After more than two centuries it is probably a good time to ask, ‘Is the Chamber of Commerce still relevant?’ Businessmen in the last decade of the 18th Century were hardly worried about developing an effective social media strategy, or obsessing how their website would look viewed on an iPad. How could a Chamber founded practically in the dark ages still have value to businesses today? By staying in touch with the ever changing and evolving issues of its members and the outer community.
When I joined the chamber a couple of years ago I expected to find a group of dotty old men in smoking jackets reminiscing about the good old days. What I found was a passionate cohort of motivated men and women who not only recognised the need for change, in themselves and in business, but also believed in their ability to instigate change.
That drive and focus has led to ‘Action for Business’ a distilled set of policy priorities broken down into six key areas, and a template for focusing the Chambers efforts to ensure a fairer deal for business and our economy. It is an impressive document and I highly recommend reading it (it can be found on the home page of the Chamber’s website at www.gmchamber.co.uk). But it isn’t just an exercise in generating paperwork; it genuinely infuses what the modern Chamber is about – Action. Action found in campaigning for change, better infrastructure and fairness; promoting positive policies, incentives and opportunities; and calling for new approaches, new attitudes and new R&D.
One policy the document highlights is the need to raise awareness of the impact late payments has on business. Debbie Abraham, our newest MP, recently launched her own campaign on this issue called ‘Be Fair Pay On Time’ in an attempt to highlight the injustice of late payments, you have possibly seen it recently highlighted in this newspaper. You can join Debbie’s campaign on Facebook, or via her website at www.debbieabrahams.org.uk.
Late payment is an abhorrent practice, and I would love to see the government adopt a policy of self-reporting – where companies report their own late payments in their published accounts, in the same way businesses self-report on tax liability. Such an approach would break the pattern of asking suppliers to police late payments, normally to the detriment of their own business as customers seek more pliant suppliers elsewhere. I welcome Debbie’s and the Chamber’s willingness to take a stance on the issue.
Ironically one of the earliest minutes, of the Commercial Society (the pre-cursor to the Chamber in Manchester) listed three key objectives the second of which was ‘…the regulation of trade, including the promotion of regular payments’.
Clearly the Chamber is just as relevant today.