Experience of entering the North American market: the Bott Group ventures across the pond

The Bott Group, ba­sed in Gaild­orf near Schwäbi­sch-Hall, is a lea­ding ma­nu­fac­turer of van racking, fac­tory equip­ment and work­place sys­tems. The me­dium-si­zed, fa­mily-ow­ned com­pany has pro­duc­tion fa­ci­li­ties in Ger­many, the UK and Hun­gary - and has also had a pre­sence in the USA since 2022. The Bott Group is re­pre­sen­ted in the USA with a spe­cial pro­duct range, its own ma­nage­ment and sa­les or­ga­ni­sa­tion: Sys­tai­ner Sys­tems North Ame­rica, LLC was foun­ded in 2022 as a joint ven­ture with Ta­nos. The joint ven­ture brings to­ge­ther de­ca­des of in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence in the areas of or­ga­ni­sa­tion sys­tems, sto­rage and trans­port with the bott Smartvan and Ta­nos sys­tai­ner brands. Sys­tai­ner Sys­tems North Ame­rica is ba­sed in Le­ba­non, In­diana (USA). We spoke to Jan Wil­lem Jon­gert, Ma­na­ging Di­rec­tor and Spo­kes­man for the Bott Group, about the op­por­tu­nities and chal­len­ges of mo­ving to the USA, how the com­pany is now po­si­tio­ned there and the ex­pe­ri­ence gai­ned.

How is the Bott Group cur­rently po­si­tio­ned in the Ame­ri­can mar­ket? How long did it take for your com­pany to gain a foo­thold?

© Jan Willem Jongert, Managing Director and Spokesperson of the Bott Group

The joint ven­ture with TTS Tool­tech­nic Sys­tems AG & Co. KG, the joint ven­ture Sys­tai­ner Sys­tems North Ame­rica, LLC is fo­cus­sing on an e-com­merce mo­del with which we want to re­ach our tar­get group in the trade. To this end, we of­fer a sys­tem so­lu­tion that is tailo­red to the North Ame­ri­can mar­ket in par­ti­cu­lar.

Our mar­ket entry into the USA had been in pre­pa­ra­tion since 2020, and Sys­tai­ner Sys­tems North Ame­rica was of­fi­ci­ally ope­ned in July 2022.

What was your mo­ti­va­tion to es­ta­blish a pre­sence there?

We are al­re­ady the mar­ket lea­der with our van racking sys­tems in the gro­wing Eu­ro­pean com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle sec­tor. In the USA, which is cha­rac­te­ri­sed by pick-ups, more and more tra­de­speo­ple are also re­co­gnizing the ad­van­ta­ges of vans. With our ex­per­tise, we meet the re­sul­ting de­mand.

Now let's move on to the ac­tual rea­liza­tion. How did you ap­proach this pro­ject in con­crete terms - what were your first steps?

From 2020 to 2022, a si­gni­fi­cant part of our ef­forts went into mar­ket re­se­arch and ana­ly­sis. This was an es­sen­tial ba­sis for alig­ning our of­fe­ring and our com­mu­ni­ca­tion with this new mar­ket. It has al­re­ady be­come clear that the in­ten­sive pre­pa­ra­tion has made our entry much ea­sier.

How did the coope­ra­tion with Ta­nos come about and what as­pects what were the key fac­tors in the choice of lo­ca­tion?

As a sub­si­di­ary of the TTS Group, Ta­nos GmbH spe­cia­li­zes in mar­ke­ting the Sys­tai­ner case sys­tem. This has es­ta­blis­hed its­elf not only for tools but also for ac­cess­ories and work ma­te­ri­als. Due to the suc­cess of the Sys­tai­ner³ ca­ses and the bott van racking sys­tem in Eu­rope, which were de­ve­lo­ped in close coope­ra­tion, we are con­vin­ced that this con­stel­la­tion will also be well re­cei­ved in North Ame­rica. Festool has al­re­ady been ac­tive in Le­ba­non near In­dia­na­po­lis for se­veral years, where we foun­ded the joint ven­ture Sys­tai­ner Sys­tems North Ame­rica, LLC in 2022.

Can you tell us about your first steps in the USA? In other words, how did you or­ga­nize your mar­ket entry?

Du­ring the foun­ding phase of the joint ven­ture, we put to­ge­ther a small team of our own e-com­merce spe­cia­lists. Howe­ver, we pri­ma­rily rely on lo­cals in Le­ba­non, but also have two em­ployees of Ger­man de­scent there. We have not se­con­ded any em­ployees per­ma­nently but main­tain strong sup­port from the two pa­rent com­pa­nies. To avoid crea­ting de­pen­den­cies, we have re­frai­ned from using ex­ter­nal ser­vice pro­vi­ders, ex­cept for ope­ra­tio­nal ad­vice, for ex­am­ple on tax is­sues.

Would you say it is easy to es­ta­blish a mar­ket pre­sence in the USA? What worked well and in which areas did you face the grea­test dif­fi­cul­ties?

The size of the North Ame­ri­can mar­ket is of­ten un­de­re­sti­ma­ted - also from a geo­gra­phi­cal per­spec­tive. It is im­port­ant to un­der­stand and take into ac­count the cul­tu­ral dif­fe­ren­ces wi­thin the USA. That doesn't make it easy to es­ta­blish a mar­ket pre­sence there. But we still see the USA as an El­do­rado for suc­cess­ful start-ups due to the en­tre­pre­neu­rial free­dom that pre­vails there.

What would you do dif­fer­ently the next time you go to the USA or what were your spe­ci­fic les­sons lear­ned?

Ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that ex­pan­sion into North Ame­rica should not be ap­proa­ched half-he­ar­tedly. You have to rea­lize that this step goes hand in hand with high in­vest­ments, which you have to be able and wil­ling to af­ford. It is also im­port­ant not to pro­mise sta­ke­hol­ders such as part­ners and share­hol­ders quick suc­cess. This does not exist for Eu­ro­peans in North Ame­rica.

Thank you very much for the in­ter­view, Mr Jon­gert.

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