Much more than a Tour

Much more than a Tour

 

We have organized tours of businesses on the Saanich Peninsula now for 9 years for our Tour of Industry. To date, we have visited approximately 36 of them and the Tour remains one of the most popular activities we undertake, for several reasons.

The first reason is that many of the businesses we have been privileged to see over the years are leaders in their field but do not have clients or customers in this area. They have developed ground-breaking technology, innovative products or services and yet little is known about them at the local level. It is like a treasure hunt uncovering these gems in our own back yard.

Another reason we know so little about many of these businesses is that business leaders are busy! Their work day extends far beyond the hours their employees work. It is not on their priority list to let the wider community know the fantastic nature of their operation. We never have an issue with businesses agreeing to open their doors to us despite the challenges present in shepherding almost 60 people at a time through their work areas. We present them with an audience of community leaders eager to hear their story and they are pleased to have the opportunity to brag, at our request, about their success.

When the Tour ends, our guests frequently express two main themes for why it was a valuable use of their day: they learned fascinating features of each of the businesses toured and they often had not anticipated the quality of interaction they would experience with their fellow guests. The Tour of Industry is networking on steroids. Imagine a moving mixer attended by participants who are leaders in their own areas of influence. Kind of like speed dating with a different seat mate en route to each new destination.

There are a few other reasons the franchise has prevailed: we throw in a meal with a guest speaker, we have stellar organizations that step up every year to sponsor, and, crucial to the event’s success, we have an embarrassment of industrial riches on the Saanich Peninsula and have yet to exhaust our possibilities for interesting, successful enterprises to tour.

What the heck are soft skills and why are they important?

There is a significant shift underway in our workplaces. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study predicts that 5 million jobs will be lost to artificial intelligence and robotics before the year 2020. Many other jobs will be created through this period of fast-paced change but in order to compete, workers will need to be highly reactive and adaptive.

Occurring simultaneously to the skills disruption resulting from rapid advancements in technology is a skills gap identified by employers who say that hires who have recently graduated have the skills to complete their assigned tasks but overall are unable to meet expectations because they lack the all-important “soft skills”. Investopedia defines soft skills as character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. Many of these employees have not developed crucial abilities such as critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution, public speaking, teamwork, attention to detail and effective communication including proficiency in their written work.

The real disconnect is that recent graduates describe themselves as feeling well-prepared to enter the workforce but managers overwhelmingly disagree. Co-worker relations and customer service suffer, often leading to a significant loss of productivity.

Soft skills are not only indispensable in the workplace but help people make better decisions, be more resilient and better able to overcome challenges in their lives. Now for the good news: in the short-term, the necessary skills can be gained on-the-job through instruction, experience and mentorship. An important long-term strategy will be to restructure the programs in our institutions of learning so our leaders of the future will have focused on their social and emotional development in addition to career-specific training. Survival and success in this new frontier of technically-dependent workplaces will be predicated on our level of agility and emotional intelligence.

 

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Giving Thanks

It seems appropriate to devote this month’s space to expressing the gratitude I feel to be a resident of this community and a support-person for this organization in particular.

I have an immense appreciation for the beauty, amenities and people who choose to live and work on the Saanich Peninsula. This is a community that thrives due to the efforts of volunteers. In our organization, we continue to build community through business under the leadership of our dedicated volunteer board members.  The passionate volunteers who staff our Information Centre each year are the reason thousands of visitors and locals learn what is special about this area.

The team is crucial. We have a lot happening in the office on any given day and without Office Manager Pat Taylor and administrative support from Ilka McKenzie, the magic would not happen. They are skilled, committed to contributing to our members’ success and execute their tasks with precision and professionalism.

We exist to support our members. We are one of a number of volunteer community organizations but are the only one dedicated to the success of business and this is important because business is the heartbeat of our society.

Business leaders sponsor sports teams, contribute to the food bank and support the arts.  They contribute to the tax base that funds our schools, policing and infrastructure. There have been studies done that demonstrate a link between small-business success and improved community-well being in areas such as better health of citizens and lower crime rates. Researchers have discovered that in communities where locally-owned businesses dominate, citizens are more active, there are stronger social networks, larger numbers of community organizations and superior public infrastructure.

There is something to be said for doing business with people who know us.  The independent business community that exists here supports human connection. While errands and shopping get done, impromptu conversations are sparked with friends and neighbours. This kind of interaction is the foundation of an engaged and resilient community.  With this as our bedrock, all challenges can be tackled!

