Customers across the Nordic Region are turning to Multihog to provide machines for streets, airports, and ski resorts. Multihog’s highly adaptable range of multi-purpose machines are used for a variety of applications, from snow and ice clearance in winter, to grass and hedge trimming in summer.
After selling Moffett Engineering, Jim McAdam founded Multihog in Dundalk in 2008 to solve a need he had for cutting his own garden that is on a slope. Today, Multihog has adapted and pivoted into a multipurpose machine used by customers all over the world. Enterprise Ireland met with Jim and discussed the story of Multihog and what has led to their success in the Nordic Region to date.
Q: How did the business start?
“When we sold Moffett Engineering, I went out looking for a machine to solve a problem I had for cutting my garden that was on a slope. When I found nothing in Europe, I expanded my search to the States. I test drove many machines and purchased an old machine that seemed like it would work. The machine didn’t solve my problem and it was then I decided to make a machine for myself. Once I started doing my research, I realized the market needed a multi-purpose machine. We started Multihog in March 2008 and exhibited our first model that November at Agritechnica in Germany. Our main product then was multi-purpose tractors, which were being used for winter applications.”
As Multihog began to grow, they continued to develop their machines to suit the needs of existing customers and to target new ones. These focused on customer led development and ensured Multihog’s continued success through a worldwide pandemic as McAdam explains:
“In 2020 when Covid hit and many of our main customer targets such as airports, ski resorts and construction sites shut, we saw a huge fall in demand. Fortunately, we had developed a new product, a compact sweeper, which we had just launched at the end of 2019, which is used for cleaning sidewalks and cycle lanes within towns & cities. Coincidentally, in line with Covid and the increase in biking and walking in cities, the demand for our sweeper shot up and we pivoted the business to focus on producing these machines, which now account for over half our sales. We saw rapid growth of around 55% last year and are expecting over 40% this year. The pivot was critical to us still being here today.”
Q: How did you begin exporting to the Nordic Region? Did you target one country in particular to begin with?
“We’ve had a number of false starts in the Nordic region. In 2012, we met our first Nordic customer, a dealer in Norway, but we never really got off the mark. It wasn’t until we met Sweep Sopmaskiner, our current dealer in Sweden that things really started for us. They’re two young guys leading the business, their father owned the business before and though they hadn’t a lot of sweeping experience, they were very energetic and keen to succeed.
With them, we’ve really taken off in Sweden. Part of the reason for our success in the region is the fact that our product is a dedicated four-wheel drive sweeper, one that can maintain the same streetscape year-round. So, it sweeps through the summer and then becomes a winter machine that’s just as effective in the Swedish winter.
Another factor that has enabled our success up North has been changing our sales structure and strategy. We now have dedicated resources managing different regions and we put people out in the market to meet dealers face-to-face regularly. Oftentimes you have to sell the concept before you can sell the machine, and that was a big hurdle for us. Having people meet face-to-face with the dealers means educating them on the machine and in turn they are more likely to promote it. For example, this week, David Rogers from our sales team is with a new dealer in Norway. We’ll have the dealer set up demonstrations with leads that they want to follow up on and this is the way we build an understanding of the product in the market.
Q: You’ve clearly has a lot of success in the Nordic region so far, if you are to look back what do you see as the key factors to that success and is there any advice you would give to other exporters considering looking North?
Having had so much success in the Swedish market has been a fantastic reference for us, both across the Nordics and the rest of Europe. We’ve seen a lot of growth since 2020 and we’ve subsequently partnered with new dealers across Norway, Finland, and Denmark. I think having a reference from a similar market is a big advantage.
Now that we’ve built our brand in the Nordics, we find that dealers there are much more interested in the product. It’s a market that has significant potential for a product like ours and we know we’ve got more progress to make there.
Finding the right partner is definitely a key ingredient for success and the chemistry with Sweep was great from the start. They were energetic, excited, and with ambition that matched our own. They were very capable of speaking their own mind and challenging things. So, if something was wrong, they wouldn’t be long telling you it was wrong. But they would also give you a fix, would always contribute and had a big influence on our initial success in the Nordics.
Q: How have Enterprise Ireland had an influence on Multihog both up here in the Nordics and more generally in terms of international expansion – what kind of what supports have you been able to make use of?
Enterprise Ireland’s support around market research and local knowledge has been fantastic. For example, in Norway it was Enterprise Ireland who got us in the door with our most recent dealer.
In more general terms the support in research and development are of major importance, particularly because it’s such a big cost. Right now, we have a big development project ongoing for a new electric sweeper, the first of which we expect to have up and running towards the end of this year, and that’s supported by Enterprise Ireland.
We also did a digital marketing project in the last 12 months through EI and you can see the benefit of that coming through; it’s improved our website, and our whole analytics operation. We now know who’s on our site and we now know what customers are looking for, what are the keywords, etc.
Q: What are your expansion plans in the Nordics? Where do you see yourselves, maybe 2 to 5 years from now in terms of Multihog’s work across the Nordics.
We have the products we have today, but we also have new products in the pipeline. So, our priorities are both in R&D and product development, as well as market development. In the Nordics, our plan is to become market leader, to be the number one.
If we want to be number one, we really must work very hard because we’re selling in markets where we’ve got long-established companies as competition. Our point of difference is that we use technology to develop our machines that they might not have the capability to do. We’ve built expertise in finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics for airflow in the vehicles using advanced software which enables us to simulate our product on screen. This allows us to see how it performs and make tweaks to really fine details. In the case of our sweeper, this meant the moment it hit the ground, it was a performing machine.
While we’re not number one yet, we’re certainly building momentum. And that’s our challenge, not just in the Nordics, but in every market – balancing the product and market development to continue to grow in the 40 markets we’re in globally.