Our Small Business and Retail Committee met up for the first time since COVID-19 entered our reality this week. The feedback from this group of Fremantle business leaders was so clear and strong. The last two months have been hard, challenging but also creative and inspiring. Fremantle’s strength lies in its creativity and ability to do things differently, and in the network that ties us together.
We heard stories of those who rapidly shifted their businesses to address the new world – using their online store and social media to get their customers re-imagining and using the time to contact to enquire about products or services, reducing their hours to sell more things via appointment than standing around waiting for customers, taking time to renovate and do the jobs that have been on the sidelines to ensure their businesses shine when the doors re-open and making calls to touch base and make connections with their suppliers, new clients and old clients.
It was clear from the feedback that the trend we noted last year towards local and neighbourhood have actually become our new, and only, reality.
The conversation led me to re-consider the way we have been looking at networking for the Chamber. Today I took a deep dive into the feedback from our 2020 Chamber Survey. As I noted in last week’s CEO Update, respondents to the survey fell into two camps – almost equally divided between those who join to give back and appreciate the role the Chamber plays in being a common voice for local business, and those who join simply to gain referrals and opportunities as individuals.
The latter group of respondents tend to define networking by the number of leads they personally generated, or the number of like minded associates who met an event over wine, or for some there was a strong perception that “the Chamber”itself was meant to be part of their marketing team,there to do the work for us and generate business consistently for our own companies.
While I believe traditional networking will always be a strong part of our role, I wonder if our Chamber connections need to go deeper than that and we need to individually take more responsibility for giving leads, before in turn we receive them. To take the time to be part of a larger voice advocating for each other before we expect others to solve our problems. Like many businesses are finding internally, is this time a chance to find a new way to do things when we can’t just meet up in the ways of old.
Kate Trainer from Endota Spa wisely suggested that as a group of business leaders committed to Fremantle, we need to find ways to give to each other, to go out of the way to do business with each other and then our network can grow in ways that are built on real connections, community, common ties and longevity.
I put this to the test on Monday as my old blue Subaru broke down on the highway, and was towed not once but twice before finally meet its reckoning in a way that the local mechanic said he hadn’t seen in his 25 years of being a car mechanic.
Instead of heading straight to carsales.com.au, Kellie, our Events and Media Officer suggested I pick up the phone and give my business to Chamber Corporate Partners Toyota-Melville. Within one phone call Kate Findlater had gathered her team, found a car for me (that ironically ticked every box I could have imagined), put me in contact with three very knowledgeable and passionate local employees, and offered to drop the car round for a test drive on her way home. By simply making this choice to give my business to a Chamber member, I felt like the universe had lined up to make a difference to solving my problem.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to create an extension of ourFremantle from the InsideMap and campaign to find the links between our membership base. We will create an easy guide and reference tool to profile our membership base that isn’t just a directory, but a guide for giving our business to our community.
We will need your help to do this though so please start to share with us how your business models have changed, when you are open, what you are doing differently and then keep your eyes on our socials (Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin), read the member profiles in our Chamber Weekly or phone direct when you are about to procure services to see if a Chamber member can help you.
We will be launching a new website next month and will integrate this process into a way that you can take control of the way you profile your business to Fremantle, and your fellow Chamber members.
The diversity of our membership base covers large and small businesses, it covers professional services to health, creative industries to tech, export to retail, attractions to accommodation, building to engineering, MPs to property, media to marine and so many more. The one thing we have in common is that we chose and pride ourselves on doing business in the greater Fremantle region.
Please just email firstname.lastname@example.org call 9335 2711 if you want to put your hand up to procure locally – from a mothers day gift to assistance with commercial landlords.
Lets start by sharing the responsibility to ensure our local businesses thrive and own the accountability to help each other ride out this storm.
This is how we build a sense of the density and proximity of businesses that will kick start the COVID-19 recovery and how we create the virtual network that we all need to make our businesses grow. It is after all the reason why we chose to do business in Fremantle.
Keep your eyes and ears to the ground for ways to give your business and interest to other local businesses and through belonging, we all receive.
Image Credit: Fremantle Prison
Read more of the CHAMBER WEEKLY HERE