Hello and welcome to my first column in The Blackmore Vale . I’d like to say a huge thank you to Laura for inviting me to have a regular column and I really appreciate this opportunity to connect with the North Dorset business community.
I have strong links with North Dorset, being raised in Shaftesbury. Many will know my family and remember our family business MacDougall Fuels and my parents and sister and her family still live in the town. Working in our family business as a young man really gave me an insight as to the hard work that goes in to running any business; the long hours, recruitment and staffing issues, the never-ending to-do list and of course the worries that come with owning a business. This has given me a real empathy with business owners and over the years I have had the opportunity to work with and support thousands of businesses. In Dorset Chamber, we work with businesses of all sizes with the majority of our members being small businesses. Small businesses make up over 99% of the UK’s business population and are the lifeblood of our economy. Our aim as the county Chamber is to support and help Dorset businesses succeed and grow.
In this first article, I’ll take a moment to explain a little about Dorset Chamber. We are a small business ourselves, a limited company employing around 20 people. We are not-for-profit, there is no share capital in the business and any profit is retained to help us deliver services as opposed to being paid to directors as dividends. Our board of directors are all business people who are unpaid non-execs who give freely their time and support to Dorset Chamber. Our income comes from membership, our international trade documentation service and delivery of a small number of publicly-funded business support programmes. Whilst not profit, like any business, we need to be financially viable and face the same pressures as any business.
When I became Chief Executive, my aim was to completely modernise Dorset Chamber and I am very proud of the energetic, modern, innovative Chamber we have become. We are one of around 50 UK Chambers accredited by the British Chambers of Commerce, meaning we have a very strong national voice. We work closely with town Chambers all across Dorset. We also act as a voice for the Dorset business community within the media.
We’ve just published our Annual Review, a summary of our activity over the last 12 months. We’ve done our absolute best to support our members and the wider business community in what has been an incredibly challenging time for businesses, particularly for those that were mandated to close. We transformed our face to face events to virtual meetings and this has been tremendously successful, enabling businesses across Dorset to attend our events without the need for travel – around 1,300 people attended 31 digital events in the last year and these virtual events will certainly continue. We also filmed and published 50 videos, offering practical information and advice on support for businesses during Covid. We also worked closely with Dorset Council in helping businesses access grants. Our free business Gateway service, funded by Dorset LEP offering free information and support to all businesses in Dorset, provided a lifeline to many businesses. We actively fed local issues in to the British Chambers of Commerce who did an incredible job in lobbying ministers at the highest levels for support for businesses. Looking forward, we are optimistic about the recovery of the economy and are doing our best to help businesses across the county as we look forward to better times.
I hope this gives you a good overview of who we are. Looking forward, I aim to cover a range of interesting topics and issues in my column and please do feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!
Until next time, Ian
By: Ian Gilrling