The Top 6 Mistakes Inventors Make

Learn the biggest mistakes you can make in the inventing process, and how you can avoid them
For most of us, inventing a new product or starting a new business
is foreign territory. And unless you have a crystal ball (and you know how to use it) it’s impossible to expect to make all the right decisions, all the time. Yet certain mistakes in the invention process are very common–I see them repeated among countless individuals who are developing and/or trying to launch their products. Fortunately, they’re mistakes that can easily be avoided if you know what to look out for.
While you can expect to make mistakes along your journey–“healthy” mistakes that you’ll learn from in the process–there are those mistakes that can completely sabotage your efforts, deplete your life savings, or cripple your confidence. These are the mistakes that can and should be avoided. Here are some of the whoppers I’ve seen along the way:
Mistake #1: Expecting unrealistic results
There are those who believe that inventing is a get-rich-quick scheme. This is usually little more than wishful thinking. That’s because a successful invention involves building a business around a new product idea, or selling your idea to another company. That takes hard work–and very few inventors make a million dollars on their first invention. The good news is that you can make money, and as you become familiar with the process, your second, third or fourth effort will bring you even more financial success, more efficiently. The new inventor, though, needs to evaluate her resources, measure her motivation and assess the time she’s willing to put into her effort–then develop a plan with realistic timelines and financial goals. The riches seldom come quick–but they can come!
Mistake #2: Failing to search the market early on
You have a big idea. You’re sure the masses will clamor for it. So you begin sinking lots of money into building your prototype, developing a business plan, hiring a patent attorney, and more. Little do you know there’s an identical product that’s already out there on the market.
Yes, it can be heartbreaking to learn that someone else came up with your big idea first. But it’s even more heartbreaking when you’ve lost a significant amount of money because of it. Advice: be sure to research stores, the internet, catalogs, etc., before moving along in the invention process. I’ve seen people who’ve invested their life savings only to discover–too late–that their idea isn’t original. And it often takes a 10-minute search to find what you are looking for. How can you be sure your product doesn’t already exist? Spend enough time to ensure you’ve exhausted every angle. Search relevant stores wherever you go. Search the internet with multiple key words. In other words, don’t develop your product in a vacuum.
Of course, if your product is similar–but not identical–there may still be room for it in the marketplace. Maybe it has different features or a novel design. The key is knowing what’s out there, and taking an honest look at both products to decide if there’s enough differentiation to justify further investment and product development
. If you decide to develop a product that’s similar to another already on the market, make sure that you don’t infringe on the competitor’s patent.
Mistake #3: Assuming everyone will want your invention
Even if you’ve done your research–and you’ve determined nothing like your idea already exists–you still need to decide if your product is something that people will actually want, and more importantly: buy. And that takes market research.
Your first step in market research is to determine if there’s a viable market out there for your product–a market large enough and receptive enough to make producing your product worthwhile. For example, if it’s a product for all children 2-3 years old, it’s pretty obvious you’ve got a built-in market. But if it’s a product for, say, senior citizens who snowboard, you’ve got a much more narrow audience, and you should determine their numbers, their habits and where they live before moving forward. (Note: That’s not to say a bigger market is always better–in fact, smaller specialty markets can mean less competition, more targeted communications and higher demand. The point here is to determine whether any market–big or small–is a receptive one.)
Also, be sure to go beyond asking your friends and family, who are a) biased and b) may not give you honest feedback. Many times I’ve seen inventors’ family and friends tell them their idea is terrific because they want to support them and avoid hurting their feelings. So recruit objective parties to give you their frank responses to your product idea and/or prototype. Also, if you plan to sell your invention through retailers in a specific industry, speak to them and see if they would actually carry your product.
