Outlining his plans for the year, Chamber President David Kirkaldy pledged:
“In my year as Chamber president it is my intention to focus more attention on the small business sector and to assist with the development of a small business policy agenda that we can present to government for consideration. I am a small business owner myself and as such I am uniquely aware of the increasing cost of doing business, the level of bureaucracy and the challenges with procurement that we encounter on a day-to-day basis.
“Over the last several years this has also been coupled with the impact of declining revenues and lower overall population on our Islands. It is my intention to communicate the concerns of this sector and to develop sensible proposals that can provide some level of support and encouragement to the sustainable development of small businesses, which I strongly believe is a key economic driver of any economy. These businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy and the very essence of the Chamber’s existence. We must work together to support, promote and protect them.”
Small business is at the heart of any economy and we must pay attention to their issues and concerns. The Chamber introduced and conducted the first State of Business Survey in 2010 and has since released it again in 2012. This is an excellent annual survey that gives the Chamber leadership a general overview of how businesses are faring and their concerns over current policies and legislation. As the leading advocate for the private sector it is important that all of our membership know that their voices are heard and acted upon.
Taking this a step further, the Chamber this year introduced a Small Business Survey developed by the newly formed Small Business Committee, chaired by Chamber Secretary Len Jackson.
These survey questions related specifically to this target group and allowed for a more accurate representation of what life is like for small businesses today in the Cayman Islands. At press time, the member responses are still coming in but the compiled data will be released to the membership this month. It is important to note that the Chamber never uses any people or company names within the context of the survey responses. The information is only ever used as collective data.
The SBC is meeting monthly and will serve as an advisory committee to the Chamber Council as it seeks to confirm the primary needs and concerns of our small business owners. Its other purpose is to advise on the types of membership services that will assist small business owners as well as offering a small business perspective to guide the Chamber in its decisions about public policy and economic development.
The SBC is also developing a small business advocacy agenda which will list the top five focus areas for advocacy represented by Chamber leadership during meetings and public discussions with the Ministry of Finance, Tourism and Development and the Department of Commerce and Investment.
Three other important initiatives under development by the Chamber in support of small businesses are Business Coaching Cayman, HR Care and a Chamber multi-employer health insurance plan.
Business Coaching Cayman is a pilot four-month programme in partnership with Shirlaws Cayman that is specifically designed to provide access to the tools, techniques and skills available through business coaching for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Space is limited to 10 spaces for the pilot programme and Chamber members receive a special rate. Shirlaws coaches will meet with the select group monthly for a 90 minute session.
The sessions will cover a variety of business issues that will empower participants to lead their businesses and also create a network of people with shared experiences. Each participant in Business Coaching Cayman will also receive two “one-on-one” 90 minute sessions with a Shirlaws coach during the pilot programme period, as well as support online available only to programme participants.
HR Care is a unique and dedicated professional human resource service available for Chamber members. This programme is being introduced in association with Trans4M, who specialise in HR Management and Development. The service will be completely confidential between the member business and Trans4M and is designed to:
- Offer a source of comprehensive HR information
- Provide an “easy to use” solutions and expert guidance
- Support daily HR decision making and provide valuable insights
- Assist in HR strategic planning
- Provide a single reference service to reduce costs
- Minimise the need to obtain legal advice on HR issues
- Remove uncertainty and ambiguity when problems arise.
HR Care will be there when HR queries or problems arise providing reliable responsive services that can save businesses significant expenditure that otherwise occur down the road. Members may phone or email the Chamber’s receptionist to make an appointment with a Trans4M professional who will be available for up to one hour for each appointment. Members may also raise routine HR concerns as well as obtain specialist information and advice on HR policy and practice.
Small businesses face the same complex, sensitive and important HR issues as larger businesses. It can become costly if any are referred to Court or a tribunal. Time is a precious commodity and business owners are best devoting it to achieving core business objectives rather than recovering from HR problems that in most cases can be prevented.
It is generally considered impractical for many small business owners to employ professional HR managers to handle their HR issues and therefore being able to provide such a service to this sector at an affordable price goes a long way to healthier bottom line and more efficient productivity levels.
The recent fourth trade mission to Panama took place from 19 to 23 March with a delegation of 50 people, including several small business owners. The mission gave small business owners an opportunity to investigate new trade and investment opportunities. The annual Business Expo, which takes place in October this year, is also an affordable local promotional opportunity for small business owners to showcase their products and services to a wide cross section of the community as well as the Chamber Discount Card programme.
For more information on any of these small business initiatives please contact Wil Pineau, CCE on 949-8090 ext. 122 or email [email protected] Check out the next issue of CHAMBER quarterly review magazine which is scheduled for release on April 18th. It will focus on Cayman’s small businesses.
More than half of Chamber members are small business owners with employees of 10 people or fewer and with the extreme challenges felt from a crippled global economy it has never been more important to focus on this more vulnerable sector of our membership.
When David Kirkaldy was elected Chamber president in November last year, he announced a special emphasis on the small business sector for the Chamber’s advocacy agenda for 2012.