Global growth Featured

6:17am EDT November 2, 2005
Imagine growing revenue more than $1 billion — yes, that’s billion with a ‘b’ — in just five years.

Wally O’Dell, chairman and CEO of Diebold Inc., doesn’t have to visualize it. His company accomplished it.

In 1999, when O’Dell joined North Canton-based Diebold, the company had $1.3 billion in revenue. In 2004, that number had skyrocketed to $2.4 billion. This fall, the company’s sales had reached $2.7 billion.

His secret? Global growth.

“The return on investment was immediate,” O’Dell says. “In every year we’ve been doing this, we’ve made profits.”

Five years ago, Diebold was primarily a U.S.-based manufacturer of automated teller machines, voting machines, safes and other security products and was just beginning to dabble in international markets.

“We had a distributor in Brazil. We did some exports to Latin American countries. We had small joint ventures in China and India,” O’Dell says. “We built on all of that. Now we’re represented in almost all major markets in the world.”

O’Dell says many U.S. businesses could replicate Diebold’s growth strategy.

“Good companies who are thoughtful and thorough can find the international opportunities and they should,” he says. “You need that global footprint to be the most agile, to have the best cost points, to see the latest trends and technology, and to apply those to what you’re already doing.”

That doesn’t mean CEOs should act blindly.

“Certainly you have to look to be sure there is a market for what you have and whether the solution you have will fit that market and if you can export it and manufacture it locally,” he says. “You also have to understand cost - what the customer would buy, what they are buying now — then do the math to make sure it’s a viable economic solution. If you do it wrong or if you’re not ready or your product isn’t right, you can spend a lot of time and money and get nothing for it.”

O’Dell says it was “very natural” for Diebold to venture into the international arena.

“Clearly there’s a global market for ATMs,” he says. “It wasn’t like we were trying to see if we could develop a market. The major markets had ATMs that were made by international competitors. We just had to go in and go after the market with good solutions.”

Although Diebold’s product line also includes business security products and voting machines, its ATMs and other financial self-serve products make up roughly $1.9 billion — or 70 percent — of its annual sales today.

The global success of Diebold’s ATMs and financial self-serve products has sparked the 14,000-employee company to expand a second segment of its business overseas.

“We had a strong security business in the U.S. Now we’re taking it on a global perspective,” O’Dell says. “That’s a big work in progress for us. We started with China and Australia, and now we’re going after the U.K. and other related European opportunities.”

The relationships Diebold has developed in the past five years with international banks in the ATM business should help with this global expansion, O’Dell says.

“The security business works very well in the banking industry as well as other industries,” he says. “We’ll be doing some small acquisitions and adding some capabilities in some European countries and tying that together to the self-serve business.”

After all, why not leverage every advantage?

“You build on the success and the relationships you have, step by step,” O’Dell says. “Those are very important.”

HOW TO REACH: Diebold Inc., (330) 490-4000, www.diebold.com