Already a global company that tested its products all over the world, SANY was growing fast. “After mastering China, where they’re No. 1,” says Doug Friesen, CEO, “they wanted to enter the developed market: Europe and America. They want a presence around the world.”
They entered the market differently than their predecessors did, he reveals. They “jumped in” by purchasing 120 acres in Peachtree, Georgia, and investing $70-80 million in a building for manufacturing, engineering, design and office space – plus an adjacent 40 acres reserved for future growth.
“We have a good product at a good price point,” Miller states. SANY equipment is designed to work 24/7. Furthermore, it’s designed for the harsh conditions in China. “We’re innovative,” he adds, pointing out that their factories incorporate heavy automation, with 93% of their machinery being welded by robotics. But they also rely on the tried-and-true. “We use the same components everyone uses … and we’re willing to back our product with the best warranty in the industry.
“SANY is growing quickly,” Miller continues, “but our goal is not just to be a U.S. distributor; we want to become a full-line manufacturer, sustainably.” He says they believe the road to success is “globalization through localization,” with a U.S. team to design, engineer and support the local market.
That philosophy was behind the hiring of Friesen to take care of the North American market. Previously, Friesen had worked for American companies overseas, where he learned that leadership must be localized. Thus, when he joined SANY, he didn’t want to be “just the face of the company.” He wanted autonomy.
Friesen, who reports to the company president, who in turn reports to the chairman, first assessed what was wrong and the cost to fix it. His checklist included customer service, sales, marketing and IT. Year one of his tenure was spent building the foundation of a revitalized SANY. “He was putting structure and support in place,” Miller observes, knowing that “sales would come after the infrastructure was in place.”
Perhaps due to Friesen’s parts and service background, parts availability was an early area of focus. Adopting the attitude of viewing the situation from the customer’s perspective and being cognizant of their needs, he knew SANY needed a system to meet availability. “We want 95-98% parts availability for our dealers … and we want our dealers to house parts.”
Building inventory is an expensive endeavor, but Friesen says it’s worth the cost and proclaims that SANY will “over-invest in parts for the customers” and then work on efficiencies – maximizing availability while minimizing inventory, in part by encouraging dealers to contact each other for cross-sharing.
Friesen also invested in third-party expertise in software and leadership to maximize warehouse performance and the company’s software system. One of the early criticisms from dealers was lack of accurate inventory data. “Doug has addressed the issues,” Stokey indicates. “Now we know the inventory and we have financing options.”
With inventory software updates still in process, Friesen set up financing options. “You can’t be a legitimate supplier or OEM if you don’t offer financing,” he emphasizes. Due to differences in culture, Chinese banks were not a good choice for financing equipment sales in the U.S., so SANY America turned to regional and community banks, which now are able to offer 0% financing on most equipment for 48 months.
“Establishing a network allowed us to elevate quickly.”
Year Two: building a network
Friesen’s second year as CEO focused on promotion. Once again trying something new and different, he allocated the company’s largest budget for advertising, ad campaigns and shows. He bought print ads in trade magazines and hired a digital marketing manager to target customers and promote via social media. “We’re just getting started on raising awareness,” he promises.
SANY’s biggest challenge is market awareness, Stokey believes. Impressed with the manufacturer after traveling to China to see the factory and meet the R&D team and the executives as part of the group of invited dealers and customers, he says he’s been successful selling to his long-term customers. “Once people try SANY equipment, they like it and buy it.” But getting customers to try it can be a challenge.
Myers, who was also part of the group that traveled to China, says Ironpeddlers convinced some “diehard Cat contractors” to try SANY. “They trust us, so they tried SANY.” A trial was all it took, she says; they liked it and bought it.
But, while the trip to China solidified the idea of quality in the minds of the dealers who ventured there to witness what many deemed the “impressive operation” of a “global force,” the fact remains that SANY is little-known in this country.
It’s a young company, just 30 years old, Miller points out. Despite growing fast and raising the bar with equipment built to handle any task on any job site, SANY still lacks brand presence in North America. “Who is SANY? We’re not known.”
Year Three: the breakthrough year
Adopting a “crawl, walk, run approach” toward building a North American presence, Miller says SANY is doing trade shows, events, demonstrations and regional marketing to get the word out.
“Little things set us apart,” Miller continues, but some of the not-so-little things that contribute to their success are SANY’s “four pillars.” The basic tenets of the company consist of four basic ideas:
- SANY makes you money
- We’re responsive
- We’re easy to do business with
- We deliver on our promises
Miller says that to help spread the message, as well as to infiltrate the American market, “We need dealers. Not just dealers – partners. We have a lot of open territory to cover.” Eager to grow their dealer network, he describes the SANY–dealer relationship as a collaborative environment.
SANY works hard on its dealer relationships. Delivering on promises builds trust. Responding quickly with simple, straightforward solutions makes them easy to do business with. Building quality machines with the longest warranty in the industry boosts sales – and makes money. That’s why, according to Friesen, SANY America is being sought by “high-profile dealers who know how to sell.” He reports that sales are up 90% from last year.
Having spent a great deal of time in the first two years building a foundation, Friesen says the focus now is on visiting dealers to give them support. “Year three is our breakthrough year,” he reflects. “The foundation is in place; promotion is in place. Now, we put our effort on selling.”
He hopes to grow SANY’s dealer network from 36 to 100 and “franchise the brand.” He knows it won’t happen overnight. Every industry matures, Friesen acknowledges. Brand loyalty and the cycle of acceptance take time, but as the market matures, the newcomer catches up to the establishment. “Everything takes time, but we want to do it right.”
More than machines: good people
It’s a good time to get in with a young company, Myers believes. Understanding that there’s still work to do, such as educating the American people about a Chinese product, she thinks that SANY America has already instituted favorable changes, particularly in hiring “good people like Ben Miller.”
Vazquez concurs, claiming that “Doug Friesen is the reason behind the success” of SANY America because of his excellent leadership and because he hired capable people. “They have good customer retention, good customer service, a good product at a good price. They’re doing it right.” That’s why, he says, Meco is “all-in, committed and pushing the product.”
Expressing appreciation for every single one of SANY’s dealers, Friesen says, “They make our product real to the customer through brand image and customer interface. We look forward to growing together and making money – one of our pillars.” Describing the past two years as “a lot of fun,” he sees “a ton of potential; we just need to polish it.”
Endorsing the message of SANY’s logo, that quality changes the world, Miller emphatically concludes, “Now is our time. We’re here to stay.”