So, a lot has happened recently… Yvette Etcell, who many of you will know from her role at Gavin Jones, has now retired and is living in Wales. That also means she has retired from her position as the President of the Surrey Chambers. So, as the Vice President, I’ve stepped up and assumed many of her duties. I chaired my first Chambers Council meeting this month, and my first Board Meeting.
One thing struck me, though. We are a membership organisation, and both the Council and the Board are here to represent that membership. But, our membership is very diverse. We may be a small geography in the South East of England – but we have members who are on very different parts of their business own journey.
From the energised start-ups, full of optimism, desperately seeking new customers and expert advice; to the small businesses who have carved out their niche and are comfortable with their direction and focus; through to the growing SMEs who are battling recruitment challenges as their business continues to grow; to the larger professional services firms with multiple partners looking at succession planning; and on to the large global businesses who operate on a much larger stage than many of us could possibly understand.
As you can see, the challenges faced by all of Surrey’s businesses are going to be very different. Yet, the Chambers has a duty to represent all of those businesses and provide support and assistance where it can.
When I first joined the Chambers, we were a small start-up business. We knew what we were doing, when it came to ‘fixing computers’ – but we didn’t know what we were doing when it came to the wider aspects of running a business. VAT Returns? HR Advice? Contracts? Marketing Strategy? Statute of Limitations? The Chambers were a valuable source of advice for us in those early years.
Then, as we grew, we were desperate for new customers. We’d chase any opportunity for revenue to support our growing cost base. The Chambers were there to help provide a useful forum to meet other local businesses at their Networking Events.
And now, as we’ve become a larger business with a UK-wide focus, the Chambers is there again, to help us meet our peers and share knowledge. I’ve learned a lot from the other members I’ve met. I’ve listened to their challenges and seen how they have resonated so closely with our own business.
But, I’ve also learned that we’re not a ‘larger business’! Seeing those companies around us, who employ more people, and enjoy different challenges, has made me realise that there’s still a long way to go on our own business journey!
I hope to use all of this experience and knowledge whenever I chair the Chamber’s Board and Council meetings. All businesses share common themes. But many have completely different challenges. And I need to make sure that all of them are represented.
So, please get in touch with me if you have any stories to share. The more members that I meet in this role, the better I’ll be able to understand all of the challenges, and the better I’ll be at helping the Chambers to properly represent your needs.
In the meantime, can I take a moment to thank the outgoing President, Yvette Etcell, for her service to the Chambers. As I’m just beginning to learn, it’s quite a daunting role that she performed!