On October 15, I attended the annual business excellence awards dinner put on by the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce. I came as both an award sponsor and a chamber director.
This year, the evening featured a Canadian theme with Mounties in red serge, bartenders in lumberjack plaid and decorations in red and white. Entertainment was provided by the tremendously enjoyable Art in Motion Dance troupe, and keynote speaker Caleb Brousseau, an Olympic medallist and Terrace resident, delivered a very inspirational talk.
Awards were handed out in 13 categories, with nominees and winners ranging from large facilities to the smallest home businesses.
The nominees and winners are all to be congratulated for being recognized for providing something extra special in our community. Terrace is lucky to have all of you here.
Over the years the demographic of award nominees and winners has changed. What once was a predominantly Caucasian male domain is now evolving to mirror the community it serves.
There is a growing contingent of women, First Nations and minorities involved in the process and that’s how it should be.
We are doing business in a changing world and it’s only right that awards events like this should reflect that change.
Just as interesting to me were the conversations between managers, owners and front line employees.
At these and other events, “how is business?” is usually the most common conversation opener between people from all walks of life.
This year by far the most common answer overheard was either “all over the place” or “sporadic”. My former boss was fond of saying that if you can run a business in Terrace, you can run one anywhere. Time has proven that he was correct in his assessment.
It is incredibly difficult to staff, train and manage a business in a marketplace that is constantly changing.
The requirements and expectations of customers and employees change from week to week and even on a daily basis.
While this is true of business anywhere, when your business serves a large number of clients and customers who depend on the resource sector for their income, it’s much more difficult.
Income can be inconsistent, receivables and payables get stretched and business levels fluctuate making staffing levels and new hires a crap shoot.
One of the more interesting topics was the subject of sponsorships and requests for donations.
Nearly everyone agrees that we are seeing more and more of these on a daily basis.
In my normal work day, I receive two requests for donations and sponsorships a day, sometimes more. In the more high profile retail stores, I’m told it can be as high as seven or eight per day, and more on weekends.
These requests come from sports teams and associations, school teams, individual classrooms, service clubs and from customers who are selling tickets, chocolates, cookies and raffle tickets. These requests come from Terrace, Thornhill and some from other towns and outlying regional areas.
Most people I know would love to be able to say ‘yes’ to all or most of these worthy requests but it’s simply not economically feasible to do that.
What is intensely disappointing is that when you do have to say “sorry, no I can’t” you are occasionally met with outright hostility and veiled threats like “I’ll tell my friends not to shop here”, or “I’ll be sure to put it on Facebook”.
There is a common misconception that all donations are write offs and cost the business or owner nothing. The brass tacks of the matter is that if you have no profits, there are no free write offs.
All donations, especially small business ones, come directly from the owner’s pocket and some of those pockets are lighter than many people think.
Congratulations again to all business excellence awards nominees and winners.
Next year when the call is made for nominations and then voting for the chamber’s business excellence awards, think hard about becoming involved. There are people and businesses in our community who make a difference, who meet your expectations consistently and who keep it local.
There are a lot of worthy people out there doing their very best to make a living and to make Terrace and area a better place for us to live.
Steve Smyth is a past director of the Terrace-Kitimat Airport Society and a current director of the Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce.