Townsville has one of the strongest business communities in Queensland – you just need to ask any professional in the industry to see that. However, connecting with professionals and fostering those relationships is equally as important as making them – so how do our city’s leaders do it and which Townsville networking group is the best fit? Here are some of the best options in Townsville that will suit businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Networking, learning, advising – these are some of the incredible benefits that come with joining a local business network. However, there is one aspect that is sometimes overlooked and that is the highly valuable social aspect. This is something that North Queensland Club excel at as their president David Kippin explains.
“Members get a chance to enjoy social and networking opportunities through regular Club events such as the Business Luncheon Series, held once a month with a variety of interesting guest speakers, the monthly Sundowner Social Sessions – a casual after work Friday night networking opportunity for Members and guests only – the Governor’s Dinner, Bastille Day Dinner, Gourmet Wine Dinners, whiskey, wine and rum tastings, Calcutta Dinner, Melbourne Cup Lunch, and our annual Christmas Celebration to name just a few,” David says.
Gaining 30 new members a year and counting, it’s no wonder Townsville business leaders are attracted to this more relaxed style of networking which also comes with another host of social perks.
“Some of the benefits include utilising the members only restaurant or boardroom for meetings or client lunches, gaining free parking to take the hassle out of gathering everyone in the one place and even having access to over 70 clubs worldwide,” David says. “There are reciprocal clubs in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hong Kong, Bangkok and London.”
This is perfect for well travelled professionals looking for a home base in some of the world’s biggest cities but equally as great for locals looking to find a place to network, relax and connect with others in the industry.
Townsville networking events have so much potential when it comes to providing value to the attendees and the businesses they run. Yet Filitsa Kounias, from Kounias Lawyers and Mitra Maggs from MindBodyMitra had a very important and much queried concern – how are you sure you’re getting the most value out of it, both for you and the people you’ve met? This led them to create Green Apple Entrepreneurs (GAE) – an open-minded, innovative group that worked to solve this exact problem.
“We were leaving networking events with heaps of business cards but no real idea of who the people behind the cards were,” says Filitsa, co-founder of GAE. “We both had a vision to see Townsville businesses collaborate more and help each other out but no one really wants to do that unless you get to know them. When you know and trust someone and can recommend their business to others then it helps grow our city. ”
When it comes to their networking style, Mitra and Filitsa say they are “adaptive and open to change”, which creates a welcoming atmosphere for all their participants.
“We have members who love an early morning breakfast and others who prefer to come along to an information session and lunch. Previously, we have run successful lunchtime seminars whereby local businesses come and present and give value to our members. It is a great way for them to showcase what, how and why they do what they do,” says Mitra, adding that they “keep the groups small so that everyone gets the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships.”
When it comes to the benefits that business owners receive from attending smaller group sessions, Filitsa touches on several.
“Some of the benefits are genuine relationships, meaningful conversations and collaborating with people who actually want to help,” Filitsa says.
“We have also found that even after one meeting, local businesses are collaborating or doing business with each other. Most of the time, they didn’t even know the other existed. One of our members developed such a great business relationship with another that things moved to a national scale for that business. You just never know who you are going to meet, who they know or how their connections might open doors for you.”
Neither Filitsa nor Mitra plan to slow down in 2018 either, with huge plans ahead for the innovative duo.
“We have an exciting year planned for 2018, with networking breakfasts and information sessions planned and being planned,” Mitra says, adding that they have even decided to break into the marketing arena in order to push Townsville businesses forward as a whole.
“In 2018, we have information sessions and workshops for business owners to learn and implement Instagram and Facebook strategies to grow their businesses. We believe that if we can get all Townsville businesses to use social media to show our city in a positive and thriving light, then more and more people would want to come here and do business here too,” Filitsa says. “Of course, that can only benefit the whole community.”
When it comes to passion and commitment to both our business and our broader community, you can’t look much further than Townsville Enterprise, who dedicate themselves to pushing our region and industries forward. Despite tough economic times in the last financial year, Townsville Enterprise noted an 8% growth in its membership base, something that CEO, Patricia O’Callaghan, says she is proud of.
This growth can only mean positive things for the members involved, with its vast array of networking events offering great opportunities for everyone involved.
