This month marks the halfway point in my term of my Presidency at your Chamber.
The first 12-months have passed with increasing speed as my role and the activities of your Chamber have expanded. We have been regularly forging closer links with Birmingham Chamber Group to the advantage of all our members. Simultaneously, we have been making good progress in building our relationships with Staffordshire Chamber and the LEPs.
Often this work is taking place behind the scenes and goes unnoticed. However, it is of vital importance in enhancing the reach and connectivity of this Chamber. Our Executive Director, Chris Plant, plays a leading role along with the Chamber Council in these activities.
Membership has risen to new levels for our Chamber. It continues to expand as we represent the interests and particular needs of local businesses in Burton and District. Members are reporting that their Chamber is delivering important support and advice on a regular basis; and that its major events, like ‘Let’s Do Business’, are providing added impetus and encouragement for businesses to expand and develop.
My initiatives as your President to encourage Patronage of your Chamber and building relationships through the Institute of Asian Business (IAB), are taking shape. These two activities offer important opportunities for the Chamber.
Correspondingly, they involve key challenges. Building the foundations to ensure they will provide the means for the Chamber to continue to flourish and extend its representation into new areas is the key; and discussions are continuing with respect to both initiatives.
There have been significant opportunities and developments reported in the past 12 months reflecting the continuing expansion and prosperity for business in East Staffordshire and the West Midlands. This progress has been made despite some storm clouds on the horizon. It clearly illustrates the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial abilities of local companies, as they continue to build new markets for their products and services.
Talking recently with local representatives of our membership, I was interested to learn that several have found developing their own informal networking, with other Chamber members, to be a valuable spin-off. In particular, sharing ideas and plans without breaking commercial confidentiality have delivered special insights.
At Yee Group, I know from personal experience that other companies have faced similar issues and circumstances to my own when expanding the operational catchment beyond The Midlands. Successfully winning and then completing works, in say London or Manchester, brings with it an individual set of ‘rules’.
Sharing what some call ‘best practice’ has been a positive experience for my business and other local Chamber companies. I am constantly amazed that one small piece of advice can open a door, or shed important light on a problem that could otherwise be highly problematic and, even costly, if not handled professionally.
In this context, if you would be interested in your Chamber facilitating or arranging meetings to discuss and share ideas and approaches, do let Chris Plant or myself know.
Fitting all the pieces of the business jigsaw together remains a high priority in the competitive markets in which we operate. According to Company Check in their Business Census 2016 survey, 75% of respondents reported that they are expecting positive continued growth this year.
However, this optimism is being tempered by concerns about skills shortages and according to the survey, this is ‘a major problem for employers at a time when businesses are seeking to take advantage of the good economic climate and take on more work’.
In this arena, the introduction of the new Staffordshire Business Hub is to be commended. It is increasingly clear that the LEP sees this as a vital programme with the specific remit of supporting business growth. Personally, I am particularly impressed that The Growth Hub is ensuring that ambitious businesses are fully aware of all of the support which is available to them.
Looking at this initiative, I would encourage all businesses to check out what is on offer through the Growth Hub. I am confident that many businesses will be agreeably surprised at the range of support available.
If your company has an innovation, special announcement, an award, or information that you would like us to share on your behalf with Chamber members, then please email our Executive Director, Chris Plant, [email protected]
I welcome feedback and comment on this column and the work and activities of the Chamber. You can contact me at [email protected]
President of Burton and District Chamber of Commerce
Managing Director, Yee Group Limited