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Tom NeffCPA / Tax Stockholder / International Tax Chair / Chairman of the Boardview bio

Commercial Service Spotlight - Going Global Strategically

Are you a small business or startup with plans for global expansion, but not sure where to start? Luckily, a powerful resource is available to help you achieve international growth. The US Commercial Service, a division of the Department of Commerce, offers resources to businesses seeking to expand their presence overseas. The US Commercial Service is essentially an innovative match maker, connecting businesses with Export Assist, which provides worldwide contacts, distribution channels, and bankers to finance new activities abroad.

Rod Hirsch is the head of Oakland’s Commercial Service and is seen by many East Bay businesses as the “East Bay-to-International dot connector”. He has facilitated the global expansion of many local companies, including several RINA clients.

For example, Rod worked with the Port of Oakland to bring RINA client R &B Cellars to the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, which led the company to secure a Chinese wine distributor. At the fair, Rod arranged a California Pavilion, which garnered extra attention for the Richmond based winery. In addition to the wine fair success, along with some help from FedEx, Rod created virtual wine tasting events for R & B Cellars. What exactly is a virtual wine tasting? In this case, R & B ships their wine to the consulate or embassy in a specific country (recently Thailand and Kuala Lumpur) and the wine is sampled by interested parties such as diplomats and hoteliers. During the tasting, representatives from R & B Cellars log into the video conference from their offices here in the US to join the tasting and discuss the wine selections in real time, from across the globe.

RINA’s International Tax Department head, Tom Neff, is very familiar with the assistance Rod and the Commercial Service provides. The two have collaborated on work for mutual clients, most recently with R & B Cellars. Additionally, RINA has been a sponsor at several of the Commercial Service’s Bay Area event series, such as G’Day East Bay, Australia Trade & Investment Opportunities in May of 2014 and Discover Global Markets: Sustainable Solutions in February 2015. Our accounting firm has a strong interest in supporting companies going international; we assist in the complex and sometimes intimidating world of international accounting through business structuring, financial counsel and navigation of international tax laws.

So, how do you know if your business is ready to take advantage of all that Commercial Service has to offer? The Commercial Service works with US companies with a minimum of 50% American content that are “export ready”, meaning that the business has been in operation for a minimum of two years and is able to provide a track record of domestic sales. However, for the Bay Area’s highly innovative technological environment, startups emerging from stealth mode could also benefit from the assistance of the Commercial Service. Rod acts as a “risk abator” with venture capital firms as well in order to protect their investments while growing his start up clients globally. Furthermore, interested companies should have a global strategy in place in order to maintain the strongest position unless they want to be bought out. Many larger companies quickly buy out fledgling startups before they have a chance to gain competitive traction. A good portion of the companies Rod works with are small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

You have several options for connecting with the US Commercial Service. In Oakland, the office is in the federal building at 1301 Clay Street. Parties not based in Oakland can use the website to locate their local branch office at http://www.export.gov/index.asp. The Commercial Service website also offers a wealth of information for interested business owners, such as webinars. In addition, you can get face time with the Commercial Service at one of its many private sector events, such as the frequent Discover Global Markets events held around the United States.