Steven Holbrook Chief Executive – Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce
Hello! How are you? And how have you been?
That’s a friendly introduction. And it’s the kind of welcome that really works best in person, rather than in print. So although I’m giving it my best shot here, by far the best way to communicate with someone is in person. Eye to eye, with a shared understanding.
Our lives have all changed in the wake of the pandemic. Technology has been a boon and has kept businesses operating and many employees in safer locations. The tech boom has also provided an opportunity for businesses to grow, diversify and focus their operations. It would be churlish to criticise the way we have all adapted to hybrid working and looking into a lens. Except… I write this as someone who has had enough of Zoom calls.
Business thrives on networking. The old adage about business deals being made on the golf course still holds true, in as much as people buy from people, and it’s much harder to trade with somebody you don’t know. The best networking is always informal, providing an opportunity to throw around ideas and to swap notes. We all hate it when we get a cold call from a sales person; the best deals are always “the ones you don’t feel”.
Which brings me to the Chamber’s Business to Business Expo, at the Lakeside Park Hotel, on Wednesday, September 22. It’s an event that is always well supported and is very necessary. It’s by far the biggest day of business-to-business networking that the Island sees all year. It’s put on by the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce but it’s free to attend and it’s open to everyone. Feel free to come down and meet with 60 exhibiting businesses and many other attending business people.
There’s no doubt that this year our event will feel different. The pandemic has changed us all, and as we adjust to whatever the ‘new normal’ will look like, we have to re-learn the rules of engagement. In Cowes Week the Chamber welcomed members to our traditional afternoon barbecue at the Island Sailing Club, an event that seemed genuinely symbolic and at times had almost a wedding-like atmosphere; for many attendees it was their first networking opportunity in almost 18 months and an overdue opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends in real life.
I think this year’s Expo will carry the same sense of reconnection and be another step closer to getting back to the lives we used to lead. It’s going to be a big day for our exhibiting businesses, many of whom will have dusted off their pull-up banners, designed new leaflets and retrieved workwear from the back of the wardrobe. It’s going to be a welcome reminder of how we used to do business and I’m glad that Expo is returning.
I’d like to thank all of our exhibitors, our main sponsor WightFibre and all of our supporters who have enabled us to bring Expo back. Ultimately the Chamber is providing an open forum for the business community to get on with doing what it does best. If you’re in business on the Isle of Wight, I’d like to think you’ll join us on the day.
The business community on the Island is, by its nature, a little different to elsewhere. With rigidly defined borders it makes sense to trade with ourselves. If you want to rekindle those connections, come along. If you’re feeling a bit out of the loop, join us.
On Wednesday, September 22, pop in and say ‘hello’ to the Island’s business community.