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Chamber Gala Dinner 2023 | President's Speech | Sept 2023

26 September 2023

Welcome everyone and thank you for coming to our 2023 Gala Dinner.

Two years ago, I imagined tonight would be the culmination of my term as President, reflecting on our Chambers successes and basking in the satisfaction of a job well done. However, to paraphrase the renowned strategist Helmuth von Moltkuh the Elder, ‘No plan survives contact with reality.’

In reality, over the past few years, our team at the Chamber has begun to hit its stride, boasting more members, forums, and member engagement than ever before. Our collaboration with Barclays and DfE through the Eagle Lab has allowed us to support startups and new sectors, ensuring our membership profile genuinely reflects our economy's diverse makeup.

Reflecting on the transformative strides we have taken, it’s crucial to highlight the essential structural evolutions within the Chamber. The implementation of annual presidential elections epitomises our commitment to a dynamic and responsive leadership and culture, allowing us to continually adapt and progress. I am genuinely honoured to continue serving as your President in this revitalized framework.

Our Chamber holds a pivotal role as the architect of actionable change within our business community. Our commitment to fostering economic growth and advocating for meaningful improvements extends beyond dialogues and visions; it’s about instigating tangible transformations. A prime illustration of this is the recently established Skills Board, conceived in partnership with the Departments of Education and Enterprise and mandated with actioning solutions to the persistent skills crisis.

Nevertheless, as our reach, engagement, and advocacy have proliferated, so has the workload on our team. It’s imperative that the evolution of the Chamber persists to manage this escalating demand effectively. To ensure we’re fit for the future, we have strengthen our board with new members and we welcome Charlotte Vale and Richard McNee as directors – thank you both for your commitment to building a better business community. We also recognised the need to utilise the skills and connections of our board members further, and they will now be supporting the organisation in three specific areas. The first is to work more closely with our sustaining members to enable better collaboration and closer connections. The second is to focus internally on communication and ensuring our growing forums aren’t siloed and are working efficiently across specific industry verticals but also common cause areas like Business Sustainability, Positive Health and Wellbeing, Charity and Legislation – among many others. Finally we have tasked the board specifically to work on fundraising. Through the incredible hard work from the Chamber team over the past 12, very challenging, months, we have made a small profit after several years of being in the red. However if we are to serve you as you need, we need to ensure we have a strong financial base to underpin our Chamber. We are a not-for-profit organisation and our only source of income is membership fees and event income and they go directly into supporting and helping our members. If we are to widen that support, as you have asked us to, we need to fund that and that’s why we will have a team focused on delivering new ideas and revenue streams.

All of this is evolution is designed with one goal in mind – to represent as many businesses as possible and help them to grow and develop. We are here to be the voice of business, pushing for economic growth and challenging for change.

And talking about change, it’s the one constant of reality we all face on a daily basis, however it’s one that’s incredibly difficult as humans to live with and get comfortable with. We are creatures of habit by design, so the modern world is, in some ways, a terrible habitat for us. Everything we see on the news causes us anxiety and worry for the future as the media plays on our fear of the unknown. We do not have to be victims of change however. We have to transition away from the concept that change is something that happens to us and embrace the perspective that change is something we can proactively engage with, to take control of and to mould to our advantage. Change is a tapestry, with threads interweaving, creating new patterns and textures within our societal fabric. It’s crucial that we not merely respond to it, but shape it, guide it, weave it to the patterns we want and make it a collaboration between necessity and innovation.

As beings embedded in tradition and routine, we find solace in the familiar, in the rhythmic patterns of the known. However, this juxtaposition of inherent resistance and the ubiquity of change presents a crucial opportunity to redefine our interaction with the world around us. Our minds are the crucibles where fear and excitement coalesce, forging the reality we experience. It is here that we must foster resilience, agility, and a lust for lifelong learning.

