Since I was asked to pen a few words another birthday has just rolled by which made me reflect on the changing landscape of how business is now conducted compared to the 1980s when I first became self-employed.
Before mobile phones, computers and superfast broadband, business was, if I recall correctly, more relaxed. Business lunches with clients or your bank manager were accepted as a means of getting to know people and promoting the services you offered.
Membership of local Chambers of Commerce and service groups such as Round Table, Rotary and Lions also figured prominently as a way of making contact with like-minded people who might turn out to be future clients. Businesses offering professional services, solicitors, accountants, surveyors and the like were seen as blue chip and occupied the finer historic buildings or upper floors of banks in Lancaster city centre.
Come the revolution, businesses have woken up and smelt the coffee. The e-commerce environment has brought a new generation of business-minded people labelled entrepreneurs who have discovered ‘networking’. The finest exponents of this new art form take every opportunity to make you aware of who they are and what they do...they want to know why you aren’t already doing business with them!
Meanwhile the poor old bank manager, once a pillar of the community, has become a social misfit, service groups struggle for members and street chuggers ‘assault’ innocent shoppers for charity donations.
The savviest of the established business community have moved with the times fully embracing new technology and increasingly relocating to modern offices outside the city centre such as Lancaster Business Park. I count the Chamber among them and its move to modern offices at White Lund, with a young, enthusiastic and dynamic team, has reinforced the Chambers position as the pre-eminent voice of local businesses.
Michael Harrison is a Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce Director and architect by trade.