The brave souls who go into business for themselves are continuously faced with challenges to their success. Some of these will be outside their control. For example, businesses in this area have had to cope with downturns in the economy as well as competition from outside areas including big box and online sellers.
We have heard Peninsula businesses expressing more localized concerns recently that they suggest are responsible for decreased sales. These include a lack of parking, the number of developments underway which create impediments to the easy movement of customers and deliveries, and the belief that the look and size of some of the new builds negatively impacts the charm and livability of our community.
Even in dire economic situations there are always a select few entrepreneurs who succeed, indeed thrive, in spite of their challenges. So what makes these entrepreneurs different? Perhaps they have a better understanding of their inventory and knowledge of what appeals to their customers and their items are priced appropriately. Maybe they and their staff deliver customer service that wows, creating customer loyalty and repeat business. Maybe, despite a location that isn’t ideal, they have compensated with a stellar marketing campaign so their customers never have trouble finding them. Possibly, even though they are offering items their customers want, they realize it isn’t being showcased as well as it could be and seek expertise to help them create more appealing displays. Maybe they use customer feedback to determine optimal operating hours for their clientele. It could be they intuited the value to their business of a community-first mindset and have developed a mutually supportive network of fellow business-owners to share best practices and to whom they refer customers and employees.
The point is, they assess how they are contributing to their own success, or, lack thereof. No one person can excel at all aspects of their business. The trick is to figure out the areas in which you need help and build a team. It’s easier to look for outside factors and throw shade in that direction but it’s more satisfactory and realistic to start with what you can control and grow from there.
This email from one of our members arrived in my inbox one day. The sender had copied it to five employees within his organization. It read:
I am writing to express my most sincere gratitude to the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce for the unbelievable support you have offered to EMCS Industries Ltd (MARELCO).
From your initial support in providing us a letter of support, to the Tour of Industry, multiple informative articles…, Facebook exposure, SPCOC website and today the Chamber Directory…, I cannot thank you enough for putting us out there after being anonymous locally for so long. Anodes are now a known entity, and the enormous expense they save in the shipping industry is now almost common knowledge in our seaside paradise we call home.
With a new Anti Fouling product to be released to the recreational vessel market in the very near future, the fact that we will have a visible platform to work from is entirely thanks to the support we have received from the Chamber.
We are very excited about our future, and your support is, and will always be, paramount.
Please pass on our big thanks to all Directors and staff, we really appreciate you guys!
All the very best
Reading it made my year. The fact that it was unsolicited was the icing on a fantastic cake. I printed it out and hung it by my desk. It continues to inspire me and remind me that what we do truly makes a difference. You may be wondering if it was an isolated incident. It wasn’t.
We dropped the ball when we didn’t celebrate by sharing what our members were saying about us. When your customers tell you they love you, let people know! Testimonials send a clear signal to potential clients that your current customers trust and have faith in you. Trust is a precious commodity in business. Those unbiased, genuine opinions from the peers, friends, and neighbours of your potential clients represent a golden opportunity.
No more will we squander those precious testimonials. Taking our lead from a popular hot sauce tag line, going forward we will be sprinkling that sh*t on everything. And so should you.
You likely have not given much thought to how the items you buy arrived at the store. Almost 90% of all consumer goods (by weight) in Canada are moved, for at least a portion of their journey, by truck. On Vancouver Island that number is much closer to 100% as we rely, almost exclusively, on trucks to deliver our food, fuel, and other consumer goods. The trucking industry has grown by more than 30% in the last 10 years. According to ICBC insurance data, approximately 1000 new heavy duty commercial trucks are added to BC’s roads each year.
There are two issues that are going to materially change the way goods are transported in this country. First, by 2020, trucks and buses will be required to be fitted with Electronic Logging Devices. This is an important safety initiative and it will have significant impact on communities which will need to be prepared to host trucks and drivers with appropriate space and amenities when they park for their mandated rest periods. Companies are in desperate need of employees. Currently 93% of their drivers are men. Women are interested in the relatively high-paying driving jobs but the lack of safe rest spaces with facilities is a true barrier to employment in trucking for most women.
The second issue is an increasing awareness by the trucking industry that they need to become more green. Approximately 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions are produced by motor carriers. Tesla is producing an electric semi truck but the maximum distance it can travel is 800 km before charging and that distance can only be attained on flat terrain with limited load weight. Nikola plans to have its hydrogen trucks in production by 2020. Likely, the trucks of the future will be hydrogen/electric hybrids which will necessitate installation of fueling and charging stations.
