The United States of America decided not to adopt the metric measurement system, in part because in 1793 British pirates stole a copper kilogram weight intended for Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers.
The United States has continued with the Imperial system ever since and the difference in measurements continues to marginally cost the American economy, primarily due to the fact the rest of the world has adopted the metric system (apart from Myanmar and Liberia.) However, at least in one case, this disparity created a business opportunity for one college student in the 1970’s…
Following World War II, European economies slowly started to rebuild in the hope of reviving each country’s prospects for the future and to rebuild the bombed towns and cities. To help with the rebuilding process, the United States donated $13 billion dollars to Western Europe, better known in the history books as the ‘Marshall Plan’.
As part of this donation to the continent, machinery for agriculture, transportation and manufacturing equipment was included. Since machinery from the United States had been manufactured using its standard measures, it would one day require
inch-sized replacement parts.
The story of H&H Exports in all of this started in 1976 when a young Bill Howard received a phone call from a friend in Germany.
Wolfgang Dreja and Bill had become close friends years earlier in Stuttgart and Wolfgang called his American pal with an interesting business opportunity. Bill still smiles when he recalls that telephone conversation:
“Wolfgang asked me if I’d like to source inch-sized ball bearings for export to Germany and despite being happy to receive his call, I said that’s a great idea, what’s a ball bearing?”
German market, H&H Exports soon exported to other European countries such as the United Kingdom.
In the late 1970’s, Bill travelled throughout continental Europe visiting bearing distributors from Germany to Poland. The H&H offering was innovative for the time in that pricing was quoted in the customer’s currency and landed at their airport.
H&H Exports quickly became a key source to those distributors already recognised as their country’s primary source for American replacement parts. Over the years, H&H Exports expanded its business throughout Europe and Asia.
“When I look back on the business, it’s certainly changed dramatically since the invention of the Internet.
Back in the early days, customers commented that I made it dead easy to do business with, like going to the local bakery. And that’s what set me apart from the others.
I’ve seen the whole world, I’ve met some incredible people in this industry, it’s been a phenomenal ride, a great way to spend 40 years of my life.”