Mistake #4: Sending your idea–and your money–to an Invention Promotion Company
Companies like these prey on hopeful inventors. You’ll see them advertising on late-night TV, the radio, in newspapers and magazines, or via the internet. Their tactics are clear and their process is pretty consistent. First, they hook inventors by telling them what they want to hear: essentially, that they have a million-dollar idea, and that they’d love to take it to market. Of course, it’s a perfect scheme, because inventors already believe this about their product and are relieved to finally meet someone who sees the brilliance of their idea!
These companies then request a relatively small sum of money ($500 to $2000) to conduct a patent search and marketing study. Within a few days they’ll send back a long, bound and professional looking report that demonstrates the obvious market need for this item and its tremendous financial promise. They’ll simply need one more payment, they claim, to make the dream come true. Although they’ll typically accept any amount they can get, this payment is usually in the neighborhood of $5,000-15,000. (I’ve heard of people who have paid as much as $30,000.) But once you mail your check, you’ll seldom hear from the company again, no matter how reputable they seemed to appear. In the last four years I have heard from hundreds of inventors who’ve been burned by these companies. In fact, I just received a letter from a woman yesterday who gave her entire savings of $8,000 to a company like this–and after two years, absolutely no progress was made.
Be very suspicious of any pay upfront “deals.” While there are a very few legitimate companies that can help you, the legitimate ones don’t advertise and won’t seek money upfront. If you do decide to take this route, be extremely careful, be sure you’re getting real references (these companies have been known to offer fake ones), and get everything in writing. And have a USPTO registered patent attorney review their contract before handing over a dime.
Mistake #5: Sinking all your money into a patent
While a patent can be a valuable tool, it may be unnecessary to creating a viable product or business. And it should rarely be your first step in the invention process. Before you pay to get a patent (on average $5,000-$10,000), you should discern whether your idea is marketable. Will people want it? Is it financially feasible? Many thousands of patents exist for items that no one will ever set their eyes on. In fact, only 2 to 3 percent of all patented items ever make it to the marketplace!
On the flip side, many products on the market don’t have patents. As long as you’re sure your product doesn’t infringe on someone else’s patent rights, you can bring your product to market without one. Of course, you lose the protection a patent offers, but this protection is often over-rated and if it’s an obstacle to your progress (the cost will cause you to drop your idea), it is possible to go without it, especially at first. I recommend speaking to a registered patent attorney or patent agent to determine how broad a patent you can potentially get, and to help determine the business value it brings to your project.
Mistake #6: Lacking business acumen
Many inventors believe that the success of their product begins and ends with “the big idea.” In reality, the “idea” is a small component of the overall process. The most successful inventors I have met actually have many ideas, and only act on the ones that are the most viable and offer the path of least resistance to market. It takes a great deal of sweat equity to turn an idea into a financial success. If you are planning to license your idea, understand that it will take more than a verbal description to convince an individual or company to buy into your product. You still need to make a compelling argument–with market research data, a prototype, and a proposal to back it up.
And if you’re planning on launching your own company to support your idea, the invention is only the first of many, many steps. Running a business is an enormous undertaking–you’ll need to manage manufacturing, sales, publicity, employees, financials and so much more to make your product a success.
Believing that a winning idea alone will make you a million dollars is unrealistic. So be prepared to put in many hours and much hard work, no matter what route you decide to go. And don’t forget to allow yourself the freedom to be creative and have fun throughout this adventure! Nothing is more gratifying than to see your product selling off store shelves.
Tamara Monosoff is Entrepreneur.com’s “Inventions” columnistand the founder and CEO of Mom Inventors Inc., a product development and manufacturing company. She’s also the author of the new book,The Mom Inventors Handbook: How to Turn Your Great Idea Into the Next Big Thing. (McGraw-Hill)