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

The Race Has Begun

The Race has Begun

Despite the municipal election being almost a year away, there has already been considerable conversation in the community about the issues and candidates that will surely feature large in this next election. The community benefits when residents and business owners stay engaged in the political process and that is definitely the case on the Saanich Peninsula. This chamber has been building community through business alongside our municipal counterparts since 1912. Suffice to say, the members of our organization make up many of this interested and engaged stakeholder group.

In the interest of community spirit, we offer a few words of encouragement to those good people who are considering putting their name forward for office. These suggestions are based on research with those who have walked before you as well as from those folks who will be working with you post-election.

Perhaps the most important criteria for your success is that you have at least a basic understanding of the issues you will be facing in your community. Single-issue candidates rarely do well. If your goal is to be elected to overturn a specific decision of a previous council, you are less likely to succeed as compared to a candidate who is focused on the future, is knowledgeable about the community and campaigns on a desire to create collaborative networks.

Start your education and campaigning early. Join committees. Attend council meetings. Talk to many people, especially those who do not share your views. Get familiar with local bylaws, annual reports, Official Community Plans, Local Area Plans, budget reports, committee reports and council meeting minutes.

On the flip side of the election coin, our members have asked how they can have their views better represented by councillors who have been accused of putting the interests of residential tax payers above those of businesses. To these members we offer the following advice: take advantage of the opportunity to talk to the councillors who attend our mixers, events, board meetings and Tours of Industry. Engage with candidates while they are out in the community, concentrating on those whose views you do not share and make them aware of your concerns. Express appreciation for their public service and publicly acknowledge the efforts of the municipality for the positive steps taken to bolster business interests specifically and the community generally. If you find one or more candidates whose goals align with your own, you have the option to contribute to their campaign.

It is going to be an interesting election and we look forward to working with those of you who bravely step forward to apply your time and talents in support of your community.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Why the Model Still Works.

Why, after more than 400 years, the Chamber model still works

Let’s call networking what it actually is: connecting. Strategically, many business owners see networking as strictly a means to generate referrals. One of the benefits of belonging to our chamber is that, unlike many other networking groups, we don’t restrict participation based on gender, industry type or geographical location. What you will discover when you attend one of our events, is that our members are friendly, interested and most of all, very willing to support another person doing business on the Saanich Peninsula.

One of the referral groups I have been asked to promote to our members is Business Networking International (BNI). Being a proud supporter of chambers of commerce for many years, I thought it worthwhile to consider how our two organizations differ. BNI members join with the expectation that their participation in weekly meetings will generate referrals that convert to actual business.

So how are we different? First off, chamber membership is much less expensive and our benefits go well beyond referrals. Your membership payments support initiatives that exclusively benefit our community. We are continually evolving to increase the value to members. Did you know that we certify documents for goods being exported? Or that we offer a discounted Panorama Employee Wellness Pass for small businesses? Even as a solo entrepreneur, our Chambers of Commerce group insurance plan has coverage options.  Do you or one of your employees wear glasses or contacts? We have a member discount for that too. Soon we will be offering discounted home insurance. All this and more, including networking and the opportunity to expand your client list, is available to you through chamber membership.

I will leave you with this recent evaluation from one of our members, who, because he had not actively participated in any of our events concluded that he was not getting benefit from his membership and had decided not to renew. Then he asked his new customers how they had heard about him and discovered that they had learned about his business from our online Member Directory. Not surprisingly, he renewed. Like this member, you may not fully appreciate the ways in which your membership is working for you, but it always is.

 

Productive Engagement

Voltaire said, “I might disagree with your opinion, but I am willing to give my life for your right to express it.” I have a slight disagreement with Voltaire. I am willing to give my life for your right to hold an opinion if it is based in relevant expertise but even then, I do not agree that you have a right or an obligation to express it.

We have many opinions. In fact, we express our opinions on a variety of subjects every day just by the choices we make: the car we drive, the clothes we wear, the food we eat. These, and many others of our opinions have been formed by our life experiences, world views, and often, our privileges.

There are various levels of opinions – the most legitimate being those grounded in science and expertise. Then there are those that are based on our politics and ideas of what others should do and finally there are those that include our personal experiences, likes and dislikes. One’s subjective beliefs are more difficult to defend. The saying “everyone is entitled to their opinion” only means that we can think whatever we like but our opinion is not more deserving of respect than anyone else’s and we are under no obligation to express it. And yet, people do. Opinions are voiced every day in letters to the editor, as comments online, and in other public fora. Often these opinions are trotted out like facts and are garnished with condescension, sarcasm, and cynicism.

Many opinions are not facts; rather they are judgments and assessments and are masquerading as passive-aggressive advice. Opinions can be wrong and ill-conceived and that they are widely held and shared does not make them valid.

