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“This highly innovative company has an export ratio of 90 per cent, but creates its value in Norway. It is precisely the kind of business we look for,” said jury chairman John G. Bernander when Airthings was announced as the winner of the Export Award 2018.
Airthings is a world-leading developer and manufacturer of radon gas and indoor air quality detectors, and delivers to both the private and professional markets.
The recurring theme of the company’s recipe for success is focus. Here are some of the main success factors highlighted by Airthings CEO Øyvind Birkenes.
“Putting customer needs first and developing differentiated products that customers want has been absolutely crucial to our success. So too has providing outstanding customer support.
Regarding channels and business partners:
“It may be tempting to sell through all kinds of channels, but it is better to be highly selective with respect to business partners, focusing on selected channels and ensuring excellent performance in them. Doing this allows us to concentrate our efforts on partner support and success in the selected channels, instead of doing a half-hearted job for very many partners.”
Regarding geographical expansion:
“We have selected a small number of key countries and markets as our priorities, and are building step-by-step on that foundation.”
Airthings has built up a strong R&D department in which nuclear physicists and engineers develop sensors and new products. Birkenes also emphasises the company’s in-depth software development and electronics expertise and international sales and marketing apparatus as further important ingredients in the company’s international success.
“To find a good partner abroad, select someone who wants to do business with you and fits into your strategy,” says Birkenes.
Birkenes is even more specific when it comes to the US market:
“It is important to choose business partners that cover large (geographical) regions and cover needs we cannot meet ourselves. To be able to make direct sales to some of the major chains, you need a US subsidiary. However, to be successful it is vital that we retain full control of marketing campaigns, deal directly with chains and monitor customer needs. Our local offices can undertake day-to-day follow-up of our partners,” he says.
What is the cleverest thing you have done?
“Our cleverest decision was to work directly with Amazon when we first realised that we had a good product for which there was a market. Concentrating on building Amazon into an important channel for us in the US was a very smart thing to do,” Birkenes concludes.