The Goal Of Procurement

The goal of procurement is to obtain the right product or service, at the right place, at the right time,
at the right price in the most efficient manner possible. This is because, when done right, an
organization will save time, money, and add value to their product or service offerings.
Requisitions can also be assured that each supplier in the system meets any regulatory and
specification requirements. Finally, e-procurement institutes and enforces best practices that
increase spend under management, the ultimate key to procurement savings.
True e-procurement is the enablement of the full procurement cycle from initial requisition to final
payment. It includes support for the location of the required good or service, the necessary
authorizations, generation or acceptance of a goods receipt, invoice processing, multi-way match based
reconciliation, e-payment, payment acknowledgement, and analysis and reporting.
Integrated end-to-end e-procurement is the implementation of e-procurement technologies that
support each step of the various procurement cycles of your organization in a tightly integrated
fashion. It also supports integration with the e-sourcing technologies that share common touch
points. With integrated end-to-end e-procurement, the entire process is best practice workflow
driven, each step flows into the next, no data has to be re-keyed, and no time or productivity is lost.
It’s more than just requisition tracking, catalogue management, EIPP, e-payment, and analysis.
Although these technologies, when combined, arguably cover the basic procurement cycle, it’s not
true end-to-end e-procurement, because these and other components need to be integrated:
If the goods or services being ordered don’t have fixed prices, but instead are priced using a “best price”
or “discount off of standard price” mechanism, as many contracts are priced, how do you know
that the rates you are getting through a catalogue management system are optimal? How often does
the supplier update catalogue prices? How often does the supplier change SKUs? How many versions
of the catalogue does the supplier maintain? Some suppliers maintain a different version of the catalog
for every client, and only update the master regularly. Others shift SKUs every time a component
changes, even if the change is as minor as shifting the 2GB memory chip in the standard desktop PC
configuration from one supplier to another. Others still only provide the promised discounts as
“rebates”, and still use antiquated systems which are not integrated, so there’s no guarantee that all
your orders will be credited unless your system accurately tracks them and automatically provides
an invoice for promised rebates on a monthly basis. Without an integrated end-to-end eprocurement
system, you cannot track, and enforce, preferred pricing and suppliers.
In addition, how do you know that ‘best price’ as reported by the supplier has any relationship
whatsoever to external benchmark prices for the item? How do you know, without a trend analysis,
whether ‘best price’ has obeyed the standard falling price curve associated with certain items (like
PCs)? Without integrated end-to-end e-procurement that allows for integration with external
content and analyses, such as might be conducted with your spend analysis system, you will have no
way of knowing if the ‘best price’ is indeed the ‘best price’.

IMPROVED PROCESS EFFICIENCY
According to Aberdeen Group1 research, e-procurement reduces the average requisition to order
cycle by two thirds, from 11 days to 4.4 days in a typical organization. However, in addition to just
cycle time reduction, an integrated end-to-end e-procurement system will also allow you to
automatically detect shipping errors, eliminate invoice overpayments, eliminate tax overpayments,
reduce fraud, identify un-deposited checks and spend more time on strategic issues.
Automatic Detection of Shipping Errors
An integrated system can automatically compare goods receipts to purchase orders and
determine if the shipment matches what was ordered, and automatically alert the
purchasing department, the supplier, and even the third party shipping company (if a return
needs to be made) of any errors.
Elimination of Invoice Overpayments
An integrated system can automatically compare invoices to goods receipts to purchase
orders to contracted rates and insure that you only pay for what you received and that you
pay at the rate that was agreed to.

Making the Case for Sustainable ‘Green’ Procurement

Victor Bobis and John Staniszewski
If there is anything history teaches us, it’s that events tend to repeat unless fundamental change occurs. The energy crisis of the 1970’s seems to be manifesting again in the 2000’s. On a global basis, a prevailing consumerist behavior encourages high demands and magnifies an already strong appetite for raw materials.

The antidote favored by some companies is to focus on conservation and use of recycled materials, but these efforts are only cursory. Sustainable ‘green’ procurement, as we see it, should take a holistic approach, one that encompasses organization, people, process, and technology.

Sustainable ‘green’ procurement is not a recent fad. Companies realized a long time ago that efficiency in energy usage, waste generation, and water consumption, along with using recycled materials, resulted in reducing costs. Sustainable procurement is based on the belief that companies can simultaneously benefit from all three elements economics, environment, and society.

Best-in-Class Procurement
Figure 1. Maturity Profile of Procurement Organization

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An organization wanting to maintain profitability while taking on the responsibility for the environment and looking after its consumers, should search beyond strategies of buying and utilizing recycled materials and reluctantly complying with government regulations.

As Figure 1 above illustrates, Value Chain Integration is an essential element for a best-in-class procurement organization as it embraces sustainable ‘green’ practices. The typical outcomes for a best-in-class procurement that has integrated value chain integration with its sustainable ‘green’ procurement practices are:

  • Transparent, formalized measurement and metrics of sustainability across the entire supply chain
  • Focused product and process innovation emphasizing reduction of the overall total cost of ownership (TCO)
  • Sustainability leadership focus on maintaining strong supplier partnerships

Procurement’s integral role in a company’s operations makes it the central touch point for all stakeholders, customers, suppliers, subcontractors and service providers to effectively collaborate and build sustainability across the entire supply chain.

