just been taken to the windshed,Dr Gilbert Doutor Bill Gilmern, and we have got to pay attention to the exportmarket and we're Goinna Start and come hell or high water, we're going tosupply in a much broader fashion and a muchmore successful fashion than we ever have the export market. And so westarted I'm a big networker. I believe that we ought to go to meetings and weort to network- and you don't know somebody you need to find out who it is,and you need to know about him. You need to ask, and so we encouraged ourteam to do that, and I've got a great thing. We've got a great team, so the next thing I know I've got maps ofeach continent all over our conferenceen. So they heard the message right, and sowe started identifying our customers that we serve domestically. We began toask each one of them where they had offices abroad and who the contectswere, and we started there, and it was amazing how that came to us. They onlystarted saying that we exported, and so now people start looking for us andthey look for us on our website and simultaneously with all that we spent agreat deal of time making our website what it ought to be. Not that we're there. Yet I surtlydon't mean that, but that we're way better off than we were when when westarted- and we continue to try to keep it fresh, continue, O try to keep ituseful and with appropriate information on there. That is useful. That is searchable and findable by theworld community, not just Domesticallyso, so we have put thingson there and international languages.

So, of course, Pais we've done somewore with Korea, and so we play some Korean language data ome there and and others, and so I think, whenyou start that you send the message to your team that we're going to do it andthey you know, I didn't tell them to go, get maps. They did that. I didn't tell them to put on thewebsite tha we're going to export. They did that and it began to grow and as itgrew, then we delve deeper and began to make calls. And then we began to travelinternational and are traveling internationally really was maybe as good for our own people asit was for our potential customers and clients, because non our people sawthat we absolutely were committed, but hes fine people around the world. Wenever done that before and we didn't, I don't want to say wewere extravagant, but we did it right. We went to the proper meetings andconferences. We set up meetings ahead of time. I think the team Liktd IDuntil they never wanted to blow it. They wanted to make sure they could goback. We let most of them take their wives when weewent on this kind ofinternational trip, Tas a perk, and so it just it began to grow. Since thattime, we've continued that emphisus. I bumped into a young man who asked meabout work and he is Korean of Korean descent and he was at the University ofTexas and wasn't sure about the next level of activity and he want to go tgraduate school, so he spent a little ton as an inter and he spoke three orfour languages, and so he would make calls on ourbehalf late at night. He would participate in phone calls and helpingthe language Farrier. But you know what I would tell your audience is thelanguage barrier is conceived in our heads were awide, most people use theEnglish like we're sort of lazy. Here we don't do as much alturnativelanguages to English, but most of the world does, and so don't let that be aa hurdle or any kind of impediment to your thinking in terms of doing esportwork again, as we begin to pursue this, wegot offered opportunities to go to additional meetings. We are part of theGreater Houston partership organization, Great Organization, and they havemonthly meetings that we typically I attend, sometimes others in ourognansation and when they have export oriented presentations. Well, wecertainly participate in those and we got to meet the Department of Commercepeople from the United States Department from I've gotten the opportunity o meetingthe Presdent of the World Bank ofotused to meet many people related to this. Ibelieve it or not. E state of Texas has an export support organization andtheyre more than happy to help you with that regard. So there are tons ofresources. We continue to find out about them in some cases, there're moreresources than we can even use. They just Somany and you can find out aboutthem. You know if I guess, if you're in a small town and maybe rural area, itmay be a little bit more difficult, but I would challenge you to through yournetwork and through your banks or your insurance or leaval organizations, thatpeople can help you and the help it dentify. This difent Bat identifi ICsopplitude. So we've continued to do that. We've tried to add to ourrepertoir of services and products and even expand to those that are demandedinternationally. That might not be demanded. Domestic, so weve its justabout now accepted around here that...

