Thursday, 05 April 2018 07:19

Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce sets new strategic priorities

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Doug Evjen addresses the Chamber of Commerce meeting. Doug Evjen addresses the Chamber of Commerce meeting.

The Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce has adopted a new strategic plan to achieve its goal to be the most influential business association in southwest Saskatchewan.


Details about the new strategic priorities were presented at the organization's annual general meeting, which took place in the Great Plains College boardroom, March 28.
Doug Evjen, who became the new board chair at the meeting, said the board identified the need for a new strategic plan about a year ago because the previous plan was not considered to be relevant to the organization’s goals.
A survey helped the board to identify the issues that are important to chamber members and the new vision, mission and value statements were formulated during the board’s strategic planning session in February.
“Polling the membership to find out what are we doing well, what do you guys want us doing for you, was huge,” he said. “It really made our strategic planning session go really smooth. We found that we were doing a lot of great things. Members are generally happy with the direction that we’re taking, but maybe one of those pieces I think the chamber should be doing is a lot of advocacy for businesses.”
Chamber CEO Karla Wiens felt the new strategic plan will provide her with clear direction and she can then plan accordingly.
“The chamber had not done a strategic plan for quite a number of years and I am very member focused,” she said. “So I wanted to make very sure that we were acting on behalf of our membership, which is what the Chamber of Commerce is about. So I thought it was very important to get a survey together to find out what are the key issues.”
The plan sets out four strategic priorities in relation to membership, communications, administration and finances.
The membership priorities are to grow five to 10 per cent per year, to have a membership retention rate of 98 per cent, and to engage members through various events while visiting all members at least once every two years.
The communication priorities are aimed at using technology and other resources to engage members and the wider community.
The administration priorities are related to board member orientation and transition, data and record management, and bylaw revision, while the financial priorities are all aimed at ensuring a sound financial state for the organization.
Evjen, who is a sales manager at SaskTel, became the new chairperson after serving three years on the board. For the past two years he was an executive member as second vice chair and then first vice chair. He is confident about the year ahead after a smooth transition.
“Our executive committee has really worked really solidly together this year,” he said.
He felt this was due to the fact that they have instituted regular monthly executive meetings during the past year.
“I think there’s been a lot of cohesiveness,” he said. “So there’s really not any surprises or transitions coming into the seat.”
He believes there is still room for membership growth. The chamber currently has around 350 members, which is about a third of the businesses in the community.
“We’ve polled other chambers of commerce like Estevan and North Battleford, and they’re having around that 50 per cent mark,” he said. “We think that’s really achievable over the next couple of years.”
According to Wiens it is important to focus on retaining existing members while also recruiting new members.
“With the resources that we have we’re getting out in the community and doing the best we can,” she said. “I like to get out and learn about new businesses that I haven’t been in personally in the past. I look at it as an opportunity.”
The chamber appointed Wiens as the new CEO in August 2017 and this was her first annual general meeting in that capacity.
“It has been a roller coaster,” she said. “It has been really busy, but tremendously rewarding and I’ve learned a lot. … I think we are full steam ahead and I absolutely love my role as CEO for the chamber.”
Outgoing board chairperson Brock Friesen presented an overview of the chamber’s activities during the past year.
“All of the success we had this year was the result of working together with a common mindset and a common goal to make the chamber the best it can be, to serve the needs of our members and this community as a whole,” he said.
The chamber had a busy year and there were many successful events. There were three lunch and learn educational sessions that were well attended and there was a record number of nine Chamber on Tap networking events.
Attendance increased at one of the chamber’s signature events, the annual Farmer’s Appreciation Night in March. Their largest event of the year was the annual Spirit of Swift Current Business Excellence awards night, which was attended by 252 people.
In November the chamber launched a new event, the Business Connect banquet, to connect business leaders with young entrepreneurs from the Swift Current Comprehensive High School and Great Plains College. It was attended by 54 business leaders, 22 college students and 22 high school students.
“This was designed as a chamber initiative to provide information to business students about the varying paths that local business leaders have travelled to reach the position they currently hold,” he said. “This evening was such a great success and we're so looking forward to the next one later this year.”
Mark Clements presented the treasurer’s report at the meeting. He described 2017 as a financial success for the chamber.
“The chamber's three key revenue streams are membership fees, events and projects, and commissions,” he said. “Membership has seen stable growth, which is reflected in the growth of our membership fees. The chamber was much more active in planning events in 2017, with these events gaining momentum in our local business community. The success of these events resulted in over $40,000 increase in events revenue and an almost $17,000 increase in income from events.”
The chamber generated gross revenues of $206,526 which was an increase of $51,672 over 2016. Total expenses increased by of $48,196 over 2016 to $191,789. It therefore had a net income of $14,737 or an increase of $3,476 over 2016. The chamber’s retained earnings position increased from $22,565 to $37,302 and the positive cash flow resulted in an end of year cash position of $46,342.
“In summary, from a financial position, the chamber is growing and seeing success,” he said. “This success allows the chamber to invest more in services, initiatives and projects that benefit our membership, which is exciting both for the board and membership alike.”
The results from the election of board members were announced at the meeting. The new directors are Bernice Bonneau (Get A Clue Escape Rooms), Jesse Kitchen (RBC), Ken Linsley (Crop Production Services) and Leanne Tuntland-Wiebe (Bumper to Bumper/Great West Auto). The returning director is Shaun Hanna (Boston Pizza).
The other directors on the board are Kelsey Adam (Kelsey Adam Real Estate Team, Century 21), Vim Parmar (Wheatland Machine Shop and Beachcomber Hot Tubs), and Ashley Stradeski (MNP).
The appointed representatives to the board are Bruce Deg (City of Swift Current) and Frank Glenn (R.M. of Swift Current No. 137).
The executive members are Doug Evjen of SaskTel (chairperson), Brock Friesen of Rittinger’s Men’s Wear (past chair), Karen Richmond of Great Plains College (1st vice-chair), Carla Carlson of Nimegeers Carlson Law Firm (2nd vice chair) and Mark Clements of Innovation Credit Union (treasurer).

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Matthew Liebenberg

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