24th May 2014
MGI member firm RINA accountancy corporation is preparing to take part in another event aimed at helping businesses increase exports. So we thought it was time to speak to the man behind the California firm’s efforts to reach out to both local and international firms.
Member focus on Tom Neff, head of international tax at RINA’s Oakland office, USA.
Tom Neff is international tax chair at the firm’s Oakland office and has been working alongside the US Department of Commerce for two years on projects to build US exports. Cooperating closely with the department’s Export Assistance Centre, he’s been instrumental in promoting the firm’s expertise in international tax matters among local Californian exporters.
The latest event on May 2nd was a chance for US wine producers to seek out new export opportunities in Australia. For companies seeking to sell abroad, RINA’s international tax knowledge is vital.
Commenting on the work with the Department of Commerce, he says: “My particular role has been to sponsor these events so we’re generally picking up the costs relating to these. In exchange for this we get a table at the event. I’ve generally gone up and given a 30-minute presentation or a 10-minute commercial on how RINA can help exporters.”
RINA is picking up business this way. Success has been founded on engaging with firms face-to-face. For RINA the big advantage is the sheer range of firms that the US government has contact with.
"You have your share of ‘mom-and-pop’ firms and I’m developing a relationship with a bakery that I met at the last event I was at. They’re doing $60 million in sales and exporting to 13 countries - there are terrific opportunities for [getting] prospective clients'" says Tom.
“Many of them are exactly the kind of companies that are the target client of RINA and of other MGI firms."
So could this be a blueprint for other member firms seeking opportunities to generate business?
In short yes, but for Tom it all depends on the personalities. In Oakland, USA, the local Department of Commerce contact is helpful and has the “contacts and charisma” to make these events work. “What I’ve found is that it’s kind of hit or miss - the potential is there to develop these relationships but you really need to get in and find the right person,” he says.
How can other member firms benefit as part of the alliance?
The real potential lies in the opportunity for international collaboration with other MGI member firms. For example the Australian consulate attended the event on May 2nd and Tom would like to see one of the Australian MGI member firms develop a relationship with those individuals.
So if the event really works for one or two companies and they are able to start exporting to Australia, there could potentially be a “turnkey thing” where it’s possible to say “here are the contacts in Australia and here’s the MGI firm in Australia that’s going to help you when you’re on the ground”.
“We’re in the early stages right now. I’ll be focusing more on that aspect of it and see if we can bring together the member firms in other locations,” adds Tom.
MGI’s role in all this is to help put members in contact with each other. “Where we can use the help of MGI central is creating the relationships,” says Tom.
As the hub of Australia's wine-making country, what does fellow member Des Caulfield from MGI Adelaide have to add?
Des Caulfield, director, taxation & business services at MGI Adelaide, agrees there are some great opportunities in the different member firms working together on these kinds of projects. And while Australia has its own vineyards producing top-quality vintages, consumers are thirsty for a variety of different wines.
“The opportunity to sell quality US wines to Australia is one that just needs to be taken,” says Des. “The initiative of RINA to participate in the Australian Trade and Investment Opportunities Seminar as a launch pad for local US wine producers to explore closer ties with Australian importers is therefore timely and one which will undoubtedly lead to new sales for their clients whilst at the same time giving us Aussies a new drinking experience.”
Tom’s advice to fellow MGI members seeking similar business opportunities:
- Find the right person at the relevant government agency - personalities matter
- Be prepared to put in the hard work at these events by sponsoring them and speaking with firms face-to-face
- Build up relationships with other MGI members in different countries - harness the potential of the network
If you’re interested in speaking to Tom about international tax and export-related opportunities, please get in touch with RINA, either via their website or their MGI member profile page.