Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce (PRDCC) is headed in a new direction with the swearing-in of new board members on August 10.
New chamber president Daphne Thomson said this is an opportunity to modernize the chamber and re-engage with businesses and community members for a fresh foot forward.
Six directors were sworn into their official capacities by Herb Pond at the Chamber offices downtown with Thomson as president, Matthew Kloepper as vice president, Eric Campbell as treasurer, Glen Arthur, Hannah Madill and Rosa Watson as directors.
One of the main focuses of the new board is to revitalize membership and welcome the many small to mid-size businesses of the region into the organization to create a strong network of support.
Thomson said while she has been personally interacting with many entrepreneurs during the introductory community walks around city business, it has become clear from the feedback that business owners are searching for tips and coaching from the chamber.
Thomson is excited about this and explained that new chamber leadership in the community would add value for local businesses with a fresh start.
The president said that the need to create credibility and develop relationships is what the new chamber directors are tasked with. This starts with eye-to-eye contact, progressing to hand-to-hand, then shoulder-to-shoulder contact as any normal relationship would develop, she explained.
“We need to give back to our members … we need them to be aware of us. [The chamber] disappeared last year,” she said, explaining several steps involved in the new member engagement and retention strategies, such as using podcasts, blogs, and radio.
“We need to be out. And that’s why we started doing actual branded walks. Every Monday, we pop into the local businesses around us. We stop in to say hello, and what can we do better to serve you?”
Thomson said the chamber had upped its game by reaching out to the community. The feedback from the community has been phenomenal, she said, including the response to a new podcast series, “Getting down to Business,” that has started production and has spots booked by local businesses into October. The podcast will highlight the stories of community businesses and how they inspire the entrepreneurial spirit around them.
“Everyone wants to be part of it. They do see it as massive value. And that’s kind of how we are giving value back right now from a completely free perspective.”
“In every human relationship, you need to create excitement … We need to create that excitement. So within this, the business owner needs to feel, Hey, I really connected with the chamber,” she said.
She believes the chamber listening will create this feeling. Listening to members’ ideas about what they want to do, or events that can be planned or specific industry-related topics, she said, as well as the staples of Business after Business or the Rising Stars programme.
“We started listening to them, and [saw them] get excited. The minute you get excitement about some[thing] we can start giving a core offering. Our core offering is membership.”
Thomson said that building on all the available ways will help the chamber survive.
“It’s a completely fresh start, which I find an exciting time,” she said, explaining some restructuring internally with the creation of new administrative positions, which will be client-facing and a new monthly member meeting format.
The monthly luncheon will start with the first 15 minutes of actual business coaching.
“The majority of our small to medium enterprises feel like they don’t have a voice. They just started out, they really actually don’t know what they do. They know the product really, really well, but [maybe]they don’t know how to run a business and how to make a profit. They don’t know how to hire people, especially in this climate,” she said, adding the chamber is going to help them overcome these challenges.
“It gives a way for a member to also talk about his expertise and put them in a leadership or authority position. So it’s a win-win on both sides.”
The following 20 mins. will be a speaker giving a presentation with a question and answer session, and the final 15 mins. will be dedicated to networking and strengthening relationships within the business community.
She said the majority of the PRDCC comprises small to medium-sized enterprises, which is the backbone of any economy.
“We want to give them a voice. We want to make them feel secure. We want them to feel supported. So our focus this year is on them and how we can help them.”
To offer better service to members, she said the chamber is moving away from a one-person-centric model to a decentralized office system. There will be an office manager who completes daily operations, then possible outsourcing for the financial side of operations such as budgeting and accounting, then a possibility for a person to complete events and marketing. This is a similar operational structure which is successful to the White Rock Chamber of Commerce.
These administration positions will work with the board of directors and the chamber committees.
K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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