Competition breeds creativity

“A bigger threat to us though is customers going directly to suppliers and cutting us out – disintermediation we call it. They can negotiate discounts directly and it makes it difficult for us to compete. In situations like this, we still try to maintain some presence and contact with the client by offering other services like invoicing – this keeps us in the mix; because once you are out you never get back. Academic institutions in particular don’t have the staff and knowledge to do all the necessary ancillary work, which is where we can offer some added value, even if they want to buy direct.”

“It means we have had to respond to market pressures by reducing our costs and reorganising. The fact is our staff complement was cut in half eight years ago but already four years later there was another restructure. A lot of the back office work was moved to the UK and that hub has grown to become a second HQ for the international business. This move was driven mainly by costs.”

“What we have to focus on is what we can bring to the business locally,” explains Van Belle. “This doesn’t just mean having a local perspective though, as sometimes ideas from local sources have international applications.”

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Competition breeds creativity

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