Success Spurs More GH Roundtables

October 3, 2003
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GRAND HAVEN — Encouraged by the success of the initial effort, The Chamber of Commerce of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg has begun forming several new business roundtables to bring together executives from area firms.

Health care, international business, lean manufacturing, quality, safety, purchasing, small business and family-owned businesses are among the themes The Chamber of Commerce is considering for new roundtables that would begin meeting as soon as this January.

The roundtables are discussion groups of up to a dozen or so members that allow business peers to come together in a confidential setting to discuss their businesses and operations and exchange ideas for resolving problems and addressing issues, as well as share best management practices.

A strong response to two roundtables organized earlier this year for CEOs and human resources administrators under the recently formed Tri-Cities Area Manufacturer’s Council generated interest in additional groups.

“We’re getting a lot of people hearing about them and wanting to be part of them,” said Tricia Ryan, vice president for economic development for The Chamber of Commerce.

“It started off where we wanted to start it slow and see how it was going to work, and they took off like crazy,” Ryan said. “It’s time to expand it.”

Participants in the roundtables sign confidentiality agreements beforehand and representatives from competing businesses are not put together in the same group. Memberships are for a year and cost $75 for chamber members and $150 for nonmembers.

A roundtable provides a business executive an opportunity to gain outside advice and counsel from somebody who may have experienced a similar situation or problem before. The discussions can generate valuable information, lessons and outside perspectives for a business without incurring the costs of hiring a consultant.

Roundtable participants are generally willing to share their experiences and knowledge with counterparts in the community.

“You have somebody to act as a sounding board,” said Cindy Pocock, small business liaison for the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce. “I truly believe it’s one of the chamber’s best kept secrets.”

The Holland Area Chamber has organized executive roundtables annually for several years and had four roundtables during the past year — technology, marketing, women in business, and general business. The chamber is gauging interest for adding a small manufacturing roundtable, Pocock said.

High interest in Grand Haven for forming additional local roundtables “tells us there has been and there is a need for companies to have a peer network to assist them in succeeding in the business world,” Ryan said. Creation of the roundtables is part of a broader strategy by The Chamber of Commerce, which has 609 member businesses, to provide greater support and service to the manufacturing sector.

“The bigger picture is we want to make sure all of our companies are healthy and strong,” Ryan said.     

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