Small Business Success Stories: Export Sales Strategy

June 04, 2018

Improved Understanding of Financials Helps Atlanta Aviation Company Soar

Jenny Giarratano

Dan Casey was looking for a location for a new business after selling his Oxnard, California-based helicopter tour company. Sean Casey was closing his 10-year-old residential real estate business in Atlanta after the recession hit the industry hard. The brothers could have opened their new aviation parts company anywhere, but they chose to land in metro Atlanta.

“When people think of Georgia, they think of peaches and peanuts. Not a lot of people realize aviation is the number one export product in Georgia,” says Sean. “Combined with the state’s friendly business climate, it swayed our decision to locate in Atlanta.”

They opened Rotocorp LLC in 2011, starting small and communicating with potential customers via email and phone. Dan focused on engineering while Sean conducted all sales and marketing.

“We experienced steady growth in years two and three,” says Sean. Rotocorp, an authorized Robinson Helicopter Company Service Center, now maintains the largest inventory of Robinson parts in the world. It also distributes aviation-related products from companies that include RollsRoyce, Dart Aerospace and Aviall, a Boeing company.

With a global fleet of more than 10,000 Robinson helicopters, exports quickly grew to more than half of their sales and were responsible for 80 percent of their growth. The Caseys decided on a strategy to triple their export sales in three years and began looking for an export finance line of credit.

“We sell major components, so our average ticket is about $5,000,” says Sean. “One of hardest things for our international clients to do, sometimes, is to actually execute payment for an order. It can take days or weeks – depending on the country – to send us funds. We wanted to secure an export finance line of credit large enough that it would allow us to provide open account terms to some of our overseas buyers and attract new ones.”

They approached the Export-Import Bank at the end of 2013 and were referred to Darrel Hulsey, an international trade consultant for the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.

“My eyes glossed over when we talked numbers, so the bank recommended we talk to the SBDC,” says Sean.

Hulsey helped them sharpen their financials and prepare financial projections as part of the application for a seven-figure export credit line.

“For any small business, seeking capital is always a challenge,” says Hulsey. “Our goal is to enlighten clients as to what is available and how various entities can help them obtain capital, mitigate the risk and help them grow. When working with Sean, the objective is to make sure the company grows successfully. Success is not just a matter of growing, but of growing profitably and being prepared for that growth from a capital standpoint.”

“Darrel taught me that I needed to pay more attention to our financials,” admits Sean. “Our work with the SBDC revealed that I really needed to sharpen my skills in that area of the business.”

Hulsey then recommended Rotocorp for the SBA Emerging Leaders Program. “This program is a seven months-long, extremely intense, ‘hacked’ MBA program,” says Sean, who graduated as the class valedictorian.

“It helped extend Darrel’s training in the importance of managing by the numbers, making data-informed financial decisions,” he says.

Hulsey also introduced the Casey’s to several industry contacts and a tax filing status called an IC-DISC. “The IC-DISC is one of the few true tax benefits left for exporters,” says Sean. “It helps make exporting more profitable. This information has been extraordinary helpful to us.”

Rotocorp now serves more than 1,000 customers in 45 countries. It has three employees with plans to add two more in the next 12-18 months. In the last year, its sales numbers have nearly doubled. “We finished the third quarter of 2016 ahead of our total fiscal year for 2015 and are looking to have a record year this year,” says Sean.

“Sean is very determined and focused,” says Hulsey. “I’ve worked with a lot of owners over the years. Those like Sean are the ones who overcome obstacles and succeed. Rotocorp will continue to do well.”

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