What does it mean to build sustainability into a supply chain?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “since 1976, requirements for green purchasing have been incorporated into Federal regulations and Executive Order requirements, with a goal of integrating environmental considerations in all stages of the Federal purchasing process.”1 The United Kingdom
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) acknowledges that “sustainable procurement is a process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment.”2

An excellent example of sustainability’s long term history in the private sector is Herman Miller, a global provider of furniture systems and products, commencing with the company’s founding in the 1920s. Drew Schramm, Herman Miller’s Vice President of Global Supply Chain and Logistics, in an interview with Purchasing Magazine, describes his company’s sustainability in the following manner: “We basically ask what are we doing today that will affect tomorrow… we can’t be good for the earth if we’re not able to stay in business. So the other side of that
sustainability coin is that we have to be financially solvent.”3

The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) defines sustainability as “the ability to meet current needs without hindering the ability to meet the needs of future generations in terms of economic, environmental, and social challenges.”4 Both ISM and Aberdeen Group, an independent research publisher, reports on a ‘triple bottom-line
(TBL)’ approach to sustainability, which focuses on three basic considerations: economic, social, and environmental. Under this approach, the framework of sustainability is based on economic profitability, social responsibilities, and environmental awareness. When comparing the TBL approach with sustainable ‘green’ procurement, the distinguishing factor is that sustainable ‘green’ procurement also emphasizes a holistic approach. Therefore, procurement organizations undertaking the transformation into sustainable ‘green’ procurement must first seek support from their executive leadership before embarking on efforts to directly involve the rest of the company.

Why do this?

Best-in-class procurement organizations like Herman Miller and IBM have realized that sustainable ‘green’
procurement is an extension of what these companies have been doing for years. Sustainable ‘green’ procurement is simply another vehicle for value creation.

Using a holistic approach, a sustainable ‘green’ procurement organization addresses the economic, social, and environmental elements of every procurement decision. Careful evaluation of the components within these three elements results in outcomes that positively benefit the rest of the company, and creates the framework for sustainable ‘green’ procurement.

Numerous studies, including those by independent third party research organizations such as Aberdeen Group, ISM, Forrester, and AMR Research, have been conducted regarding the benefits of establishing a sustainable procurement strategy. Not surprisingly, these studies have all similarly identified common components addressing the economic, social, and environmental elements. The table below lists some of the factors for each of these components.

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Cost-cutting: Best-in-class procurement organizations have realized up to an incremental savings of 12% of cost.5 These procurement organizations have achieved these savings through various sustainable ‘green’ initiatives, including energy, supply, operations and logistics. Sustainable procurement should be treated as a vehicle for cost cutting, and must be seen as an essential dimension of strategic sourcing that provides value,
achieves better economics for the company, benefits the environment, and enhances the brand image to the customer.

Innovation: Ongoing efforts to increase service levels, cost reductions, and asset utilization must now also incorporate the environmental impact of each decision across all phases of the product life cycle. The concept of waste and the use Design for the Environment (DfE) methodologies have resulted in sustainable ‘green’ procurement organizations delivering more environmentally harmonious manufacturing outcomes while increasing project delivery acceleration, thus reducing the time it takes to get eco-friendly products from the drawing board to market.

Design for the Environment (DfE) Components:
• Design for compliance: ensuring products meet new regulatory requirements for energy usage, material safety, etc.
• Design for end-of-life management: designing a product so that it is easy to refurbish and reuse or disassemble and recycle
• Lifecycle assessment and carbon footprint reduction: reducing the environmental impact of producing the product, shipping it, use by the consumer, and reclamation and recycling, by    evaluating carbon trade-offs through the manufacturing, distribution and transportation processes
• Material selection: choosing materials that are renewable, recyclable and non-toxic
• Packaging design: designing packaging to minimize waste and to make it lighter and easier to recycle
Regulation/Governance: Sustainable ‘green’ procurement extends beyond compliance with current regulations. Establishing a governance structure is essential for an organization seeking sustainability. A properly designed and implemented governance structure plays a pivotal role by driving performance and providing a structure of transparency for the collection, measurement, management, and public disclosure of key economic, environmental, and social performance indicators. A governance structure should be in place to identify, understand, and manage future environmental risks and opportunities.

