Estonian exporters should also market their country, Molycorp Silmet head says


In order for an Estonian exporter to be successful it is as important to sell your country and not only your product, head of Molycorp Silmet, David O’Brock says.

O’Brock, head of one of the biggest rare earth metal producer in Europe, says that unfortunately Estonia is grouped into the „Eastern Bloc“ category in many markets.  „Estonian enterprises’ biggest opportunity for improvement is in their sales, not only sales of products but the sale of their company and Estonia as they are the front line for how the country sells itself. There is a great need for the education of those who export to learn how to „sell“ their company and country, not just products,“ he adds.

Picture: David O´Brock receiving Exporter of the Year award in 2012

The roots of Molycorp Silmet are in the factory that was built by Soviets just after the World War II as a processing plant for enriched uranium in Eastern Estonia. From 1990 it stopped processing uranium and concentrated its activities to producing rare earth metals. Silmet was fully privatized  in 1997 and in 2011 acquired by Molycorp Inc of the U.S.

According to O’Brock Silmet was very attractive to Molycorp since Estonia had the highest concentration of rare earth specialists outside of China. U.S. capital based Molycorp was also positively surprised that the corporate taxation policies of the Estonian government foster development and growth for companies that wish to reinvest their profits in Estonia.

Named as the Exporter of the Year in Estonia in 2012, Molycorp Silmet has been successful because it studies its target markets thoroughly. „We visit the markets and customers frequently and try to anticipate our customer’s needs before our competitors can,“ O’Brock says. One must also work within the business culture of the customer and deliver what has been agreed upon, otherwise continuous business is not possible, he describes the company’s philosopy, adding that there is no magic button for successful export.

O’Brock is optimistic about the future of Estonia’s export. „I had dinner in a Korean restaurant in Nevada and the hostess knew where Estonia was because her family in Korea had bought a log home made in Estonia.  This is a great example of successful export.  I believe that with the right stimulus, Estonian companies will continue to increase their courage to go to foreign markets and increase exports.  I look forward to being a part of this success and always do what I can to „sell“ Estonia wherever I travel,“ he adds.