Ryan Ahn wasn’t born with an American name, but spent time with cousins ​​near emigrants from the US military base in Seoul and was unknowingly baptized by neighborhood kids while playing sports together.

From there, he adopted “Ryan” in English classes and later in cross-cultural settings, and became so attuned to American culture that he later enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Illinois.

“Small trigger events ultimately, unbeknownst to you, become ingrained and give you a great incentive to fulfill your potential,” said Mr. Ahn, who now leads both the Korean and Japanese practices at Aprio, the Atlanta-based accounting firm , taxes and tax management consulting firm.

While attending college in Korea in the late 1980s, he encountered another culture that shaped business throughout Asia and beyond: Japan. Many of their peers learned Japanese, influenced by the country’s growing dynamism during the heyday of its outward expansion.

While the two countries had varied histories, Mr. Ahn began studying the Japanese language and found that there were many common values ​​embedded in the culture.

“The more I interacted with the Japanese and the more I got to know Japanese culture, the more connected I felt,” he said.

During a decade at KPMG, Mr. Ahn was seconded to the Tokyo office where he had the opportunity to work with Japanese engineers and executives and deepen his insight into the drivers and trends driving Japanese expansions around the world.

He was drawn to Aprio after “an intense conversation about passions and practices” with CEO and managing partner Richard Kopelman a decade ago. Mr. Ahn was invited to bring his experience to the development of a business with Japanese and Korean subsidiaries in the US that largely came from scratch

While Mr. Ahn had worked for companies like Hyundai Motors in his previous job, most of his career has revolved around Japanese companies that had built a robust middle class. In contrast, Korean companies were mainly divided between multinationals working with the Big Four accounting firms and mom-and-pop firms looking for cheaper services.

He initially focused on the Japanese side, where most of his relationships were based, knowing that these companies tend to have extended planning horizons and a hierarchical management structure.

“In general, it takes a long time to establish a relationship with Japanese companies. That’s the challenging part; it requires a lot of time and also patience. But behind the challenges there is a great benefit: once you overcome them, the lasting relationship will definitely bring you many benefits. I like that mentality,” he said.

Meanwhile, Korean investment in the US Southeast surged as Hyundai and Kia entered the market in the mid-to-late 2000s, helping to spur the region’s foreign-invested auto sector.

“Now I’m dealing with the second wave,” he said, referring to SK, LG Energy, Samsung and other companies involved in batteries, semiconductors and other key technologies, just as the traditional automakers are building new supply chains, which focus on electric vehicles. This trend has resulted in almost $20 billion in tied-up investments in Georgia alone.

Many years after their trip to the US, Korean companies are now more keen to engage companies like Aprio, which has grown independently through acquisitions while maintaining its personal touch and deep knowledge of state and federal tax incentives increasingly driving production .

“I feel like these companies are looking for companies like us, so we’re getting more new customers in this industry,” Mr. Ahn said.

This is particularly true of the Inflation Reduction Act, the $370 billion climate and energy law that incentivizes domestic production of batteries, electric vehicles, and solar cells and panels. Aprio hosts several events and webinars to help companies navigate the complexities of the law.

Meanwhile, to accommodate its three to four new Japanese customers a year, Aprio continues to hire to ensure Japanese is among the company’s 40 native-speaking employees.

“Hiring Japanese-skilled professionals was a big challenge because the job placement rate for college graduates in Japan is already 100 percent,” said Mr. Ahn. The company is experimenting with remote working arrangements and other innovations to ensure its personalized service continues uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ahn is at a personal turning point – about a decade into his tenure at Aprio and about 11 years before statutory retirement age.

“When I started at Aprio 10 years ago, I had a single goal that hasn’t changed: I want to create a foundation for a Korean and Japanese practice with enough businesses to have three partners after I retire feed.” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done to achieve that, so I still feel energized.”

At the same time, Mr. Ahn and his team continue to dedicate themselves to the culture-sensitive service that distinguishes them with investors from Korea, Japan and beyond.

“Growth is important, but at the same time customer satisfaction is much more important.”

Editor’s Note: This sponsored article was produced on behalf of Aprio by Global Atlanta Content Studio as part of the company’s annual partnership with Global Atlanta.