Why Chambers are no longer meeting the need of local businesses…..

Have Chambers had their day and is the FSB more in touch?

One of the things whilst reading some literature from a Chamber of Commerce recently was the focus on National views and large local/regional/national companies but where is the views of small business?

The ethos I have always seen it, is that your local Chamber of Commerce is just that — LOCAL but it seems this is far from the case these days, it just about making money and it doesn’t matter where it comes from. As a result, depending on the size of business, if you are paying more and in the regional/national press, you become their best friend and get Gold star treatment.

If you are a small business, the cost for you joining is around £200 per annum plus VAT which for the majority of UK Businesses is so wrong on so many levels! For a start, a lot aren’t VAT registered so that puts them at a disadvantage against others that are. Plus, for single person business (one of the fastest growing business sectors), this could be a one week’s wage to them! As an example (and I’m not going to name them), I looked at three Chambers and the cost for a single person business ranged from £200 to £500 plus VAT. If you were say a 2–5 or 2–10 size business, there was no difference in fees!

Yet if you go to Market Towns, they know the meaning of small business and you can be seeing the same brackets of employees range from £50 to around £350 plus VAT (in some cases there is no VAT). Yes you can say that the difference is that Market Towns take into account everything is run by members and there is no staff or building overheads but that’s the whole point — these Chambers are part of the business community and work together. However, when you move into cities and towns, they feel the need for offices and staff (which are sometimes target driven as part of their package) which really shows a separation from the businesses they are supposed to help and be there for. Thus, you start seeing that they are happy to take members from outside their name area because after all, it’s extra revenue and more targets met!

Also, if you are wanting to do anything within your local area, need help or advice, speaking to your Chamber can be a real nightmare as if you aren’t a member, “you ain’t getting help” so to speak! Join and then you may get some help but the help isn’t always relevant as they don’t have a grasp on your arena/sector and in many cases, the area your business located in!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking Chambers per say, but in their beginnings, they obviously set off with good intentions but as they have grown, they have turned into a business and the staff they have employed are driven by their job description, targets and pay rewards over anything to do with actually being there for any business within their area, whether they are a person working from home up to a company with 1000 plus employees at that location! You ask them something being a non-member and there is no help or if you are a member and need help, they won’t recommend local non-members for your business because a) they don’t know of them and b) they are too often stuck in their offices to know anything about the grassroots local businesses!

However, contrast this to local Market Town Chambers and they know every business and are they to help each other and promote one another whether they are members or not — a complete understanding Social Community and Social Engagement at play and all part of today’s Social Business world!!

So is there a solution or right way forward, can the Chambers ever be fixed? Yes I think they can be they truly need to go back their roots like Market Town Chambers or the FSB offer. FSB? Well yes, in part, I feel that the FSB have taken the ethos of Market Town Chambers taken regionally and nationally without comprising their support for support and assistance to the businesses in their areas whether members or not.

Over my around 30 years involved with the Business Community, whether this be in Warwickshire, West Midlands, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, or plus spending time in areas such as Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Herefordshire, Greater Manchester and Greater London, the closest I’ve come to with regards to body like the Town/City/Regional Chamber of Commerce is the FSB. Why do I say the , one simple stand out fact, is that their representatives work from their own home! Thus, they are in their home communicating with members or out meeting and engaging with local businesses in the area they manage and look after. And guess what — this means non-members and paying members too! Whether it has been a networking event or an FSB event, if you hear a business ask for help or enquire about anything, the FSB representative will say “do you know x” or “you should speak to y” whether x or y is a member or not! This is a national organisation operating on a local level like Market Town Chambers and understanding the ethos of Social Community and Social Engagement — again, the essence of today’s Social Business world.

Also, you have to understand, that in my opinion, they have clearly have understood the meaning of company size against membership fees and put in to place a simple clear structure which applies whether you are in Cornwall, Scotland or Central London. So, a common pricing structure and this is something Chambers of Commerce’s aren’t interested in as they are just looking to gather income to cover their costs instead of being there to represent local businesses in my honest opinion!

The structure is so clear 0 (perfect something like myself as I work for myself/self-employed and don’t employ any one), 1–4, 5–10,11–20, 21–30, 31–40, 41–50, 51–100,101–150 and 151–249 employees and this applies across the UK. (Note they charge extra per employee 250 and above). And whichever band you fall into, the price is exactly the same throughout thus effectively operating like a business when selling you something, price is based on the quantity you need and want for that product.

Now before you before you think that is a Chamber bashing post and you must join the FSB, no it’s not. As again, in my opinion, I think the FSB has got many things wrong — possibly because they were sold a line or two as some of their offers they are offering their members are above market prices and need to bring the offerings in-house to actually benefit not just themselves but their members too — or should they? Yes they include Legal Helplines and Assistance but this — in my honest opinion — is what any good local solicitor would offer you and the legal documents/templates may or may not be a good thing, I’ll leave you to decide…

The whole essence of this article for you to read, is that as a business, you need to not just be in the selling mode whilst you are working. You need to take notice of their way Market Town Chamber officials/Members or local FSB representatives operate, they all talk to one effectively 24/7 whether in a work setting or social environment. Just think about this for a minute…..

You are out having a meal, a drink or with friends and you get introduced to someone, 9 times out of 10, you ask each other what you do and then here it comes, “oh you must know x” and then a conversation strikes up.

That is exactly how Market Town Chambers and FSB Representatives operate, without any fuss they are there to help via Social Engineering, Social Networking and Social Selling without seeking any payback at all — the pure essence of understanding and being part of today’s Social Business world and culture…….

And in my honest opinion, something today that has being lost with Chambers of Commerce as after all, it’s job and I get paid!

After, what’s that saying……..

“I’m alright jack”

So, whether you are looking for #NewWayToEngage, #NewWayToWork or #TheSocialFamily — Ian Calvert can help move both and your business forward

Ian Calvert provides a range of Services whilst being a Brand Ambassador, Brand Advocate, Brand Evangelist and Social Business partner for many companies not just in the UK but Globally too.

Thus, by keeping ahead of the game, Ian Calvert can help leverage and build the foundations for bringing both you and your company into 2018/2020 today.
To discover more, feel free to contact via his website here.