“Due to the extensive networking opportunities on offer to members across a plethora of events Townsville Enterprise holds each year, the potential for businesses to connect with established and emerging business representatives and industry leaders is significant. This in turn is generating new economic outcomes and opportunities for our members,” Patricia says, adding that Townsville Enterprise has initiated several new networking events and opportunities for both its members and the broader community. “These have included a Mining and Resources Industry Forum and an event at Parliament House Brisbane, which was attended by over 150 of our local business representatives and 150 from various capital cities. On top of this, the organisation has a dedicated focus towards strengthening international links for our members and the Townsville North Queensland community. This has been facilitated over the past 12 months through business delegations with our members to Singapore and Papua New Guinea.”
It’s not just for established businesses either, with Patricia saying that even small to medium businesses could see benefits.
“Townsville Enterprise can also assist emerging local businesses with taking their organisation to the next level, providing the tools, support, connections and industry guidance to ensure their business goals can be achieved in the short, medium and long-term future,” Patricia says.
However, creating such a strong membership and community base would be considerably more difficult without the incredible community we have come to create it around, something that Patricia says is especially unique to North Queensland and Townsville.
“In Townsville North Queensland there is a real sense of loyalty between businesses and a mutual appreciation between business owners who instil their faith in the region by basing their operations here and not in the capital cities,” Patricia says. “Business relations forged in Townsville last the test of time, strengthened across the challenging years recently experienced, where instead of competing, our business community is collaborating – something you would not see in the major business centres of Australia. We have a very special business landscape up here in the north and one that Townsville Enterprise is proud to be a part of.”
For over 135 years, Townsville Chamber of Commerce have been supporting local businesses by providing networking and information opportunities to their members through a series of free or low-cost events.
When it comes to being involved in their network, Marie-Claude Brown – CEO at Townsville Chamber– says it’s an investment that both small and large-scale businesses benefit from.
“For small business, it is a way to widen their marketing mix. Besides networking opportunities, our organisation provides information on business improvement, promotional opportunities and ways for businesses to connect with other businesses not in their current network. For larger employers or corporations, belonging to a grassroot network like a Chamber of Commerce is a demonstration of their support of the local small business community; it’s part of their social license to operate,” Marie-Claude says.
Benefits are provided during informal or formal meetings designed to neatly package together quality information from some of the city’s most knowledgeable leaders.
“We have three free networking events every month that are open to all. We have business development information sessions once a month, the Business Matters events. Again, it’s free and topics vary from subjects in the “here and now”, like social media, to topics every business should know about, like company structures.
“We hold keynote speaking events on leadership and success and deliver lots and lots of information from third-parties throughout the year. Most events are free and included in a membership fee,” Marie-Claude says.
This incredible number of events has certainly sparked interest in the community as well, with Marie-Claude saying that Chamber have been able to consistently maintain seven new members a month, even during tougher months when membership is usually the first thing to be sacrificed in the budget.
“We’ve worked hard to maintain our ‘value for money’ proposition. People do see the return on their investment.”
Two thirds of their members have purchased goods or services from another member through a relationship they developed at Chamber. Marie-Claude credits this to the unique business community of Townsville.
“I often joke that in Townsville, it’s not six degrees of separation; it’s more like two or three. The advantage of a small business community is that you really get to know the people around you, and it’s easier to reach out to networks outside your natural ‘silo’. You don’t get that in a big city.”
On top of this, Marie-Claude says disruptive technology like social media is changing the way generations connect. “Baby Boomers don’t network like Gen X and Y, and networking is a completely different proposition for Gen Z and Millenia” says Marie-Claude. “It profoundly impacts how every membership-based organisation around the world engages.”
“Chambers of Commerce traditionally attract white collar professionals, but over the past 18 months, the Townsville Chamber has seen a change in new members signing up– a lot more orange and ‘pale blue’ collars, a lot of owner/operators in non-traditional sectors like applied creative arts, technology-based business, and boutique organisations like small-scale farming. We are also seeing more indigenous businesses becoming members, which we’re very proud of.”
This ever-increasing pool of knowledge broadens the horizon for members involved and opens the door for a whole new world of opportunity and information. If strong networks in Townsville continue to attract a diverse mix of members, all sharing knowledge in fields that can only benefit their business – and by association, our city – then this could see a new age of how business is done in Townsville.