As I write this, we are approaching our seventh week in business as Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce.
In those seven weeks, we have welcomed more than 70 companies into Chamber membership and the business community and local press have welcomed us with open arms.
When we decided to set up a brand new Chamber of Commerce in Milton Keynes, one of the challenges we knew we would face, would be making it clear that we were a brand new Chamber and not a reincarnation of the previous Milton Keynes & North Bucks Chamber.
In getting this message across, we had to think carefully about what made us different and unique as a Chamber and how this could benefit the businesses of Milton Keynes.
There are some generic services that most Chamber of Commerces provide - particularly if they have links to the nationwide British Chambers of Commerce network. These include a free 24/7 legal helpline, Chamber HR service, healthcare packages and discounted AA cover. Not to mention the core services like networking events, training courses, international trade advice and documentation processing and a representation service, which sees your local Chamber act as your voice on business issues that matter to you to the people in power.
These services are generally provided by the majority of UK Chamber because they have been identified by UK businesses as being vitally important, and we know from running Northamptonshire Chamber that these core services are still valued today.
Where we believe we are different is that we pride ourselves on an open approach. We will survey our members regularly and speak to them about our products and services and ask for honest feedback to enable us to tailor our package of products, services and events. We want to ensure that what we offer remains relevant to businesses of all sizes and is perceived as real value for money.
This has led to us providing services such as Chamber Stationery, which sees us work in partnership with Office Depot to treat member companies as part of one large account, which means they benefit from the buying power and discounts of a large corporate account. We also plan to introduce a series of 60 Minute Seminars. These free sessions are very much ‘what they say on the tin’ and give members a chance to share knowledge as they are delivered by members for members on a specific business topic.
We have also introduced an Account Management service, which sees member companies assigned with an Account Coordinator who can work with them to make sure that they are using their membership to the full to boost their business. Each new member is welcomed into membership with a welcome call and a #ff ‘shout out’ on social media and then contacted periodically throughout the next 12 months. We also use a mixture of modern and traditional marketing methods to help promote our member companies at a local level.
Milton Keynes Chamber is already working closely with local MPs and will send them quarterly newsletters on the issues facing businesses in their constituency. This, along with MP surgeries that we facilitate for members, can see the MPs bringing up these issues in Parliament.
The Milton Keynes Chamber will, in time, be steered by a Board of Directors. This Board will comprise of specially selected individuals from Milton Keynes businesses, who are themselves members of the Chamber and have a passion for doing business in their local community. Board directors will selected as part of a recruitment campaign to ensure that the Chamber benefits from local business knowledge and a wide-reaching skillset and experience in several key industry sectors.
I am pleased with the progress we are making as a new Chamber in Milton Keynes and astounded by the positive feedback and support we have received. Long may it continue!
*To find out more about joining Milton Keynes Chamber, visit www.chambermk.co.uk/membership/how-to-join