This week I was honoured to be elected to the committee of our local chamber of commerce. I have been a member of the chamber for almost three years, during which time I have made valuable new business contacts and – more importantly – developed a keener understanding of the commercial and communication challenges facing small businesses.
Many people, I suspect, view chambers of commerce merely as interest groups (even social clubs) for local retailers. This may be true of some chambers, but ours, at least, has a good representation of other sectors too – and its activities go a long way beyond the purely social.
What all chambers share is the capability to drive regional economic growth – and to speak out on vital local issues.
It’s a simplistic view, I know, but for most SMEs there is always business potential on the doorstep – it just requires a concerted effort to encourage local communities to ‘buy local’. A similar effort may be needed at times, for example, to counter the enthusiasm of councillors and officials for changing parking arrangements to the detriment of some businesses.
A difficulty for some chambers – ours included – is that not all local businesses give financial or other support. The annual subscription is modest – so is not a valid excuse for apathy – and the reason for becoming involved should be a no-brainer. The challenge, therefore, is to recruit more members, so the chambers gain more muscle and a more powerful voice.
Our new committee will, no doubt, build on the excellent foundations laid by our predecessors. We will certainly be encouraging the community to look locally for customers and suppliers. We’ll also be recruiting members. My main aim as a committee member will be to ensure that the chamber communicates with greater power and effect than previously, and that we also empower members to communicate more effectively.
Have you considered how your local chamber could help your business – or what you could do to support the chamber? Get involved today!
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.