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For Business Networks in Port Macquarie-Hastings, Community Comes First

Business Networks are evolving to infuse human-ness into businesses

The concept of the village is back in fashion. Individualist thinking and survival of the fittest have become outdated ways of living.

Community is now the buzzword for the challenging times we are living in. And that is a way of thinking that is growing in businesses. Doing business is no longer about being the biggest shark and swimming in dangerous waters, or using underhanded tricks to get the cash register ringing, and it is no longer about being the predator or prey in a dog eat dog world.

It is humanity or human-ness that is being infused into businesses now, which is making businesses stand out and grow. It is a powerful and necessary element to have in an increasingly digitalised world.

A Chamber of Connections

Mark Wilson is executive officer for the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce, and he has seen how businesses are developing, responding and adapting to the fluctuations we have been experiencing around the world in recent years.

At the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce, Mark is involved in organising their monthly events, newsletters and communication between the members. There are about 18 or 20 networking events and lunches where presenters on various topics are invited throughout the year. It has about 300 members, and priority is given to communication and networking for local businesses through the Chamber.

For Mark, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the natural catastrophes that have hit Australia over the last few years, have driven home the stark reality of how important local businesses are, and how vital it is to support each other in business if we are to survive, not to mention, thrive. He has also seen an increase in the trend of people wanting to know other businesses in their communities, and a keen interest in wanting to relate to each other and network together.

Mark Wilson, Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce featured on Brilliant-Online Magazine
Mark Wilson, Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce

The Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce fulfills exactly that need, by holding events for businesses to connect and meet (at least once a month). The simple act of getting people together to shake hands, sit down and have a chat can be the catalyst for amazing growth. At the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce, people can come together to Learn, Grow and Connect. This is where doors open up for people to find their 'soul-businesses' that match what they need, and for getting their voices out there so people know about their offerings, skills and services.

Adapting Forward

The Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce like so many other businesses around the world, has adapted to the dire challenges that have come our way. They have also transported their events online on Zoom. It is a temporary adaptation, and a way to keep going but it is not the definitive way. Flexibility and adaptability are key elements for businesses to move forward. While bringing events online is a way to keep the momentum going, it is also starting to wear on people and having real face-to-face contact is still something people want to return to. For Mark and Veronica, it is about keeping the balance and finding a way that works for our current situations.

Adaptability is a key focus in this year's business awards and the shift is moving away from focusing on pushing up numbers and cashing in profits. Given the current climate, what they are focusing on this year is stories about adaptation, change and what businesses have been doing to survive. This is what judges are looking for, and businesses that have that agility and creativity to get through a challenging period and look ahead to changes that may happen in the future are the ones that will get people sitting up and taking notice.

Mark is surprised by the large number of businesses in Port Macquarie and the diversity of sectors as well, and all this in spite of the pandemic. There are new businesses coming up and some of these are created by people who do have employment but are working on their own individual new business projects from home. The pandemic has brought problems sweeping across industries and countries, and it has also, strangely enough, caused a lot of micro businesses to mushroom everywhere.

Business Awards 2021

The Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce's Business Awards is now in its 15th year giving local business owners in the Greater Port Macquarie-Hastings region the opportunity to be acknowledged by their business peers and the community. They have been hosting the Business Awards since 2007. The awards are a way to spotlight the growth and success of businesses in the area.

What is uplifting about this Business Awards is how it celebrates the range and diversity of both large and small businesses in the Greater Port Macquarie area, with many businesses run by husband-and-wife teams or extended family members. It is a way to give a voice to the many small businesses in our communities that are all trying their best to grow and thrive, and it is a way to let them be seen and heard.

The awards celebrate the invisible daily grind, the hard yakka, the determination and achievements business owners undergo to deliver goods and services to the local community and beyond. These businesses, in their own humble and quiet way, have demonstrated how they, in spite of their small size, have weathered the COVID storm, demonstrated resilience, and made an impact on communities.

With the onslaught of challenges that have knocked the wind out of one's sails, local businesses now more than ever, need to position for the future. There is no one single magic formula or guru manual that businesses can simply follow, and allow themselves to sit back and get comfortable. Running a business means always being on one's toes, working the adaptability and creativity muscles of the business so it can be prepared for anything that could come. A healthy business system has to be open enough to be able to change and flow. The Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce is fulfilling the purpose of helping businesses with events and network opportunities, all with the aim of bringing businesses together to learn from each other, to grow as a community and to use the connections to make the community stronger and thrive.

The Business Awards enables business owners to showcase their products and services to the local community. Participating in the award is free and business owners can enter the category that best suits their business structure and size. Any business in the Hastings region who have premises and employ locals is eligible to enter. There are 33 categories in the 2021 Business Awards including Hair & Beauty Services, Creative Services & Communication, Restaurants & Cafes, just to name a few. The categories change through the years depending on the offering.

Last year, the Business Awards 2020 was cancelled due to the pandemic. Now as businesses in the region get back on their feet again, this year's awards will be a particularly emotional one for everyone. Even for the judges who are there to be impartial and scrutinise every single entry, it is also a touching experience where they can see all at one go, the number of businesses (and the very real humans behind them) that are all trying so hard to innovate, create and keep going. It will be a particularly tough year for judges to decide, because every single business has been doing their best to survive. Perhaps in the minds of the judges, every single business that has participated in the Business Awards 2021 is already each a winner in their own right.

Entry into this year's Business Awards closed on 15 June 2021. The panel of independent judges are hard at work. The community voting closed at midnight on 5 July 2021. Port Macquarie gears up every year for this event, and this year it will be even bigger with everyone coming to support each other's win. However, due to current COVID restrictions, the results which will be announced at the gala dinner on 31st July 2021 may be postponed. I suggest you follow Port Chambers social media to check when tickets for the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce Business Awards 2021 will go up on sale.

Ever Ready for the Future

The Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce has evolved considerably over the past four to five years. It continues to invite all businesses in the region as members, and they are focused on business owners and how they can represent and support businesses. It is a welcoming and inviting space, with no nose-in-the-air mentality. This is a place where business owners can engage in networking opportunities to grow their business and collaborate with like-minded businesses.

They regularly engage with Council, State and Federal Governments to discuss opportunities for business development and growth in the region. They aim to help businesses increase their financial activity and improve the local economy.

The Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce has been advocating for businesses in the Port Macquarie region for more than thirty years. In fact, they are the longest serving network in the region. They have seen how the region has developed from a humble little fishing village into a vibrant modern hub it is today.

And they continue to grow strong, pandemics and natural catastrophes notwithstanding. Businesses in the community can rest assured, they have the Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce behind their backs to support what they do. They are the glue that keeps the community of businesses growing and thriving.

When you next pass by the Chamber, why not pop in for a cup of tea and a chat? You never know what business opportunity may be waiting there for you after a little conversation with someone.


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