For the first time three nearby Chambers: Kingston, Merton and Wandsworth jointly held an event together, at the 19th Century Grade II Listed Building Warren House, now turned into a quite beautiful conference centre, which made a lovely backdrop to the talk by Sundeep Sangha, Head of Economic Development at Heathrow Airport, about the progress and planning for Heathrow expansion, a topic of great interest to West London businesses.
Many members from all three chambers mingled, networked and drank wine and ate scrumptious food provided by Warren House.
John Merriman, Chair of Merton Chamber opened proceedings. One of his insights was that “If the Chamber can be honest with each other and say, ‘this is what I am struggling with’, or ‘this is what I would like to celebrate’, then the future of Chambers is very good indeed.”
Steve Pinto, CEO Wandsworth Chamber, estimated that London Local Chambers of Commerce represented over 25,000 businesses, which made them a powerful voice, and lobbying capability. “I always say to our members, treat it as corporate hospitality. Bring some of your businesses to an event, because you are showing them opportunities and they will be indebted to you.”
President of Kingston, Forbes Low, told an anecdote about President Kennedy meeting a janitor at Cape Canaveral Space Centre in 1962. JFK asked him, “What are you doing?” The reply was, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” Forbes emphasised that this story showed teamwork was at the core of most things we do. His golden rules for Chamber Membership are: “Ask for help, we all need someone to give us a hand at times, Two tap into our social network, getting in front of people is better than posting on social media.” Quoting American author Zig Zagler (yes, that’s his real name), “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.’ Finally, use group power, band together with a group of people to achieve your goals quicker than on your own.”
Miguel Abellan van Kan, General Manager of Warren House, explained that the centre was a “Hidden gem,” that not so many people knew about. The building is available for all sizes of conference, from the small to the large and also caters for corporate and private social events, including weddings.
Jerry Irving, CEO of Kingston Chamber, compèred the event with wit and panache. The main speaker was Sundeep Sangha, who despite struggling with a sore throat, managed to compress the main issues and future developments coming for Heathrow and the surrounding area into a concise briefing. Heathrow is one of the five most major airports around the world. It has a programme of outreach to schools and the community and is also open to local businesses and is working with apprentices.
Sundeep outlined the Heathrow Sustainability plan which includes trying to ensure that people coming to the airport use an enhanced public transport system, that contractors are as green as they can be with various KPIs to be implemented, and consulting with the people and businesses located around the airport. Noise is one of the major isssues, she said, “We have a 10 point action plan to make the airport quieter.” They have a league table of airlines that are ranked on their noise performance.
There were some points of the plans which are still under review so Sundeep was not able to be categorical about some issues. She did say that there would be no disruption to the M25 as the new runway was built, if the plan for a tunnel under the runway goes ahead: “The traffic flow would be switched over at night so there would be no interruption.”
Asked about Brexit, she said that although that was a concern for airlines, the airport itself, as a major item of UK infrastructure, they expect it would not be greatly affected by it.
Jerry Irving summed up, “Networking is not about selling, it’s about building relationships, about building understanding between groups of people, so they can help each other. We are a very powerful group in terms of business we do, and development we can achieve. It is imperative that the business community has an active voice in what happens in their areas, we have to collectively come together and speak as one voice, so we can influence everyone from local authorities up to national government. SMEs are key drivers of local economies, I feel. We need to be supported and cherished.”
Julian Jackson is Wandsworth Chamber’s blogger, whose interests encompass technology, cryptocurrencies and blockchain, the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here: