Russell Bedford International opened its 2023 conference season with the Americas Conference (Conferencia Iberoamericana and North American Regional Meeting). The conference, which took place at Hotel Barceló Bávaro Palace, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, 19–22 January 2023, drew members from across the Americas region to this phenomenal location.
Opening with a welcome drinks’ reception at the Lounge Spa rooftop terrace in the Bávaro Palace on Thursday, 19 January, delegates and their guests then proceeded to dinner.
With the sun shining gloriously, day one of the conference commenced with pre-meeting networking followed by concurrent sessions in both English and Spanish.
Delegates received a warm welcome from host firm representative Ana Carolina Franco Soto and listened to an update on the global network from Russell Bedford’s CEO, Stephen Hamlet, along with presentations from Chair, Daniel Ryba and board member for the LATAM region, Javier Jiménez.
The first formal session of the day for the North American meeting was ‘Boosting human connection to gain influence and build better business relationships,’ delivered in English by communications coach, Sebastián Lora. Centered around the idea of ‘charisma’, Mr Lora explained the importance of authenticity, using both words and body language to enhance and support effective communication with the aim of forging stronger business relationships.
Partner at Russell Bedford Querétaro, Roberto Cruz, presented simultaneously with his session in Spanish ‘Soft Landing: How to network and attract external investors’, a topic of particular importance for the Latin region which sparked excellent conversation and engagement throughout.
Sessions paused for a coffee break, offering an opportunity for networking with delegates from around the region.
After the break, delegates attending from the North American region exchanged updates from each attending member firms, while Sebastián Lora re-joined to deliver his presentation, this time in Spanish.
Following the sessions, delegates congregated for an International Buffet Lunch and to continue their discussions in the Palace Hotel.
Another two concurrent sessions followed after lunch. The North American firms joined a discussion on practice management issues with a focus on talent recruitment and retention and growth through M&A, which was led by board member Deanna Salo.
Spanish speakers attended a session led by Marinella Sallent (Director of the Dominican Republic’s National School of Dance) on ‘Leadership in dance and lessons for business’, which drew parallels between the dedication and commitment demonstrated by the talented dancers and the core values of the Russell Bedford network. An insightful presentation – which even ended with a group merengue lesson for delegates to enjoy!
Another networking break followed, with further concurrent sessions resuming shortly after, as Ms Sallent delivered her presentation as a panel discussion in English accompanied by host firm representative Ana Carolina Franco Soto, while Spanish speakers joined together for internal discussions surrounding issues affecting the COIBE members.
Following the close of the daytime programme, delegates took advantage of some free time to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and their stunning surroundings before reconvening for dinner together at selected restaurants at the hotel.
Day two opened once more with pre-meeting networking followed by concurrent sessions. These included practice management issues for North American firms led by Steve Horn, which focused on pricing strategies and alternative business models for CPA firms, while Spanish speakers resumed their internal COIBE discussions.
Up next, Jennifer Diaz and Coraly Schreiber (Diaz Trade Law, Miami) delivered their talk in English on ‘Current international trade challenges from a U.S. perspective’. Meanwhile, Mr Magin Diaz, former Director General of the Dominican Tax Authority and International Tax Consultant for the World Bank and Interamerican Bank delivered a presentation in Spanish on ‘Advancements and challenges in LAC’s tax systems.’
Following a networking break, concurrent sessions resumed. These included a roundtable discussion in English on network development in North America led by Kempton Bedell-Harper, Network Development Director, while the Latin meeting welcomed Jennifer Diaz and Coraly Schreiber who this time presented in Spanish.
As the formal programme concluded, delegates broke for an International Buffet Lunch in the Palace Hotel before gathering together on the dazzling Caribbean beach for an afternoon of team building exercises, led by the Russell Bedford Central Office.
The session began with an icebreaker challenge where individuals had to complete their answer sheets as quickly as possible, speaking to their fellow delegates to match them to the different descriptions. The group was then split into teams and was set the task of taking a photo to visually represent the network and what it means for them. Symbolism, creativity and technical quality were assessed, and delegates used the beautiful surroundings to bring their photos to life, encapsulating the various themes of connectivity, collaboration and togetherness which are at the heart of the Russell Bedford network.
Speed and strategy were then tested as teams headed out on a beach scavenger hunt to track down a list of items. While judging took place, the pace changed to allow delegates to become more reflective and connect on an emotional level, delving into each other’s past experiences and hopes and wishes for the future. The afternoon ended with a presentation and de-brief from CEO, Stephen Hamlet, before the winners were officially crowned!
Following the day’s activities, delegates enjoyed some downtime before coming together for the final event of the programme, with a dinner and private party at Bar la Piña on the beach. Everyone celebrated the end of a successful conference and continued to enjoy each other’s company late into the evening, while availing of the hotel’s extensive entertainment facilities.
Speaking about the conference, CEO, Stephen Hamlet said: “The Americas Conference has delivered an exceptional start to the network’s 2023 conference season. It has been wonderful to experience such enthusiasm from our people of North and Latin America as we begin this new year, demonstrating such potential from our member firms. This conference has inspired and ignited new ideas among attendees, providing me with the knowledge that the best is yet to come from our expanding network. A fantastic start to Russell Bedford’s year!”
Russell Bedford’s chair, Daniel Ryba added: “What a pleasure to connect with members from across the Americas region at this spectacular location. As I begin this new and exciting journey as chair of this diverse and dynamic network, I am so happy to witness the positivity within each and every one of our member firms and their continued commitment to taking their firms further.”