This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

depending on geography. I understand different regions face different economic challenges and certainly don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all anything. But last time I checked, the act of doing business was the same – whatever you do, wherever you are, whenever you do it. The need for regions to engage in their

own long-term strategies to create an environment for buoyant trade is self evident. However, this is the global economy, for better or worse. The best businesses are embracing online markets and international trade, precisely to break free of the constraints of localism. These are the chosen ones that the Government is targeting with the only support left in town, even creating a new business category to describe these entrepreneurs: the ‘gazelle’. Gazelles still care about their local area,

but are they really overly concerned with doorstep demand? In today’s business world, the localism message of the chambers may have less relevance. Of course, the irony is that anyone

involved in international trade should be knocking down the door of their local chamber of commerce. The chamber is an international phenomenon with a presence in virtually every country.

Consistent direction

Understanding how best practice is shared amongst chambers is not as simple as it first seems.

Best practice is individual to each chamber, as they are so diverse

Derek Phillips is clear that best practice

is “individual to each chamber, as they are so diverse”. According to Caroline Williams, “the British Chambers of Commerce can only recommend changes. It must be something we all care enough about before we can all go in the right direction”. Dr Marshall also concedes that best practice is “bottom up” and that the role of the BCC is to “coordinate”. I have no doubt that individual chambers

share their knowledge. Issues of strategic importance are shared in a formalised process through quarterly chief executive’s meetings and other similar committees. For example, I understand supply chain devel- opment is high on the agenda for all of the chambers right now, as is how to “become more relevant to particular sectors”. However, the lack of any centralised decision making on this issue makes it challenging to establish exactly what the national best practice has been, or what it will be going forward. Faced with a vacuum of hard data, I can only conclude that regular sharing of best

practice amongst chambers is happening, but organically and in pockets through contact with adjacent local organisations. When it comes to best practice, the

chambers share the same inherent weakness as the old Business Link network, albeit that they view their differences as a strength, and the additional cost as accept- able if they are able to remain focused on the local needs of their membership. I am told that a shared and consistent

offering remains high on the agenda for the chambers. However, until they reach a common understanding on this issue, businesses will inevitably experience variances in service provision and quality across the network.

Compulsory membership

When I interviewed him last year, Lord Heseltine, the founder of Business Link, cited failing to introduce public law status for chambers when he was President of the Board of Trade as the one thing he would go back and change. Derek Phillips describes public law status as “a tax in any other name”, as it would compel all businesses to join their local chamber, whether they wanted to or not. But supporters believe compulsory membership would build a wealthy chamber, like those on the Continent, reducing the need for Government support of businesses. So what exactly is the chambers’ policy on conscripting paying businesses to the ranks?

page 8 Better Business No 189 7

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36