Therm Omega Tech, Inc.

Each year, approximately 1,500 manufacturers turn to the Pennsylvania SBDC looking for help to expand their markets, obtain capital to fund new ventures, and identify cost saving opportunities. The SBDC supports Commonwealth manufacturers through providing fundamental business management assistance along with an array of specialized programs in technology commercialization, environmental management, product development, and government and international sales.

Marketing is likely to be unknown territory even for a manufacturer successfully developing new products. Such was the case when Therm Omega Tech’s management team first met Temple University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) senior business consultant Margie Beard at State Representative David Steil’s manufacturer’s forum in Bucks County several years ago.

Therm Omega Tech produces self-actuating valves, advanced devices for temperature control and energy conservation that are used in a wide range of industry and government applications. Because it had developed a steady stream of innovative products that sold well, the company had been growing steadily but it needed help to realize its potential for significant growth. So the management team sought advice from Margie Beard who recommended the company determine its key markets and develop a marketing plan to reach those customers.

It took some time, however, for her advice to take hold. Early in 2005, the company’s new chief executive, Eric Kaplan, approached Beard to take her up on the offer to help develop a marketing plan.

Beard helped management clarify its goals, develop a vision statement, and evaluate its current operations including distribution, marketing and sales. Then specific marketing and sales objectives were developed, along with strategies for achieving each objective.

"We had been spinning our wheels,” said CEO Kaplan. “Margie helped us formulate our three-year marketing plan and mission statement. This gave the company and our employees a unified plan for where the company was going in the next three years and what we all needed to do to get there. Margie helped us see the light."

Beard also arranged for SBDC specialists in international trade, government procurement, and energy efficiency to meet with Therm Omega Tech, making additional areas of expertise available to the company. Since international trade was an important part of the firm’s planned market expansion, they began to work closely with Nicole DeSilvis, Temple SBDC’s international trade specialist. DeSilvis has helped Therm Omega Tech reassess the international trade portion of the business, reevaluate their international distributor network, and develop new market entry strategies.

“With communications and travel, global markets are as accessible as domestic markets with the complication being their cultures and business practices can be quite different,” said Therm Omega Tech CEO Eric Kaplan. “If the domestic market has a potential to be X, then adding global markets in our case can double that amount. But without the guidance of Nicole DeSilvis, we’d be lost,” he added.

DeSilvis was also able to draw on the research skills of her students and had them investigate new global market opportunities for Therm Omega Tech.

SBDC clients, such as Therm Omega Tech, benefit not only from the expertise within the Pennsylvania SBDC network, but also the organization’s partnerships with other specialized resources that can provide help with specific issues. DeSilvis, for example, put the management team in touch with ELAN, a program that provides free initial legal consultations to small businesses interested in exporting. Meanwhile, the SBDC utilized the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Greater Philadelphia World Trade Center to help Therm Omega Tech locate new overseas distributors.

Temple SBDC’s assistance is paying off. The company is now implementing the new marketing plan and selling its products overseas.