The quality of public and personal engagement would be elevated if we considered the following when our opinions are burning to be shared: Do I have the information and actual expertise to form an opinion? Why do I believe my opinion ought to be shared? Am I sharing it with the right people? Have they asked for my opinion? Will the sharing of or my delivery of my opinion diminish other people’s willingness or opportunity to communicate their opinions?

It is important that our privilege and fundamentalist beliefs don’t give us the false idea that our opinions are more significant than anyone else’s. Listen to opinions that differ from your own – especially those based in expertise. Leave room for others to influence discussions. There is wisdom in knowing what you don’t know. Superiority is illusory.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Cheers to our Volunteers

In honour of National Volunteer Week which was celebrated the last week of April, I wish to acknowledge our new Board of Directors:

Doug Walker, President (Cambium Leadership)
Gordon Benn, Vice President (Pearlman Lindholm)
Sheila Henn, Treasurer (Paterson Henn Chartered Professional Accountants)
Tara Keeping, Secretary (Tiger Lily Events)
John Treleaven, Past President (The Treleaven Consulting Group) (more…)

Embracing Diversity of Opinion

An investment in your local Chamber of Commerce is an investment in your own prosperity, as a businessperson and as a member of the community. Our role is to promote business, monitor all levels of government and champion managed growth in the economy.

As the voice of business, we mobilize like-minded individuals who, together, work to cultivate a community with a healthy, diversified, economy. The events and activities we undertake are a means to achieve that end.

On occasion, we take a position that is unpopular with some of our members. Organizations can experience paralysis and overload when they try to be all things to all people. We, at this Chamber, would rather be seen to be being proactive than to be doing little by attempting only those activities where we had consensus. And so, while it is never comfortable to have members unhappy with our choices, we trust that our purposes remain aligned and we will continue working together to see the Peninsula become the very best place to live, work, and play.

One duty we take very seriously is to continue stimulating passionate discourse on the Saanich Peninsula!

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Be it Resolved

Tis the season for considering the successes and challenges of the past year while making plans for the New Year. In the spirit of making resolutions, we offer some straightforward suggestions for optimizing your financial health in 2017 by making good use of your Chamber benefits. We would rather you didn’t feel the same way about your Chamber membership as you do about that unused gym pass.

  • Take advantage of the opportunities we offer to market your business. The more you interact with us, the better informed and able we are to promote your business on your behalf.

 

  • Attend our events. You are your brand and the more others in the community see you, the more likely they are to remember you when making purchasing decisions.

 

  • When attending events, use the time wisely. Create connections and relationships rather than contacts or business prospects. It doesn’t have to be a painful process. Be curious and learn about a couple of people at each event.

 

  • Use your time strategically. All chamber members are important but some have more potential to you than others. Maximize your networking time by connecting with and fostering relationships with those members who are more likely to be prospective clients.

 

  • Consider how you can contribute to the success of other members or to the organization. When you act as a resource, you will be perceived as having more credibility and competency. Think about how you can bring value to the membership and give yourself the opportunity to showcase your talents and skills.

 

  • Leverage your profile in the community through sponsoring a chamber event. Bring a potential member to the events you attend so they and you can benefit from our growing network. Advertise on our website. Have your customers leave reviews on your online directory listing.

 

  • Finally, consider taking on a leadership role as a committee or board member. This will connect you with others who share your values. It provides an opportunity for others to see you as an authority, to garner respect and to have some fun. It’s true. We have fun.

A little motivation to get you started:  no matter how slowly you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch. Let us help you make next year your best year.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director

Change Always Comes Bearing Gifts

Ours is an organization that is inherently in flux due to our communities being in transition, yearly election of board members, changes in office staff, and the varying levels of involvement and participation of members. Change helps us grow and reveals our strengths and opportunities. It is essential that we check in periodically to ensure we are heading in a direction that continues to provide value to our members.

We recently undertook a strategic planning session that served to reinforce some of our assumptions and challenged others. The first step was to develop a vision and mission for our organization that our board and staff can hold up as a test or guide when considering future activities. We then established four strategic priorities and continue to develop specific items within those categories. We also agreed on activities that we need to stop doing.

The process was useful to help us re-focus on who we represent and to whom we hold ourselves accountable. I am pleased to say the plan has already been very useful to me and to our board as we move away from the provision of visitor services and look towards using our organizational resources in the highest service of our members.

Going forward you will see evidence of our belief that a healthy business community is essential to a healthy community. We will continue to work to see the Saanich Peninsula recognized and respected as the best place to do business. But first and foremost, you will see us supporting, promoting, and advocating for member-businesses on the Saanich Peninsula.

Denny Warner,

Executive Director, Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce