An annual Gala led by a new President [fr]
e-Toile: Mr. Gary Birnberg hello. You have recently been elected President of the French-American Chamber of Commerce in Miami. Before presenting your plans for the FACC, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
First of all, it should be noted that I am an American: the first non-French president of our organization in many years. Yet, many years is a good description for the longevity of my engagement with the FACC. I joined it shortly after moving to Miami in 1994 and have been a Board member for much of the last fifteen years.
Professionally, I spent over twenty-five years working as a management consultant and entrepreneur before focusing exclusively on commercial dispute resolution several years ago. Although the reach of my practice is worldwide, I recurrently work on questions that pertain companies hailing from France, the USA, and Brazil.
I am Francophone and a Francophile, which happily coincides with my love for gastronomy, wine, and an appreciation for products that exhibit the well conceived design and exacting execution for which France is so deservedly admired.
e-Toile: Over the course of your career, you have developed strong ties with France. For instance, could you give us some of the reasons why you decided to pursue your studies in France?
Gary Birnberg: My having studied in France was the result of a very happy coincidence. As I was researching the possibility of pursuing an MBA, I queried friends who were at top American business schools regarding what would be the best fit for someone, like me, who had targeted an international career. Their input was unequivocal in favor of INSEAD, as a pioneer among top business programs in developing and maintaining a truly international focus.
Upon completing my studies at INSEAD at the close of 1986, I shunned job opportunities elsewhere (particularly in London, where the "Big Bang" financial expansion was beginning), in order to accept a position in Paris, in part in order to transform my nascent French experience into a deeper one. In the end, this was an experience that had its mark on my entire career and personal life, as well, including establishing strong ties to France and, ultimately, into the French business community of the USA.
e-Toile: Since January 2017, you have been the President of the 34-year-old French-American Chamber of commerce in Miami, connecting more than 350 French and American companies in South-Florida. What are the first actions that you are working on, in collaboration with your board members and the Director?
Gary Birnberg: In addition to our ongoing initiatives and programming, we are focusing on several additional actions that will have both structural and strategic implications for the Chamber
First, we are reviewing and revising our corporate governance. This is something that any organization, particularly a non-for-profit, should go through periodically, in order to assure conformance of structure to contemporary best practices.
Second, we are launching an initiative to assure that the Board and Management better understand the needs and desires of both our members and our potential members. We plan to launch this initiative with a survey that will be circulated to existing and former members, asking, among other questions, what we do well, what we could do better, what we ought to do that we do not do and what we ought not to do that we do. Our goal is to be closer to our constituency, allowing us to develop a progressively more robust value proposition.
One of the by-products of developing and delivering more value will be driving our ability to expand our member base, both within our traditional constituency and outside of it. We currently are one of the larger French-American chambers of commerce in the USA. However, we have much room to expand our membership, both among our traditional French expatriate base and into other demographics, as well.
Another program about which we are very excited is a Women in Business initiative: a multi-faceted program that, among other plans, will include educational programming and mentoring of young women starting their business career. This is a very important initiative, addressing a compelling need at a crucial moment in world economic integration.
e-Toile: The next large event that FACC Miami prepares is the Annual Gala that will take place on May 18. It is set on the theme of Innovation and will serve as a springboard for local companies. Are there special features of this event that you would like to highlight? Who are the lucky finalists that are going to be awarded during the event?
Gary Birnberg: Our Annual Gala is a signal event on the annual Florida social calendar and a celebration of the relationship between France and the USA, as it is the FACC’s major annual fundraiser. Our ability to maintain and improve the services that we provide to the community is dependent on the financial success of this Gala. As the production cost for such an event are high, our financial success depends on sales of live and silent auction items that many of our members and supporters have generously donated for this cause.
We invite all of your readers not just to participate in our gala, but to contribute to the success of French-American commerce by bidding generously on our auction items. Think not of these items for sale as the potential bargain purchases that they are: think of them as very generous "thank you" gifts for the contribution that your successful bid represents.
As you mention, the innovation aspect of our gala is a very important component thereof. We recognize that innovation is emblematic of the French business experience in the USA, as it is a mainstay of the resilience of both the French and American economies, making our celebration of innovation particularly poignant.
We are delighted with the number of entries that we had in the competition this year and see among them outstanding embodiments of innovation that we are privileged to indicate as finalists for the FACC 2017 Innovation Awards.
e-Toile: And last but not least, what message would you like to send to local entrepreneurs that are still hesitating to join the Chamber?
Gary Birnberg: We are a welcoming organization that is dedicated to helping businesses to strive. As mentioned above, one of our core projects for this year is to increase the value that we provide to our members by getting closer to our clients. We ask you to engage with us and to tell us how we can increase our value to you. It is our raison d’être to provide value to you. Join us, communicate with us, and help us to help you.
- To register at the FACC’s Annual Gala, click here.
- To learn more about the Innovation Awards, click here.