As a valued long-serving member of Chamber, and a former President, Rupert Dorey is perfectly placed to look back – and forward…
Fresh from having just elected our first female President in our 212 year history, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on how Chamber has evolved over the years. As one of the longest current serving members on Chamber Council and the Executive (the latter, a more recent creation), with 10 years’ service under my belt, it is interesting to note what has changed, and indeed what hasn’t!
Chamber has fundamentally always been a members organisation, representing their business interests by helping to shape policy, acting as a critical friend to government, lobbying for action on important issues, and just as importantly, providing a conduit for keeping its members informed on topical issues relevant to business in its broadest sense. It has also been, for many years, a forum for informal networking among members with common interests. In that sense Chamber has not changed at all. These themes are just as strong today as they always have been.
So what has changed? For my part, Chamber is always evolving and metamorphosing. It is adaptable and responsive to changing circumstances, whether they be political or economic, or indeed social. It has always been interesting to reflect that more often than not an incoming President has rarely come up through the ranks of the Chamber hierarchy, and I was no exception having only been involved with Chamber for less than a year before taking on the Presidency. What this brings to Chamber is important. It brings fresh thinking and insight, a new perspective on topical issues, and an ability not to get shackled to “how things have always been done in the past”. It allows Chamber a certain agility, and to be responsive to changing circumstances, all the while respecting its own values.
The biggest change in Chamber in the last 10 years has been brought about by its physical move from our somewhat tired premises at Glategny Esplanade, to our magnificent new Market Place premises. This has transformed our ability to engage with members, offering a thoroughly modern and inclusive “Business Centre” that allows everything from “drop-in” visits to an ability to host on premises training and seminars, or just a free cup of coffee. Barrie Baxter, the outgoing President’s background in tech businesses, as well as his desire to make Chamber more accessible and representative to business of all types recognised that moving premises was fundamental to achieving this objective, and it has succeeded famously. It has breathed new life, vigour and enthusiasm into Chamber.
Proximity has also bought broader benefits too, in terms of Chambers engagement with both politicians and civil servants in Economic Development who are co-located upstairs, which permits seamless contact and engagement without the encumbrance of the formality that we previously experienced. This works to both of our advantage.
So, sitting down to our first Executive meeting chaired by our incoming (and very experienced) President Elaine Gray, I was curious and interested in equal measure to understand her plans and to hear how she wished to execute them. Every President has their own style, and Elaine is no exception. She is a very clear thinker , very articulate, and knows what she wants. She is a good listener and has an innate ability to “cut to the chase” without putting noses out of joint.
Elaine has a clear idea to rationalise the groups into both Industry and Policy buckets and take out some of the previous unwieldy structure. New groupings, such as Business Community also recognise the wider responsibilities that business has in determining “what constitutes good business” and also responsibilities which transcend incumbent industry groups. In a similar vein, the merging of other groups to better align with the Revive and Thrive mantra will equip Chamber to align better with Government initiatives.
I’ve no idea whether Elaine has ever studied the highly respected WW2 General, General Patton, but his management aphorism where he said that “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results” encapsulate her way of doing things. To my mind that is the kind of President she will be, just as effective, but with a much friendlier face!