Consumer Perception: Sustainable ‘green’ procurement credentials must be founded on hard facts and verifiable evidence. To develop these credentials, collaboration and communication between companies and all stakeholders is critical. This means educating customers and stakeholders alike as well as engaging and partnering with these groups. The goal is to develop common standards for emerging issues and gather support for progressive regulation designed to drive environmentally sound practices. However, in accordance with the TBL approach, sustainable procurement activities must align with the core business or company values and wider community expectations in order to exploit new market opportunities.

Once a company has established a vision, and understands the main drivers for sustainable ‘green’ procurement, the next phase is to define a detailed roadmap for implementing within the company.

What are the components?

The main components of this roadmap consist of organization, people, process, and technology.

Organization: In order to create a sustainable ‘green’ procurement organization, the following steps need to be undertaken:

  • Centralize responsibility
  • Implement internal training and education
  • Communicate often and clearly to both internal and external stakeholders
  • Establish clear metrics and track green performance

Process: Examples of companies viewed by others as having best-in-class procurement organizations are IBM and
Herman Miller7. According to John Gabriel, procurement manager for supply chain social responsibility at IBM, green activities are not to be placed in a separate silo, cordoned off from the rest of the company and called upon
when it’s convenient. In this regard, IBM has integrated a green ethos of global environmental stewardship into all
aspects of its business. “We don’t have a task force or specialized Green procurement brigade,” he says. “We’ve integrated many variables into our sourcing approach, one of which is environmentalism; because we know in most cases we’re going to get a cost reduction.”8

People: In the case of Herman Miller, its commitment to sustainability starts from its CEO, Brian Walker. In a Forrester article entitled ‘Herman Miller Shows That Sustainability and Profits Go Hand-In-Hand,’9 senior executive leadership support and responsibility has resulted in the creation of an Environmental Quality Action Team (EQAT). Herman-Miller approaches sustainability by:

  • Making the CEO personally accountable for the success of Herman-Miller’s sustainability efforts
  • Engaging employees for the success of green initiatives, through the use of the EQAT, enables the participation by all employees throughout the organization, and aligns its green strategy across all functional groups
  • Earning the trust of its customers through the use of third-party certifications to enable ‘green’ credibility
  • Utilizing technology to achieve green initiatives

Technology: In the Aberdeen Group study entitled ‘Building a Green Supply Chain,’ March 2008, the authors surveyed 330 companies in five key categories, including technology. The study listed four areas of technology enablement: (a) Role based green dashboards, (b) Sustainable/efficient assets, (c) Waste disposal/tracking/analytics, and sustainable transport/logistics. The survey results found that companies classified as best-in-class used technology enablers extensively. In all instances, the best-in-class companies used technology at least 10% more than laggards.

Companies must maintain key performance indicators (KPIs) to prove their sustainable ‘green’ procurement credentials to regulators, shareholders and customers. In order to meet these requirements, sustainability has to be embedded in procurement practices.

How to measure success?

Measurement is integral in creating a sustainable ‘green’ procurement organization. Results of these measurements need to be compared to stated goals, since this comparison is the most logical method of establishing a
procurement organization’s success.

Independent research has shown that ‘greening’ the supply chain can reduce costs and offset price increases in key categories.10 Best-in-class procurement organizations have two main components in their metrics, an environmental element and an economic element.

There are many ways a company can measure the environmental component of sustainability. Regardless how a company creates its measurement system, a common theme appears in this category. Essentially, companies find creative and ultimately sustainable ways to reduce, redesign, recycle, and reuse. For example, Hilton Hotels aspires to be a best-in-class organization. They call their sustainability measurement ‘Global Sustainability Goals,’ whereas best-in-class organizations like Herman Miller measure their sustainability against their ‘2020 Perfect Vision.’ Below is a comparison of the various company programs.

