Established in a tiny municipality of less than 5,000 people in Centre-du-Québec, Valmetal exports its automated feeding equipment for dairy farms worldwide. Here we meet an entrepreneur who never lets his creative energy lie fallow, yet always keeps both feet firmly planted on the ground.
At the age of 37, David Vallières is Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, of Valmetal, a family business launched by his parents in the early 1980s. Today, he and his two brothers play an active role in expanding the business. “In 2000, we bought out our biggest competitor. In the ten years that followed, we made four major acquisitions, including two U.S. companies that we moved here.”
First show you’re serious, then start making connections
The international adventure started in the mid-1990s. “We tested the waters for three years, but in 1995 we decided to establish ourselves in a serious way. So we bought land in Wisconsin – the Land of America! This move convinced the American agricultural world that we were serious, and that was the start of our development outside of Quebec and Ontario.”
Right away, a Swiss customer, who was buying products directly from the United States, opened a door into Europe for the company and became their first distributor. That first Swiss distributor then spoke to a friend from Finland, who then spoke to another friend... And suddenly the race was on! At the same time, David Vallières regularly attended commercial trade shows and increased his visits overseas to potential distributors. “You have to set clear objectives for yourself,” explains Mr. Vallières, who has a degree in mechanical engineering. “You receive a request online, you jump on a plane... You could easily lose sight of your goal! We now have specific objectives regarding sales revenues and the number of products sold by territory.”
Investing vs. being personally vestedTo successfully conquer the world, you can't afford to shy away from challenges. You absolutely have to speak the language and understand the culture of your target country. “The way you do business in Ontario has nothing to do with the way you do business in Russia or Japan!” laughs the globetrotting VP. “In the agriculture business, people buy because of other people. You have to learn how to become acquainted with people in order to develop relationships!”
And in addition to investing time and money, you have to be diligent. Remove just a single variable from the equation and you'll fail. “If you go to a commercial trade show only once and think you'll come back with contacts, you’re better off staying in Quebec. You have to attend over and over again. You can't throw in the towel right away.”
Making your mark and keeping existing customersTo stand out from the crowd, Valmetal invested tsubstantially in research and development as well as in service. “We always try to be on the cutting edge in order to offer innovative, yet practical solutions. We've put a lot of energy into adapting our products to different climates. And since our customers work seven days a week, we keep in mind that our equipment has to be easy to repair.” Basically, it’s not all about looking for new clients; the key to long-term success is keeping the clients you have!
Already well-established in the U.S., Europe and Asia, Valmetal would like to continue focusing on exports, but at a sound, reasonable pace. “We've experienced rapid growth and we want to continue providing good service to our customers,” says Mr. Vallières. “Right now, we’re strengthening our existing ties before making inroads into any new markets.”
Valmetal in figures
- 148: The total number of employees
- 14: The number of employees abroad
- 150: The total number of dealerships
- 80: The number of dealerships abroad
- 34 million: The total revenue
- 18 million: The total revenue generated abroad
Want to learn more?
Visit Valmetal's website