For the more than 30 years our Information Centre has been in operation on the Pat Bay Highway, the site has acted as a de facto truck stop. Drivers stop here to transfer loads, take bathroom and smoke breaks, to teach new drivers, and to rest overnight. We don’t encourage all of these activities because their trucks take a toll on our curbs and pavement and the drivers are not always responsible users of the garbage cans and washrooms. Accommodating trucks and drivers is a strain on our Chamber’s limited financial resources. Our signs indicate we don’t allow overnight parking and occasionally the RCMP tell drivers they have to leave, but because they have nowhere else to go, there are several trucks parked here every night. Given our economic reliance on trucks and the goods they deliver, it is in our best interest to be more welcoming by providing safe, rest places with appropriate amenities.
For many years we have considered how we could make better use of our site on the highway and potentially make use of the property behind us to accommodate trucks. We will continue consultations with the BC Trucking Association and initiate discussions with BC Ferries, Ministry of Transportation and our own MLA, Adam Olsen in our efforts to provide support for the trucking industry. Our economic well-being depends on it.
In October 2017, Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation (CMHC) surveyed 2,507 Canadians who intended to buy a new home in the next two years. “In regard to the type of home buyers are planning to buy, single detached homes are preferred by the majority, especially by Current Owners (74%). Apartments and condominiums come in second, followed by semi-detached houses including duplex, and townhouses.”
Evidence shows that most of us would prefer to live in a detached home with a yard. Despite there being nowhere affordable for most of us to live in this area, when higher density projects are proposed, residents express concern about the community losing its charm, about parking, increased traffic, the shadows created by new buildings and debate the esthetics and style. The reality is that most of the locals who resist are not the people who are desperate to get into the market. A condo or apartment is a welcome first opportunity for home ownership.
In the middle are the planners, who include the municipal staff and council, who make the decisions about density. They are entrusted with the vision of the community, its livability quotient, and must weigh the views of residents who may be concerned about how density decisions will affect their home values, views and enjoyment of the streets against those of the developers who are justifiably protective of their project’s financial viability.
What is most curious is the way developers are described and the expectations asked of them that would be asked of no other entrepreneurs. Their risks are huge. The returns are not a given. Not many of us would be willing to wade into an entrepreneurial venture of similar scale, the merits of which will be debated in very public settings and scrutinized to an extent that few of us would allow or enjoy in our own businesses.
The Official Community Plan is a document that incorporates the values, priorities and vision for a community. Much has changed since 2007-2008 when the three municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula adopted their current OCPs. It is time for a review. Developers have a right to build under law. Land is not zoned ‘vacant’. Giving stakeholders an opportunity to provide input to these important strategic, visionary land-use planning documents will provide greater comfort and certainty to residents, decision-makers, developers and investors. In practice, we are all investors in our communities.
Introducing the Business Leaders of the Saanich Peninsula
Our organization gets things accomplished thanks to the hard work and dedication of a small staff and a large number of volunteers. We hosted our 106th AGM recently and when I heard our incoming President say that out loud, I felt immense appreciation for the community members who believed in this organization and stepped forward to volunteer in support, year after year since 1912.
That we have endured is a clear demonstration of the power of the chamber movement and of this organization in particular. We have changed and grown with the times. And while some of these changes were met with varying levels of approval, ultimately we evolved to serve our members and the community more efficiently and effectively. The signs are overwhelmingly positive for our future. We have a record number of volunteer directors. Our membership retention rate is high. Our events are better-attended than ever before. The mood is overwhelmingly positive around the board room table and in our office.
We have strong leaders at our back and the following community influencers raised their hands to lead us through 2018 and beyond. I am pleased and proud to present our new board of directors and look forward to seeing where they take us!
Dan Adair, Island Savings Credit Union
Ron Basi, Jencam Transport
Gordon Benn, Pearlman Lindholm
Andrew Bradley, Itty Bitty Sign Shop
Art Finlayson, Finalyson Bonet Architecture
Richard Flader, Flader Chartered Professional Accountant
Don Gulevich, Coastal Heat Pumps
Sheila Henn, Paterson Henn
D’Arcy Hipwell, The Bottle Depot
Andi Hook, Hook & Hook Renovations
Joe Jansen, Wilson’s Transportation
Tara Keeping, Tiger Lily Events
Reg Mooney, Penta Resources Corp.
Fraser Sim, BMT Group Services
John Treleaven, The Treleaven Consulting Group
Doug Walker, Cambium Leadership
Doug Wedman, Portfolio Strategies
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.
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.
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!
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.