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Misunderstanding Your Chamber Of Commerce March 30, 2009

Posted by liverpoolchamber in News.

diving_chamber Liverpool Chamber’s CEO, Jack Stopforth, has penned a few words to help stop the confusion many people seem to have about what it is we actually do:

The celebrated management thinker and erstwhile Liverpool University lecturer C. Northcote Parkinson (of Parkinson’s Law fame) once wrote, “A failure to communicate produces a vacuum which is quickly filled with drivel, misrepresentation and poison”. How right he was. Another aphorism is that “when communication fails it is the fault of the transmitter, not the receiver”. Therefore, with some embarrassment I have to concede that our transmitter must be faulty.

Nationally, more than 5 million people work in businesses that are members of an accredited Chamber of Commerce, but every day I encounter businesspeople who know little or nothing about Chambers generally and Liverpool Chamber in particular.

In these interesting times, it has never been more important for businesses to appreciate the business opportunity represented by their local Chamber of Commerce and yet some frequently asked questions include:

“Aren’t you part of the Council?” – To which the answer is either “No” or “Hell, no!” depending on how upset we are with the debacle of the day. We are a business generating revenue through subscriptions and commercial services, from training to international trade. Think AA or RAC and you have a better feel for the business model.

“Aren’t you all about ‘funny handshakes’?” – Certainly not. We are not a secret society, a charity or a club. We are not Freemasons or Knights of St Columbus. We are a business whose job it is to promote the best interests of business. We have more than 1800 businesses in membership and this year we anticipate a turnover in excess of £9 million. Membership is open to all.

“Isn’t it all old men in suits?” – We have a young woman as Chair of the Chamber’s Council and another as Vice Chair of the Board. My Deputy CEO is female and a majority of our 90 staff (just) are, too. These include our Head of Members’ Services, Head of Policy, Events Manager and the General Manager of our training business, Trident Training. As for the “old men”, the average age of our board of directors, sadly excluding our Chairman and me, is around 42. Factor us in and it rises to 46.

“What is your day job?” – Some people assume that running the Chamber is a community service and that I must surely earn my daily bread doing something else. In fact, this is the fullest “full time job” I have ever had. With a multi-million pounds turnover, ninety staff, a Members Council, Board of Directors and latticework of committees to service, the Chamber takes a bit of managing.

“Sounds like a talking shop” – No it is not. We take businesses on international trade missions, train young people in business administration and other skills and run non-partisan political campaigns to ensure that politicians take the views of business intoJack Stopforth small account, whether in Wavertree or Westminster.  We work with the police to tackle business related crime, we help people start up in business and we help existing businesses procure substantial new accounts. Oh, and for every business event we run, there is a corresponding social do, so we like to have fun.

So there you go. Visit us at www.liverpoolchamber.org.uk to learn more, or call us on 0151 227 1234 if you’d rather speak to a real live person.

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1. Beth Bridges - March 30, 2009

I’m amazed by the people who have no idea what a Chamber is or even that we exist. Still, that’s much better than those who have misconceptions. When I meet someone who has never heard of a Chamber, I get the opportunity to create their first impression.

Here are some things that I hear:

“Aren’t you part of the city government?” (Usually said when someone wants us to transfer them to the water billing department)

“Don’t you get taxpayer money?”

“I have to be located in the same city as the Chamber to join.”

“It’s very expensive to be part of the Chamber.”

“That’s only for people who are into politics.”

All of these are untrue (as far as we are concerned). Fortunately, I find that most people are very open to learning more about the Chamber.

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