With a busy role on board, accepting the nomination for high office might be daunting for many, but others thrive on the challenge. So I began our chat by asking Peter what his motivation is.
Scouring the business landscape for a juicy subject to interview in a vibrant and successful town like this is pretty much like being a kid in a Darrell Lea store. There are heaps to choose from. Show me a business that’s been operating over 5 years, and I’ll show you an owner with survival skills that are more than a match for our Sydney counterparts. They say that pound for pound an Aussie businessman is among the best in the world, because we have the same level of competition but with fewer customers – so merely the act of surviving defines acumen. We can extend the analogy to Coffs business owners, so before you rush into another year, stop, pause … and reflect. Recognise that you are a success, whether or not you care to admit it. (We should celebrate more, but that’s a story for another time).
Among this sea of gifted leaders stands a business organisation presenting a delicious cross section of members, agendas, priorities and volunteers taking hours out every week to lead, guide, administer and represent.
Of course, member business organisations have been around since the guilds recognised that the Catholics needed competition in the 1500s. And they have evolved to a much different beast today, so I thought that we should have a chat with the new President of the Chamber of Commerce, Peter Newbold.
Before charging into the nuances of Chamber politics, I was curious to rewind the biography and find how Peter came to be in Coffs Harbour; after all, there are very few of us who can claim to be locally born and bred. It’s a fairly safe question, and I’m delighted to learn that Peter spent many years in advertising – now how good is that? Two gurus in the same town. Well, at least one then!
For many years, Neville Jeffress advertising pretty much dominated the classified segment of the newspaper advertising market. Remember when the Sydney Morning Herald would give you a hernia lifting it off the front lawn, and that was just the Cars section? No wonder Fairfax called SMH ‘the rivers of gold’.
But Peter was there in lots of different roles, comfortably assuming the role as a Mr. Fixit – even after the business was sold to TMP, the American outfit; where things changed, and after giving it a go for 5 years – it was time for a change.
Anyone who’s ever worked in corporate life develops a set of values arising from experiences, the culture and their role. These will shape our feelings that we value, while providing us with an individual compass that will serve us for many years. So, I asked Peter what were the key lessons learned in his corporate career?
Ethics in business, meaning a high level of honesty with your colleagues and clients. Secondly, the courage to stand up for what you believe is right and standing up for your rights. I don’t know too many who would argue with these.
Peter’s road to Coffs nearly ended in Yamba, but the right property appeared here … and as they say, the rest is history. Now as Area Manager for TURSA Employment and Training, Peter is kept busy looking after 30 staff and offices covering the region, located in Woolgoolga, Bellingen, Nambucca Heads and Coffs Harbour.
With a busy role on board, accepting the nomination for high office might be daunting for many, but others thrive on the challenge. So I began our chat by asking Peter what his motivation is. It’s an obvious question, received enthusiastically and responded to quickly and earnestly, without hesitation. There’s a combination of factors. Self belief that years of senior management experience can help address the key issues: growing the membership, greater involvement with the industrial / manufacturing sector and less reliance on the Coffs triangle.
Sounds fair, and when I pressed Peter for more, he delivered. There are a heap of opportunities that need thought, enthusiasm and Chamber involvement to facilitate better outcomes for business.
Some of these are purely tactical, such as the rally, and others provide monumental opportunities, such as the National Broadband Network, with real potential to level the retail playing field.
How does Peter want the chamber to be seen? As an organisation which works in conjunction with the business community and all levels of government, to improve and grow the region in which we are blessed to live and work.
Another opportunity is the way that Chamber links with Council covering economic development, events and a consolidation plan for the triangle. This and a review of the current committee structure suggests that the Chamber Executive will be busy with strategic imperatives in the coming year, but what about the here and now?
For progressive thinkers, the Sunnies present an opportunity to display their recent achievements, but recognition is only a small part of the marketing potential. Look at the tourism sector, who have no peer when it comes to merchandising their awards. If it makes a difference here, then why not with your business?
If you find winning awards and making speeches not your cup of tea, then there’s an easier way to let the chamber work for you – and that’s by rolling up to the monthly breakfast meetings. There are no secret handshakes, but you’ll always find 100 other friendly types keen to swap a card and for a little light hearted banter (at 7am no one is full on), and if you’re lucky Garth Shipperlee, the Chamber Executive Officer, will have organised an entertaining speaker.
Beware though – the coffee is normally so atrocious, that Glen Calwell will have you chuckling when he chips in with, “Tea or coffee – they both taste the same this morning!”
My mail suggests an appropriate word to describe business conditions is subdued. Or, if you’re in retail, take it down a notch or two to challenging, and you might be closer to the mark. Unfortunately, the consumer spending strike is outside the control of Chamber, and Peter is quick to reinforce Chamber’s role as a local facilitator, not a macroeconomic game changer.
Despite the disclaimer, we could describe the new leadership as Newbold in name and most likely in nature.