...we're going to export, and it's goingto be as as basic to our businessis, our domestic vicensy. It's great, youhad one a ton of really good stuff there. You know when you mentioned thatthat breakfast or that event you had were the you had the speaker from theFederal Reserve there that seemed to be kind of your trigger made it made. Yousay: Oh jeezwe're, missing something here we got to open our eyes to what'sin front of us. How long did it take from the moment from that moment untilyou guys really set this in motion, because I love that you just Seit, yousaw an opportunity and you just went for it and you kind of laid out thesteps you went through there, which is you know, I love it. It's you lean downyour existing customers and then you made a positioning decision through thelane wo you'R outward facing positiong to the world that we export right. It'sa Siias that it's saying this is what we doing for WHO. But how long did ittake to kind of get some of that in motion? I mean it surprised me, ourteam jumped on it immediately, but to see really signs of success. I wouldsay, within within months we saw some success within a year. Wesaw we deat definite success, but our team has always had an appetite for newand different, a name being gast in Ivation. We want to be newan difens. Wewant to pursue those those opportunities and, in that business,that maybe the rest of the our competitors of the world are not asinterested in it's typically faster ruling and it typically provides a littlebetter marginfols than the trid. An true old, Hale Martins so really had noproblem bueting our team on board. If we had an issue on with our team, itwould have been about how were goin no get paid. I see a folk who'soutstanding said Ata. Now, how are we going to get paid? And so I remember wewere doing a big job for Korea and he said so. We found this internationalbanking consultnt. All of this has happened during this time. We startasking questions and talk about export, and you know a banker said you shouldmee this guy, so we meet this international banking consultant is ahell help. Thus, with writing letters of credit, he explained to Tus thedifferent, been a letter of Credit Bank guarantee. I didn't know the difference.We learned that and in much of the world a bank uarantee is used where inthe US we use letters of credit, so they there's a built in obstacle between therest of the rol and us. They use e guarantees a we use letters of credit,but we begin to understand how to navigate that and how to use a letterof credit with a sister bank in an outside country for a bank guaritee toissue a bank guarantee to customs, just a million of that kind of activity. Sowhere was a joke? So so we I'm convincing my CFO that hey we're goingto be okay, so you know you don't always get prepaid on a export ship, therare people who've never been in theexport, Busii thin o think that's the way it is, and it's not you've got to be sophisticated enoughto know that you're going to get paid or you need to par to be paid ot, oneor the other. So I asked the international main consultant one ofhis assistants, who had a lot of experience core. I said: Listen Weinhis big job in Kareer and we ere worried about getting paid and she saidyou have absolutely no worry about getting paid, O Korea, businesses andI'm like wow. How do you know that you know? How can I trust you that she saidI've done business there four years and...

...she said if F it were to go bad. Youjust go to the Consulat and say her are my documents we made good and they willget you paid. She gave me every confidence in the world. Well, CFO hadalready knew that team. So I said Teis Sally says we have no worry EF. Ifwe're in Korea pieces Sally said that I yea Ou, so, okay, so now we're okay. Sothat's how it ivolved and we worked with them and oh, had justfantastic business. We're going to take a really quickbreak here to help pay the bills. So two thousand and twenty has been aweird year. Industries are facing new challenges as we navigate life withouttrade shows events and in person meetings. Many businesses arebulstering their online tools to offer a better experience. Wil. Also, makingup for some of those missing trade show leads and that's where a cadinus partsolutions comes in, they help you create a dynamic, Sherabol, cadcatalogue that you put on your website. Designers can preview your productsfrom any angle and download ind the format that they prefer by improvingthe online experience. Engineers and architects get the data they need fortheir design and you get a fresh lead in your marketing pipe line. Who needstrade shows anyway, to learn more vas. It Part Solutionscom leads well, actually you talked about. Youknow a couple challenges you know. Well, maybe the language bearer isn't such asuch a big challenge and, as you mentioned, your time zone differences,I'm thinking of like what are the things that are probably runningthrough someone's head as they listen to this episode and think. Well whatabout this? And what about this? Are there other challenges? You had to sortof figure out along the way and deal with related to say logistics orcustoms or anything else? What are what are some of the things people need tobe thinking about, and you know they you've encountered well, so those are. Those are really good thingsthat I may have lost over. You need somebody to help you with customs.Unless you know it well and we didn't so we have a customs broken that helpsus in their very experience. This guys, an Englishman that owns his company andhe was a sea fairer. So he knows shipping and all of that sort of thingand his company is well versed. Our product line and so they've helped us alot, but we've used others as well. We had a situation where we were shipping,something to a landlock Asian country, so we had to ship it. We AFL boarded it. We railed, we then trucked it to the finaldestination. This is in not IGNOTA US favorite location of the world wereselling it to another country who was putting it in this ill favorite place,and I was amazed at how well we could get that. Do we ask some of our shipping partners.Who's got the best relationship here and they all said Tisguy, and so weused him and it was unbelievable. We put basically twenty fit cargocontainers on a ship and they took it to a port and put it on rail and tookit to another location, to put it on trucks intructive to this inte location,and I think we pay you know on a severalmillion dollar beal. We would Pai seventeensnddollars an damages on thecomputers, that's Om. It was just fain, thanst, Ma lot of money made everybodyhappy customers happy, we got a APLUS, but it's because we networked and wewent to some extra berts on ow how to get the credit done and how to get theshipping and customs transportation to... So it seems to be a recurring themehere that you know you need to surround yourself with a lot of really smartpeople who are experts and various elements of doing businessinternationally and really just ADDOF. Ask a lot of questions lean on yournetwork. I mean this is it's kind of one of one stuff, but if you're, ifyou're, surrounded by good people- and you just kind of put yourself out thereand put in put in the work to you, know to build that network sounds likethat's the way to go huh. It is not unlike the audience in their businesses they're as good aswhat they is anybody of what they do. But when they step out of that areathey need expertise, whether it's in banking or legal assistance orinsurance, you know or or maybe it, shipping or maybe its customs, but yeahyou need. You need to have somebody that could get you out of a jam ifthere's a jam, because because there can be, I mean, we've had some o somereal scary things where we had a nonsophisticated customer, send productback to US incorrectly label and that's a big know, O iports. Particular thingsare flammable, and so you know we we had to say Guss. If that happens again,you know you're going to pay throug the nose, because the risk is just too much.So we learned that we learned about all the INCOM terms. You know incog termsor terms that are go e used consistently in the international tradefor shipping terms and shipping responsibilities. So we've learned allthat we keep those puks in or on our website and well, maybe don O website,but we keep Om posted with all of our people. They On't, they al't, know them, but you definitely need to have someextra prerteis. I don't think we should all be counted on to know the rules andregulations of a ship or an affload and apported with Noth Korea. We're justnot going to know that so actually, what's been, what's been,the impact of making this decision to start doing business internationallybeen on your own business. Well, it's been very positive. Our businessasgrown we've identifyd new markets and new opectiities and I think, we'llcontinue to grow, maybe faster than we would have without them. So the impact Ne Very Postl, it's alsobeen encouraging for our team t they've enjoyed it and they feel good about it.It's like a new success. So if there's been ther've been multiple multiplebenefits to doing this good, to hear what what advice? Would you give anymanufacturing leaders who are listening right now? Who, like you, did you knowsomewhere along the way there who see an international opportunity butthey're they're feeling maybe a little intimidated, but they also don't wantto waste anytime. You know where? Should they start? I just start withWHO I know. I start my network and and the asking those people who may know, but you canalso ask your government officials if they have anything because they sowant to Shir product outside ofour country federally and on he state widebasis that they encourage and want to support Tham. There may be freeprograms to help you that the state of Texas and the DEFARMMOF COMMERCS havefree grotos for sure I don't know about the other states where other peoplemight be, but there are therr people that want to help get productsexporting from our country. They want to improve the Labor rate here, amprovean employedimprove employment th. They want to do all of those things. Sothere's a there's a world of help and you're, not on your own Acom. No, youreally aren't a and read about it. I mean, I think you know I'm challengingour guys to read, so we follow all the periodicals fo, our industry and andfor industry related to us. So you know...

