Ensuring the best for Norfolk business

  • Jonathan Cage
Jonathan Cage, President, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

This is the first column that I have written on behalf of the Norfolk Chamber for the EDP as it normally falls to our CEO to come up with some interesting words of wisdom, so please bear with me. It has been a hectic couple of months at the Chamber with Caroline Williams MBE our CEO for 17 years standing down last week and the recruitment and appointment of our new CEO Chris Sargisson, all at a time when the political world has gone into overdrive.

It was interesting when recruiting for the role of CEO of Norfolk's leading business organisation, as the position attracted all kinds of people, and we were lucky enough to have a huge amount of interest. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who applied and showed interest in the Chamber in particular those candidates who we interviewed and shortlisted. There is a real passion within the region for the Chamber and a large number of people keen to ensure it continues to be a success. The standard of candidate was really high and it was a very difficult decision to make. 

The role of CEO at the Chamber is a very high profile role within the local business community, regularly meeting with leading politicians, small and large business owners, and key local authority officers and councillors, as well as running a busy SME. One minute you can be meeting the Prime Minister,  the next the sole owner of a start up business looking at making organic yoghurts, each being as important and all requiring your time.

The recent interview process however highlighted a number of areas which we need to address with respect to how the Chamber is viewed, some we were aware of others were quite a surprise. There was a concern that the Chamber is perceived as a form of select privileged business club.  This is clearly not the case and every business is welcome to the join the Norfolk Chamber even those who are not actually located in the County.

It is important for Norfolk's overall business community that we have a strong Chamber of Commerce who challenges on behalf of the business community our politicians and policy makers locally, regionally and nationally. When running your own business it is great to know that you are not alone and that there are a number of similar like minded businesses all working together for the same cause. The Chamber provides this forum and seeks to help businesses who may not have the time to get their points over, to be heard and taken seriously.

The next few months are going to be incredibly important, with the result of the general election effectively impacting on every business. The Chamber takes a neutral political stance in these circumstances, however we always ensure that the key issues that effect our Member Businesses are clearly articulated to the various political parties. We also, where possible, try to provide guidance on what individual political parties manifestos mean for business generally.

During this period the Chamber Board and the management team will be making comments on how the political situation will impact on various sectors within the region with expert representation within manufacturing, food/agriculture, media, finance, skills, social media and construction. It looks like May is going to be a very busy month, on top of the training and networking events already planned by the Chamber.

Our new CEO will be starting close to the result of the general election at the beginning of June. Clearly a baptism of fire for anybody in a high profile role, especially if the outcome is the final political surprise in a series of three:

Brexit, Trump , ?...

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