It’s that time of the year again - conference and travel season. Many of us who oversee and manage business interests both in the U.S. and Germany have marked the 4th German-American Business Forum (Deutsch-Amerikanischer Wirtschaftstag) on this month’s calendar.
The annual conference is organized by the German American Chambers of Commerce (AHK USA), with the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany participating. This year’s meeting will take place in Düsseldorf, hosted by the city’s venerable Industrie-Club.
If you go, make sure to make new friends over a sip or two of the city’s famous “Altbier” (old beer), at the Industrie-Club or in the Altstadt (old town), also known among beer connoisseurs as “the world’s longest bar.” Which reminds me:
Global business has its own grapevine...
Online business networks like LinkedIn or Xing (in Germany) can be useful to stay in touch and see what others in the industry have been up to. Still, my favorite way of connecting with others inside and outside the industry is to meet in person, for example at tradeshows and conferences.
In my role as CFO of a U.S.-based multinational packing equipment manufacturer, I often find industry association meetings and binational trade group events valuable to make new connections and gather relevant facts and insights.
Another advantage of such gatherings is that companies can save executive search costs when looking for internationally experienced candidates for their cross-border expansion.
Leading accounting teams on three continents, I’ve come to seek out fellow finance professionals who aren’t social wallflowers, but consummate networkers.
To successfully execute on your company’s international expansion strategy, you’ll need accountants and in-country CFOs with ears on the ground, which means a broad network inside and outside their own company.
...and when companies go abroad, the CFO should be tuned in
As for myself, I spent formative years of my border-crossing career in various finance and accounting roles for German-owned Siemens in the U.S. and Europe. They afforded me with ample opportunity to refine my German on the job and to grow my professional network in business between the U.S. and Germany.
But that’s not the only reason why I mentioned the German-American Business Forum event at the top of this post. German companies have become a hot property as of recent, which is another reason to follow merger and acquisition trends and activities involving American and German companies.
The following three networks have helped me when conducting due diligence, or simply to stay abreast of new developments in transatlantic business between the U.S. and Germany:
Three Top Resources for CFOs Vetting M&A Opportunities Between the U.S. and Germany
“Big Four” connections: Going back to my years as an accountant and auditing consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers (even before Siemens), I’ve built strong relationships within today’s “Big Four” accounting and auditing consultancy networks.
Especially when examining potential investment opportunities abroad, I rely heavily on my international contacts at Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers for reliable business intelligence and advice.
Industry associations: In my current field, the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers InstituteTechnologies (PMMI) has built a strong network of international representatives and partners.
PMMI provides excellent resources for American packaging machinery companies branching out internationally. I can also recommend it as a starting point for Austrian, German and Swiss companies conducting market research for their “Markteinstieg” (market entry) or expansion in the Americas.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) agencies: <a href="https://www.gtai.de/" target=_blank" rel="nofollow" title="Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI)">Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI), Germany’s generously funded and well staffed economic development agency, provides an extensive range of <a href="https://www.gtai.de/GTAI/Navigation/EN/Meta/About-us/What-we-do/investor-consulting.html" target=_blank" rel="nofollow" title="Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) - Services for Foreign Investors">services for foreign investors, including legal information about taxes, labor laws and such.
On this side of the pond, German companies looking to invest in the U.S. can turn to the SelectUSA program of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Perhaps you find this overview useful when planning your company’s expansion into the German market from the U.S., or to North America from Germany.
German American Chambers of Commerce / RGIT / Roland Berger: German American Business Outlook 2017