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As always at a small, regional show like the SMTA West Penn Chapter Expo & Tech Forum, there are great opportunities to meet and connect with companies you have not talked with before. One such company for me was ICAPE Group, a company I had heard of but didn’t know much about. ICAPE USA’s Director, Glenn Colescott, was happy to fill me in.
Patty Goldman: Glenn, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself and ICAPE.
Glenn Colescott: ICAPE Group is a global company that started in Paris, France in 1999. We have about 200 employees in South East China, close to Hong Kong in the Guangdong area, and we expanded into the United States and opened our office here in Indiana in 2010. I started working for ICAPE in January of 2010. A stat about our company: We ship 450,000 circuit boards every day.
Goldman: Do you manufacture in China or do you contract?
Colescott: Everything is contracted. There are a lot of different names for how that works, like trading company or broker, but I think what makes us unique to how some people think about those terms is the fact that we have the 200 people in China. The business model of our company calls for locating people close to the factories. They must speak Chinese, and because we started as a French company, they must speak French, and they must speak English, the language of business. This allows us to fight for the customer, to try to find the right factory and help them coordinate and manage their business in the Chinese area, where small- and medium-sized companies just don't have the manpower to fly to China constantly and resolve problems. Even if you did and you were American or Brazilian or French, it truly doesn't matter. You're not Chinese. We all just like to talk to people similar to us.
Goldman: People that you feel comfortable conversing and working with.
Colescott: Absolutely. Our customers now have people working in the Guangdong area that, when they have an issue in a factory or need some help on a price, get on the phone during the middle of the night and speak Chinese to the appropriate people in the factory. Next thing you know, positive things happen, whether that's resolving quality issues or pricing issues, it truly doesn't matter. We have a team of people to manage that supply base, kind of like an OEM. It's a great benefit to our customers because we also have the leverage. We're a little over $100,000,000 in sales. When you bring me an order of $20,000, you just become a part of a bigger buy. The factory sees the name ICAPE, not necessarily the actual customer.
Goldman: Or the actual order size.
Colescott: Right. They just see one more order for 20,000 pieces of something, but that's on top of nine or ten million we're already buying. So I can get really good pricing by utilizing that leverage system.
Goldman: You’re here at this little SMTA show; what made you come here?
Colescott: We're expanding. When we opened the first office it was in North Central Indiana, because that's where I lived, I worked out an agreement with ICAPE. It seemed to be the right thing to do. We've grown and we’ve got six people in Kokomo, Indiana. We have three people in Austin, Texas. The next office is going to be on the East Coast. We've looked at Connecticut, Long Island, and New Jersey. We have a gentleman from China who is French but he's been in China for 11 years, and he’s going to move his family to the East Coast and open the new office.
I know he's coming in June and I saw this show, as we're very familiar with SMTAs around the Midwest and the Indiana area, and I just thought it made sense to go ahead and see what's here, see if we can pick up some names. If we can handle that account from Indiana, great; if not, I'll turn it over to the fellow when he gets here in June and he'll handle the account from the East Coast. We're trying to close that gap.
Goldman: SMTA has these little regional shows pretty much scheduled throughout the summer and fall. I suppose you're going to try and hit some of the other East Coast and New England shows?
Colescott: Not sure about this year, but next year for sure. I've heard really positive things about the one on Long Island and he'll be very close to that. We'll probably send two people to the Long Island show. I think it's in the fall so I'm not sure if we're going to make it this year, but we'll certainly look at it next year as we continue to grow.
Goldman: How are you finding this one here?
Colescott: It's a typical SMTA show—they're all somewhat similar. The best part about it from a circuit board supplier perspective is that 90% of the people I'm going to talk to know the industry and probably have something to do with the industry. They aren’t necessarily customers, but you do have a tendency to build a reputation. You run into an engineer here and an owner over here and so on. You have to be present to be considered present. I don't know if that makes sense, but it makes a lot of sense to me.
Goldman: Oh it does. It’s that face to face interaction.
Colescott: Absolutely. They see the company and they're like, "Wait a minute, I've heard that name." We do the IPC show every year and we always try to do one other show around the country, but we really like the regional SMTA shows. They're small, they're intimate, they're not very expensive and it takes one day. It's really a good organization with the way they’ve structured it.
Goldman: Did you do the international show in Chicago? The SMTAI?
Colescott: We passed on that because it is fairly expensive and when we visited it we found it's the same people we see in the Milwaukee and Michigan shows. It’s the same people that I can see in their regions. We usually attend the SMTAI just to walk around and see who's there, but so far I haven't made a commitment to exhibit there.
Goldman: At these regional shows you get the local people, they're focused on you, and you can focus on them. I can understand that.
Colescott: Exactly. You walk away from an SMTA local show and you'll maybe have 15 to 30 names, but the best part is these are people that are using your products and that you have a real opportunity to maybe be a good fit with, between your company and theirs. I can go to a lot of great big shows, like even at IPC, and we'll get 150 names, but many of them will never be customers. They're out there buying or selling equipment, but again it comes down to a presence. If you're there consistently at IPC, eventually you begin to grow a reputation and people know who you are. As a new company in the United States, I think it's very important to have that presence so that people begin to say, "Hey, did you call them?” and we can help.
Our growth rate has been tremendous. Not specifically in the United States, but globally we grew right through the last recession and in excess of 20% a year. I think it's because we provide a real service to the customer, once they get over the phobia of "It's a trading company." I understand why some trading companies have a bad name. That's not who we are. We know they're out there, but we try to do it a little more professionally. Hopefully that makes sense.
Goldman: It does. Glenn, thank you very much.
Colescott: You're most welcome.