Our world is ever-evolving - constants are rare and predictability is a thing of the past. Even our seasons are no longer reliable. There are no safe bets, no guarantees. We are entitled to nothing, except that which we earn afresh each day. The uncertainties of the evolving economic landscape, the fluctuating tides of markets, the spectre of technological redundancy – they are the wake-up calls compelling us to turn our anxieties into actions towards individual and collective advancement. By fostering a mindset that perceives change not as a dark cloud of uncertainty but as a gateway to possibility, we lay a foundation upon which our Island can construct its future, a future where our traditions, our natural biosphere and innovations coexist and enrich each other.

In the midst of this transformation, you all here tonight as representatives of businesses, politicians and public servants of the Isle of Man are collectively charged with navigating through the unknown, our sights set not on the fleeting present but on the beacon of a future where our actions and decisions will benefit the generations to come. It’s vital that now we shift our collective consciousness to view change as our companion, our collaborator, when creating this vision of progress and prosperity for our Island.

And as we start on these actions, it is imperative that we do not lose sight of who we are - of the rich history, culture and natural landscapes that are woven into the very fabric of our being. As we navigate these challenges, we must ensure we maintain the respect for our values, our traditions, and our identity. The Isle of Man is not just a location; it is a living, breathing entity with its own spirit and character, shaped by the generations that came before us and by whom the impact of our choices will be felt now and into the future.

We have our Island Plan and Economic strategy as our charts for this course, but the fulfilment of our shared visions demands action. It’s like summoning the willpower to go for run in the early, cold hours amidst the wonderful Manx rainfall; it’s not easy and the gains are not immediate. It takes resolve and commitment to stay the course but without the disciple and determination to act, we’ll never leave the safety of our warm beds. And just like a warm bed won’t help you prepare for a marathon, similarly, our strategies and initiatives are not designed to dwell in the safety of documents and committees and discussions but need to make the transition to reality despite the hard work those transitions will entail.

Our role today is not just to envision a brighter, more prosperous future for the Isle of Man, but to put in place and start to execute the actions to build it. Tomorrow will be another step forward, and the day after that, taking us toward a future that we can mould and creating the legacy we will pass on to subsequent generations. It’s up to all of us - businesses, charities, individuals and government alike - to actively ensure that legacy is one that includes economic advancement with societal enrichment alongside reparations to our natural environment, rather than slow and miserable decline to a derelict biosphere.

This is a challenge, make no mistake. But one we must embrace. Our asks are not distant dreams but attainable milestones, and we need to turn dialogue into deeds, our combined visions into tangible transformations.

I call upon everyone here, the architects of our future: let’s pledge to actionable change and the resilient pursuit of progress. Our collective endeavours and steadfast commitment can shape a future where the Isle of Man is a thriving entity, respected and renowned.

Let’s unite and build, innovate, and sustain. Let’s forge paths to a future, alive with promise and prosperity. Let’s collaborate and work together, building bridges between aspirations and achievements and realise our full potential.

To help realise all this though, we all need to be supported. The collective energy, the diverse insights, and the committed engagement of all our members for the greater good are the linchpins that will enable us to achieve our shared goals and to act as the strong, unified voice of business that our island needs. Your participation, your feedback, and your involvement are not just valued—they are vital. It is with your support that the Chamber can continue to evolve, to grow, and to advocate effectively for the interests of all businesses on our island.

Moreover, collaboration with the political and public sectors is crucial. True progress can only be achieved when there is open dialogue, mutual respect, and a shared commitment to action between the business community and Government. We are the Economy, we are Enterprise. It is imperative that our Government not just hears, but actively listens to the insights, the concerns, and the innovative ideas of our business community. Only through a collaborative approach can we ensure that the learnings derived from such sessions are converted into meaningful actions that drive growth and development for our island.

A more engaged Government and a better supported Chamber positions the whole Island for success an nurtures the environment to create policies that are forward-thinking, establish frameworks that are inclusive and create an landscape where business can flourish, innovation can thrive, and traditions and our biosphere are respected.

It’s time we stand united, we speak louder, and we act decisively. It’s time for shared visions to be transformed into shared successes. The journey will be challenging, the path is largely uncharted. Let us stand united, speak with conviction, and act with purpose and resolve. Let’s turn our shared visions into shared successes and sculpt the future with a spirit of community, resilience, and action.