Supplier panel shares overseas experiences at Aftermarket Dialogue

Growing in the global aftermarket is not without risks and challenges, and yet, during a panel discussion Monday at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue (HDAD) in Las Vegas, five out of five supplier representatives said it’s a risk worth taking.

The opportunities available in the global aftermarket are too good to turn down.

“You have to be careful but you can still take risks,” says Automann’s Harjeev Khanduja, who was joined on the panel by Navistar’s Tom Clevinger, Bill Gordon of Bergstrom, Emily Poladian at Firestone Industrial Products and moderator Tim Walker from Truck-Lite.

“There are customers out there,” Khanduja says. “You have to take a chance every now and then.”

During Monday’s discussion each panelist spent a few minutes sharing their international experiences—the company’s represented by the five panelists are doing business in more than 100 countries—and how they’ve learned to take chances when they jump into a new market.

Two keys risks that came up several times throughout the panel were dealing with invoices and hiring management to lead an overseas operation.

Regarding the former, Clevinger says it’s not uncommon to build strong relationships overseas that last for months and years, only to evaporate in an instant. And he says that doesn’t only happen in the third-world. Developed nations suffering from political change and instability also can result in sudden business troughs.

Clevinger specifically cites Russia, where Navistar has dramatically reduced its presence since the nation invaded Ukraine.

When it comes to hiring, both Gordon and Poladian says filling overseas management positions with ex-pats can be a good way to get new business off the ground. But for the long term, both think it’s best to hire locally to keep international business humming.

“I don’t think you can do it with ex-pats,” says Gordon. “You have to get [your local people] to buy in and then move forward.”

Poladian adds, “It can be a science to try and find the right person.” But when it works, “they can do a great job.”

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