Aileen Crowe Nandi is a Commercial Officer in San Jose California
As exporters’ needs change, we at ITA must adapt with them. The U.S. government – and our clients – faces myriad issues on a daily basis that require customized solutions. From helping a shipment of apples clear customs in South India to resolving a biotech regulatory barrier in Europe to assisting a small cloud reseller land deals in Ghana, we regularly tweak our services to assist each company with its unique set of issues. A “one-size-fits-all” technique does not apply to international trade.
To capitalize on our entrepreneurial objectives and to share and communicate even better across the Commercial Service (CS) – an organization spanning 100 domestic offices and 72 countries– we launched the Crowdsource (CS2) initiative. CS2 is designed to engage more employees at all levels by enabling them to propose and vote on ideas to change and/or improve how we help U.S. exporters. The winning ideas are then brought to senior agency leaders.
We structured CS2 as a quarterly “Pitchfest” competition, taking a cue from the dynamic venture capital industry. Colleagues are encouraged to submit short written, innovative proposals which are subsequently “crowdsourced” in a democratic voting process. The top three ideas then move on to an oral pitchfest.
The CS2 team, comprised of two International Trade Specialists (Melissa Branzburg, Boston, and Shari Stout, Peoria) and two Commercial Officers (Marianne Drain and myself), represents both the international and domestic units of our organization. Additionally, we have a cross-section of colleagues from HQ and the field (as far as Australia) to serve as “Interested Innovators” to judge the oral pitches to determine the final winner.
We began with the “B2B” theme, as it impacts the very core of how we help U.S. exporters. With fourteen B2B proposals and over 200 voters, the winning idea from the B2B pitchfest was the “Initial Market Check” (IMC), submitted by Heather Ranck in our North Dakota Export Assistance Center.
The IMC entails a fee-based service that would enable exporters to gain critical market insights for individual American companies (in the form of a short report) to determine whether to further pursue export opportunities in a given market. Though Heather had already been innovatively undertaking IMCs for her North Dakota clients, we are working with HQ to formalize the service to allow all colleagues to conduct IMCs for all exporters. Stay tuned for updates!
Our next pitchfest on “Commercial Intelligence” will take place on April 29th. What kind of commercial intelligence do YOU want from ITA? Your input will ensure that we are well positioned to facilitate your success in international markets.
With your input we can better provide the services you need to help your businesses succeed. We look forward to hearing your great ideas!