Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Vancouver Board of Trade and Networking


After becoming an active member with Board of Trade, I was surprised to observe that 80% of the B.O.T. members are made up of small businesses and their employees. The key word being "small". Most non-members however view the board as a group of companies with 1000+ employees and revenues in tens of millions of dollars. When I say small however, I mean fewer than 250 employees and the majority of companies with fewer than 25. Maybe that’s why I haven’t run into any salt-and-pepper-hair-grey-power suit-types lounging in high-backed leather chairs whirling crystal shots of premium scotch with trails of cigar smoke wafting around them. That world may exist – maybe even somewhere in Vancouver – but the Board of Trade I have come to know is about advancing the progress of business and business owners, and most of them, even those with offices in skyscraping towers, actually work pretty close to the ground.

If you’re reading The Sounding Board however, you may already be way ahead of me in figuring this out. My work with PCMG and Careers Today Canada has me talking to small business owners looking to recruit new staff. I also speak with many talented professionals seeking a career change or advancement. The Board of Trade represents a great opportunity for them. However, when I talk to non-members about attending Board of Trade events to meet potential new hires or to develop relationships which could lead to future career opportunities, many question whether the Board of Trade is really for them… that they not ready for "that level".

I constantly re-inforce the "that level" is where their missing the opportunity. That level is ground level. In a metropolis sense, street level. But more correctly metaphored as a farmland community.

The Board of Trade is a unique and properous farmland. Within in it's land many farmers (businesses) grow crops and these farmers support each others growth.

The farmland obviously benefits when it's farmers prosper. But the BOT does more than just exist and hope that it's land and it's farmers succeed. The Board aggressively engages to assist all it's farmers through a stream of constant events. The Board lobbies to ensure the least resistance and build bridges with government. Expert speakers consistently offer new advice on how to farm more effectively. Farmer's markets are regular events. Buyers and other farmer converge within various events. These events offer a dynamic forum to; make partnerships, strike deals, and develop support networks.
The Board co-ordinates of the farmland acitivities ensuring that every farmer no matter how small or big has the opportunity to contribute, grow and harvest.

The farmers (business members and their employees) benefit have several advantages. The foremost being a common ground of membership. This membership becomes a statement that you take the growth and activities of your farm business seriously. The common behaviour I notice in active BOT members is an unwillingness to make their farms successful. They fully engage the farmland community as a part of their growth and development. With this growth theBOT farmland also provides an excellent recruiting ground to harvest new talent or employees.

Board of Trade events are full of talented professionals looking for career opportunities. These individuals make attractive additions to any farm business as they combine two keys elements to any great hire. The number one being the skill and required knowledge needed for growth. But almost as important, a commitment to a successul behaviour pattern. A pattern of continuous networking and involvement in the farming business community. These employees can immediately impact a new business farm with their own developed networks. With these developed contacts new markets can be secured for crops or produce. A business recruiting from the BOT also secures an employee with the practiced skill of cultivating great relationship. A great example to promote behaviour with existing and other new hires.

Most of us are familiar with the instructive juxtaposition that good networking, positive networking, should have more in common with farming than it does with hunting. The idea, of course, is to slowly cultivate long term relationships which keep growing and bearing yield season after season instead of killing random prey, eating for this season, and then moving on to the next at the risk of eventual partner or client extinction. Seems logical, right? But, as the local purveyor of 20 kinds of pumpkins and squash and 14 recipes for each might say, “Wait, there’s more!”

At a Farmer’s Market, the whole town and half the region comes out to celebrate what everyone has accomplished that year. It’s a place where bragging is enjoyed and expected, and where encouragement and support are subtle yet ubiquitous (everyone’s produce is given a place and properly admired; no one’s pie is left unconsumed). Everything from the rawest of raw materials (milk directly from the cow) to the strangest things which may be made from them is on display (a cow carved out of hardened butter is always a sight to see). Of course people come there to buy and sell and trade their goods and services. But they also learn and exchange tips and inspire one another to keep going through good times and bad. The scattering seeds from one field to another are relationships and ideas which ensure growth for all. And that is where the metaphor really bears fruit. The Farmer’s Market brings the community together, gives them not just a place but also a standing invitation and a framework in which to build relationships and solidify their community connection. And you don’t have to be a landowner to contribute to or benefit from the experience. Everyone brings something and the whole becomes so much more than the sum of its parts.

If you moved to a new town and you wanted to become a part of it, the Farmer’s Market would be the first place you’d go to connect. And if you wanted to show that you were generous and community-minded, joining a heritage committee or volunteering to judge the chili cook-off would be a great way to demonstrate your commitment. So, to you small business owners looking to expand, if you are looking for talented hands to help grow your business, I suggest among the questions you ask them about skills and qualifications should be a few questions about their networks and their community service. People who come out to the Board of Trade and Spirit of Vancouver and the many other networking, professional and service associations around town are saying, “I’m in.” They are value-added employees, who will help everyone on your team to grow. They get it. And they deserve the growth and advancement which comes from stepping up and chipping in. And to those of you looking for transition, you need to get on board. It’s not about an old boys’ club. It’s more like Our Town. And success is about showing up.

The Board of Trade keeps growing, in large part because it is such fertile ground for community relationships and collaborative opportunities to flourish. As 2005 comes to a close, I’m looking forward to next year’s crop.

Author’s Box: Minto Roy is President of The Premier Career Management Group and host of Careers Today on 650CISL, a weekly radio program devoted to recruitment, hiring, workplace culture and employee engagement. Please visit and

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