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The economic element can be further categorized into four workstreams: Procurement sustainability savings
Energy savings: emissions
Operational savings: waste and disposal management
Logistics/transportation: emissions

Typically, best-in-class supply chain organizations usually see the following results:

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Best-in-Class procurement organizations will realize that the process to measure their sustainability efforts are similar to their cost savings efforts. Careful collection and measurement, as well as transparency are paramount. Procurement organizations have to remember that claims regarding economic, social and environment factors need to be transparent to minimize any skepticism, create valuable credibility from their stakeholders, and ultimately guarantee recognition from all constituents. Basically, if a procurement organization’s sustainability procurement efforts cannot be measured, then it cannot be sustained!

Path Forward
In this current environment of erratic and dramatic escalation of costs for goods and services, added government regulation, and greater globalization, procurement organizations should quickly realize the strategic value that
sustainable procurement addresses. Best-in-class procurement organizations have accepted the reality that
sustainable ‘green’ procurement is an initiative that cannot be ignored and is here to stay. Individually or in combination, government regulations, economic realities, and social concerns will force companies to consider sustainability as an initiative. The main difference between sustainability in the past and what is presently touted, is that making every action sustainable, or green, in a holistic fashion covers Organization, People, Process, and Technology.

The best-in-class companies referenced above have realized the importance of transforming into a sustainable enterprise, and recognizing that it is another step in the evolutionary process to improve cost savings.
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2009

Advertising in UAE

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Over the past year we have been commissioned to complete various signage and advertising projects in the lucrative United Arab Emirates and Persian Gulf region.

These projects have allowed us to work with some amazing people and successfully manage projects that required liaising between several different countries and languages.

We are proud to have such a great reputation in markets that are so quality conscientious.

Robot Wars!

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In collaboration with Swinburne University Avale Enterprises’ engineering team competed in the annual Robot on Mars competition.

Our team won first place in Australia and came second in the international competition.

The competition required teams to manufacture three robots. One of these would be manually controlled and the other two would have onboard artificial intelligence.

The competition required the robots to successfully be deployed on “Mars” platform and for the two autonomous robots to scour for certain objects to bring back to the mother ship.

This project was a lot of fun and allowed us to work with some brilliant people and to show off some of our technical abilities.

Central World Shopping Complex, Bangkok

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Avale Enterprises recently completed works on the Central World shopping complex in Bangkok, Thailand.

Unfortunately due to recent riots the majority of this shopping centre was destroyed by fire.

The company wanted to rebuild the complex in the quickest possible time and commissioned Avale Enterprises with completing the majority of its exterior signage and interior design works.

This was a large project which required several project managers liaising with different organisations within in Thailand, China, UAE and Australia.

The speed and efficiency of this project will be detailed further in the future as we are very proud of our contribution to the great shopping complex.

Ain’t no mountain high enough!

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We have completed one of our most demanding and exciting projects so far.

A fitness organisation appealed to us for assistance in the procurement and manufacture of specialised customised equipment.

They needed this equipment delivered within 7 weeks to their new premises and to make the project more interesting we could not have access to the required equipment for fabrication due to pending patents for a couple of weeks which left us with less than 5 weeks to fabricate the equipment, have it approved for manufacture and deliver it to our client.

The client themselves were quietly anticipating delaying the opening for a couple of weeks because they could not see how it would be possible for us to deliver on such an ambitious project.

This was completed successfully by us 4 days prior to the original grand opening date and we also managed to save our client over 60% of what they were previously paying for their equipment.

Cool Breeze in South Africa

air cond
Recently we were approached by an Australian client who had an established business in South Africa. He commission Avale Enterprises to procure high end commercial air conditioning systems for export to the South African market.
He had already completed extensive research before contacting us and had narrowed his search for suppliers to 2 in China but both these companies’ products still did not meet his exact requirements.
Within 48 hours of commissioning our team they provided him with a proposal that initially shocked him.
Avale Enterprises was able to source a company in Canada who made some of the highest efficiency commercial air conditioner that were able to function in high humidity environments.
It was hard for our client to believe that one of the coldest countries in the world produced some of the best air conditioners at such competitive rates.

His second order of these air conditioners was 300% larger than what he had originally planned due to the demand that it has created in South Africa.

Very happy client.