...whether it's the satellite industry orwhether it's the electronics industry, you know wd processing, industry, pharmaceuticalHindustry. All these injury are following and so we're looking forthose export opportunities because they may have a hard time getting things.Well, actually, is there anything? I didn't ask you that I should have orthat you'd like to add to this conversation I think, potentially itcould be much easier than people think it is. When I talk about export withmost people, they 't sort of have an Aham moment andmost don't realize that is not as difficult as maybe they allfirst thought. You know many people think well, O. U How many people speakKorean at Oure, Sil, Wel? Nobody, we did have an intern for a while yo howmany people speak. You know EPORTA Games ar German Russian. Japanese oryou know whatever, and I said well, you know not not really. We have a few thatspeak a few different languages, but noht not much well. Don't you need that?No, you don't need that. I mean wwe've translated letters using the Internet, Weue, simple, F, simple words and noteuthemisms or phrases you can't. I'm not sure you can use how y'uall doit and get by with that in a translation for Japanese, but there aremany tules on the Internet to help you get that D Sou. I would encouragepeople to be open minded and commerce is alive and well across the world. Notjust here, and people are just like Americans. They want to sell more whatto ipprove their standard to limit for their families and they and they likebeing successful. They don't always work as many hours as we do in e Arkeandother parts of the world e Wer more, but I say the hardest step: woill bethe first one. Aljust get started O. THAT'S RIGHT! That's right! Well! Actually this is agreat conversation today really appreciate you taking the time to dothis. Can you tell our audience how they can get in touch with you andwhere they can learn more about gas innovations, sure we're a gasINNOVATIONSCOM, and you can call us anytime, my cell phone numbers on thatwebsite. You can call that my email was on that website, as are all our eightyeight employees we are available and we want to be responsiive and if I canhelp evrybody ID love to do that. Iappreciate you having me the a part ofthis. It's intriguing to me is interesting, and it's responsible how'sthat so I think it's great good way to put a butl on it. Yeah well actually really appreciate youonce again for for joining here and I'd like to say thank you once again to oursponsor cadinus part solutions for helping make this episode possible. SoI actually, I guess for now, that'll. Do it thanks for thanks for joining.Thank you ma. As for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episodeof the Manufacturing Executive. You've been listening to themanufacturing executive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episodesubscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learnmore about industrial marketing and sale strategy, you'll find an everexpanding collection of articles, videos guides and tools specificallyfor btob manufacturers at Gerilla, seventy sixcom, flash and LARNN. Thankyou so much for listening until next time.

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