Transforming uncertainty into opportunity

3 min read

A time of uncertainty is a time for action, not for waiting to see how things play out. Stephen Aldersley, CEO of Goodfellow, suggests several forms that action can take.

In the UK, many companies face uncertainty over Brexit and the impact it will have on their activities into the EU27. Do they plan for a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit? Do they simply wait to see how things play out? How should they proceed?

At Goodfellow, we, like so many other British companies, were faced with exactly those questions. What we found is that this time of uncertainty is actually an excellent time to broaden our vision and consider as many scenarios as possible. This exercise is proving to be both enlightening and productive, putting us in a position to move forward better informed and better equipped to succeed in any political or business environment.

Plan strategically

Enlarging our frame of reference revealed important opportunities for expansion, which we were not at the time aggressively pursuing. We realised that uncertainty in the UK made expansion into markets outside the EU especially important. In China we increased staff and moved to larger premises. As a result, customer service improved, and our return on investment is rising significantly.

Staff were also increased in the US, with a business development/technical resource person assigned specifically to the large California market. In addition, we started to provide strategic marketing support to our Canadian distributor.

Strategic relationships with other distributors and manufacturers are extending our reach and enhancing our offerings. An alliance with distributor Sigma-Aldrich is making our products readily available anywhere MilliporeSigma (previously Sigma-Aldrich) does business, which is virtually everywhere in the world. And as the exclusive distributor of C-Solder, a tin-based, flux-free soldering alloy that enables the joining of carbon materials, we have been able to add an innovative, in-demand item to our product line without having to incur development costs ourselves.

Think creatively

Of course, there is not always a readily workable solution for every challenge in times of uncertainty. Take personnel. Even in the best of circumstances, it is difficult to recruit the right calibre of people, particularly native speakers of foreign languages. This is an important skill to a company like Goodfellow, as we provide customer service and technical support to non-English-speaking customers throughout the world.

Although government officials recently spoke reassuring words about the future of non-UK nationals working in the UK, nothing has been finalised. At Goodfellow, we’re approaching this problem by thinking creatively and exploring all possible scenarios so that we can respond in a timely manner when decisions are made official. Doing this now is imperative because we literally cannot afford to leave our high level of customer service to chance.

Invest wisely

One of the highlights of our ongoing exploration of possible scenarios going forward is our use and interpretation of ‘big data’ and our understanding of its value to the business. We have made a significant investment in software that, through advanced analytical methods, extracts value from a tremendous amount of data – both internal and external – and interprets it for the benefit of the business. This has revealed patterns, trends and associations that are providing us with insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves. Not only is the information gleaned valuable for predictive purposes, it also provides fresh insight into what previously might have been considered mature markets. Happily, analytical and computational software is becoming more and more robust, with the information produced increasingly valuable.

Stay fresh

Uncertainty can be paralysing. Fear of the future can too easily keep one stuck in place, feeling safe but in fact falling behind. That’s why it’s important to make sure, especially now, that new technologies are embraced, cutting-edge products introduced, and the customer experience enhanced.

During the past two years, Goodfellow has introduced more new products than during any other two-year period in our history. The synergy of new technology and new applications played a major role, of course, but so did our excitement about anticipating the needs of our customers. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a good example of such synergy and of Goodfellow’s value to our customers in this field.

Goodfellow’s growing line of raw materials for additive manufacturing reflects evolving additive manufacturing technology: advances in technology put more rigorous demands on materials, and advances in materials fuel advances in the technology. Building on our core materials expertise, we are able to offer metal, ceramic and polymer raw materials specifically suited for additive manufacturing. In addition, we can assist customers in choosing the best additive manufacturing process for achieving their desired results, or even provide comprehensive additive manufacturing services ourselves. It should be noted that the growth potential for additive manufacturing is huge, with applications in aerospace, automotive, medical and dental fields taking the lead.

Initially prompted by uncertain times, the activities we at Goodfellow have engaged in during the past 18 months are indeed proving to be enlightening and productive exercises on the road to a more solid and successful future, for us and for our customers.

Stephen Aldersley, Chief Executive Officer, Goodfellow Cambridge

Goodfellow specialises in supplying small quantities of metals and materials for research, prototype development and specialised manufacturing applications. It also offers larger quantities of these materials to the industrial production market. Goodfellow’s inventory of more than 70,000 standard items is complemented by its highly respected custom fabrication and finishing services.

Goodfellow has associate operations in France, Germany, the United States and China, with research laboratories, production and workshop facilities, and central administration located in Huntingdon, England.