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Building a Global Niche

Posted on 10-31-2013
Building a Global Niche

By Frank Landreneau, CPA

Doing business in today’s global economy requires business advisors who are well versed in the challenges and opportunities associated with international business. The opportunities for international business are endless, but so are the challenges. 

You have to examine the market and strategically decide where to focus your efforts. Which of your existing relationships can you build on? Which countries make the most sense to target? Where can you make the biggest impact for your efforts? Where are the new local partnership opportunities?

Many cities have a plethora of events and organizations that concentrate on international commercial activities, so businesses must determine where their time and dollars are best spent. Establishing an international niche -- or even building onto your existing activities -- requires a multifaceted approach; you must address opportunities internally, within your networks and alliances, and in your marketplace, all while managing the budget and bandwidth and working with your divisions to determine where to allocate time and money.

Utilizing Networks and Alliances
Networks and alliances provide a wealth of resources and connections. At PKF Texas, we leverage our positions of leadership and involvement within PKF International, PKF North America (PKF NA) and the Leading Edge Alliance (LEA). Getting involved with committees, providing content for publications and interacting on network-specific forums are all key to establishing relationships with other firms in the network or alliance. Serving as chair of the International SIG, leading quarterly conference calls for LEA and leading the International Tax Community of Practice for PKF NA has provided numerous benefits for our firm. By participating in this way, we are an integral part of the discussion of business opportunities and technical issues in the field of international taxation.

We’ve established strong referral relationships with many of our PKF and LEA partner firms, and through these relationships, the firm has developed a niche practice of serving member firms located in North America with international tax consulting matters, such as entity structuring, transfer pricing, etc. 

Thought Leadership to Demonstrate Expertise
We live in a world where content is king. Whether it’s speaking opportunities, articles or videos, there are many avenues through which to display your thought leadership. Clients rely on us to be their trusted business advisor, allowing us to showcase our technical knowledge beyond their specific engagement. 

We’ve partnered with bankers and attorneys with similar client profiles to host joint seminars, educating our clients on topics from an international perspective. Seminar topics have included the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the tax implications of foreign transactions and structuring overseas entities, etc.

We also make presentations to external groups, as well as sit on conference panels. Most recently, I spoke as a part of the Aberdeen-Houston Gateway transatlantic simulcast, an event designed to increase the energy connections between Aberdeen, Scotland, and Houston. 

Relationship Building through Sponsorships and Memberships
PKF Texas has always been an advocate for doing business by building and leveraging relationships. We partner with influential organizations that are both business- and community-/culturally oriented. Our relationship with the Houston mayor’s office, first under the leadership of Bill White and currently under that of Annise Parker, has proven exceptionally valuable. We began interacting with the Mayor’s International Trade and Development Councils several years ago, and our team members sit on the Canada, Europe and Americas councils. Through our positioning here, the mayor’s office has sought us out to host trade delegations and receptions and to conduct educational presentations for various international groups and companies visiting Houston.

Meeting with international chambers and organizations to investigate ways to partner may uncover opportunities you didn’t think were possible. For example, PKF Texas met with the World Affairs Council of Houston (WAC) to discuss its Global Houston program and how to fully leverage this relationship. The executive director got us involved with Global Houston, the online business hub for all things international in Houston. For a minimal investment, we are positioned as the accounting firm for international companies and have provided videos, intellectual capital and other resources to Global Houston.

In addition to hosting seminars, consider sponsoring internationally focused educational events. PKF Texas developed a Coffee with the Consuls speaker series hosted at the Greater Houston Partnership. This is held five times per year and focuses on a specific country, decided by economic trade data for countries doing business in Houston and the United States. Featured countries have included China, Brazil, Canada and the United Kingdom. 

The Consul General of the country is featured on a panel with the economic development/trade department and a company from the country. The panel is moderated by Russ Capper of the BusinessMakers Show (BMS). This series showcases Russ to a new audience, while positioning PKF Texas as the firm that can assist companies doing business in country. It also develops our relationships with the consulates and economic development centers. PKF Texas – The Entrepreneur’s Playbook® thought leader production videos discuss topics of interest to inbound and outbound companies. We utilize these videos not only to disseminate information to entrepreneurs but as a follow-up to the events where we participate in order to continue to stay in front of our key targets.

As a member of the Houston District Export Council, we support and participate in the Export University program. A nonprofit, volunteer arm of the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, each District Export Council produces Export University, which helps American companies begin or enhance an export initiative and gain or improve on skills and innovation in expanding their international sales. Eddie Goldsberry has been on the leadership team of this group and has represented PKF Texas for many years.

Building Connections
To build connections, attend major international conferences and events in your market. In Houston, these include the annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), the world’s foremost event for the development of offshore resources in the fields of drilling, exploration, production and environmental protection; North America Prospect Expo, the world’s largest energy and petroleum (upstream) expo; and the World Trade Soiree.

The World Trade Soiree, through the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), is one of PKF Texas’ premier sponsorships each year. The Soiree showcases the Houston region as an epicenter of international business and influence. Drawing more than 600 of the area’s global commerce, government and economic development leaders, this salute to international trade also hosts Houston Consular Corps. Our team has played an integral role in expanding the soiree, chairing in 2009 and 2010, as well as developing the young professional (YP) after party for the international YPs of Houston to make connections.

Don’t Forget the Face to Face
PKF Texas maintains our relationships domestically, but our team members frequently travel abroad. We are invited as thoughtfully selected guests on trade missions and conferences and to visit and connect with alliance partners. In the past year alone, our team members have traveled to Brazil, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Frank Landreneau, CPA, is an International Tax Director for PKF Texas. As a result of his intellectual capital and relationships, the International Tax Review named him one of the top international tax advisors in Houston. He can be reached at FLandreneau@PKFTexas.com or (713) 860-1400.