This is a question which I was asked recently, in the context of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce – or, perhaps more succinctly, “what is the Chamber for?”. Whilst this may seem to be an odd question given that the Chamber was established in 1998, it is probably a good idea to take stock periodically and to quote Eugen Ionescu, “It is not the answer that
enlightens, but the question”.

It is easier to answer the question of what the Chamber is not: the Chamber is not for profit. This is why although it is established as an English limited liability company, the Chamber is exempt from using the word “Limited” as part of its name. Like other civil society organisations, the Chamber is not permitted to make profits which can be paid to members as dividends, so normal measures of business profitability are probably not the best measure of the Chamber’s performance. So, what is the point of a business becoming, or remaining, a member of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce?

There is no particular “magic” in the Chamber as a structure, but it is a platform which can be used for activities which our members wish to pursue and which are permitted by our constitutive document. In my opinion it is the people who are involved in the Chamber and the various businesses which they represent which are important and I always try to understand what new members who I meet aim to get from membership. The Chamber, and indeed any chamber of commerce, derives its importance as a venue for people and their businesses to interact and to combine their voices in presenting a unified voice on matters of common
interest to the business community. The greater the number of businesses which are members of the Chamber – particularly active members – the stronger the Chamber will be as a credible voice of the section of the business community which it represents and the more opportunities there will be for members of the Chamber to do business with each other.

In the case of the BRCC, however, membership brings access to a much wider community through the BRCC’s affiliation to the Global Business Network of the British Chambers of Commerce (the BCC). The BCC is the organisation which represents our sister chambers of commerce in all parts of the UK and the Global Business Network consists of other
bilateral British chambers of commerce in more than 130 countries around the world. This means that our members’ access to other businesses is not limited to the actual membership of the Chamber but is magnified to include the members of regional chambers in the UK and of other bilateral chambers. What does this mean in practice? As I write this article, I am preparing to host a webinar on doing business in Romania for members of the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce in south-west England. This is not the first such online event which we have organised with a UK chamber and there will be more, so this is an excellent way for us to help British businesses find opportunities in Romania, preferably with the Chamber’s members in Romania. The development of the Chamber’s face-to-face activities in the UK should accelerate this.

Membership of the BCC’s Global Business Network is not given to overseas chambers which do not satisfy the BCC’s requirements and the BRCC takes part in annual benchmarking exercises against other bilateral British chambers. Like our members, the Chamber also seeks to learn from our peers and to adopt best practices for doing business.

Some members want to use the Chamber as a platform for lobbying government, whether in Romania or in the UK. Both are within the Chamber’s authorised objects of activity. In the UK we can work through the BCC to lobby government and in Romania we work through Coaliția pentru Dezvoltarea României with other foreign chambers and Romanian business organisations to lobby, but there is no reason why enough of the Chamber’s members in a particular sector should not get together to lobby directly through platform provided by the Chamber.

The key to all of this is resources: the people who do this work need to be either paid staff or volunteers. Although the Chamber is not for profit, the Board is responsible for balancing the books and making sure that our activities are matched by our resources so the more members we have, the more that we can do: we do not receive funding from any government. If you are not yet a member, why not consider joining? The more you put into the Chamber, the more you will get from it.