Mark Drysdale the executive director of the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, faced two challenges right off the bat as he prepped volunteers for the first Business Walk to be conducted in the Town of Ladysmith.
One, there were too many volunteers. Instead of the 30 he’d expected there were at least 36 in the room at Frank Jameson Community Centre, where he was presenting a check list of dos and don’ts for those who would be hitting the streets of Ladysmith a couple of hours later, taking the pulse of the business community.
Two, who was going to interview all the business people who were there, getting ready to survey their peers, since they would be out in the community gathering the kind of information that will help Ladysmith help its businesses to thrive and grow.
Solution: to problem one, print more Business Walk kits and make more teams; problem two, have the business people in the room fill out the surveys themselves, either on the spot or later, so their impressions and concerns about the business climate in Ladysmith would be registered.
Drysdale said the Walk concept is a great way of getting to know businesses, and their concerns. “We do that through face to face interviews,” he said during the luncheon briefing.
If this first walk is as successful as its partners hope – The Chamber, Ladysmith Downtown Business Association, Town of Ladysmith – then there will likely be follow-ups.
“I’m interested – and I think the steering committee is – in doing this regularly, perhaps annually,” Drysdale said.
The survey includes questions around: the state of businesses; what owners and mangers like about doing business in Ladysmith; challenges faced by businesses in Ladysmith; and what can be done to help businesses thrive.
The walks, which originated in Sacramento, California, are offered through the BC Economic Development Association and have been increasingly popular in B.C. since they were inaugurated in 2012.
As well as an adaptable questionnaire, the program is supported by a data base for inputting and tabulating responses. The Island Coastal Economic Trust has offered to input the data.
Drysdale said the goal is to have a report ready for sharing by late summer or early spring. The hope is the information will give business and community leaders an idea of economic priorities.
“It’s a business retention and expansion program,” Drysdale said. “It isn’t about bringing in new people, it’s about making sure the people who are here can do well and grow.”
Businesses that were not available to be surveyed June 22, or who were not approached, are invited to contact the Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce, which will gather survey responses until June 30.