Meet Tim Kidd, CEO of Kent Channel Chamber of Commerce
PUBLISHED: 12:30 07 June 2014
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
Understanding the importance of networking and encouraging international export
On a baking hot day in Folkestone the roof terrace of The Workshop in Tontine Street seemed the perfect place for a photoshoot with the new ceo of Kent Channel Chamber of Commerce.
Looking down across the rooftops of The Creative Quarter to the sparkling English Channel, it is easy to see why Tim Kidd is so happy to be right in the centre of town and part of a “really exciting building.”
The Workshop is Folkestone’s new business hub, a growing, ever-changing home of innovarive businesses.
Most recently home to Pipers nightclub, today the five-story space plays host to a buzzing pool of talent. And with its aim to add value to businesses in East Kent, where better to find the region’s very own Chamber and its new man at the top?
The father of two was appointed in November 2013 and seized the chance to move the Chamber from Shearway Business Park to its new home.
Born in Twickenham, Tim’s family moved to Canterbury when he was six and Kent is definitely ‘home.’ He attended The Archbishop’s School (as does his son Benjamin, 15, his daughter Lucy will start in September) and lives just outside the cathedral city he loves.
Tim, 40, has worked in East Kent businesses most of his life, starting out in retail then the travel industry. For the last 10 years, he was general manager for BNI Kent, the business networking organisation based in Littlebourne but with a global reach (Tim was involved with BNI in Spain, Malaysia, Vietnam and South Korea).
This experience proved the ideal background for his current role. “What I really wanted to do after BNI was still work with small businesses, helping them get better at promoting themselves. This was an ideal opportunity for me to continue with what I was doing and build on the great networks I already have in East Kent,” he tells me.
The Channel Chamber was founded in 1899 and is, together with Invicta, one of only two accredited Chambers in Kent. It looks after 250-300 members and about 10,000 non-members in the wider business economy. However, the new ceo is keen to increase membership up to 1,000, and the signs so far this year are good. “We’re recruiting heavily and my networking background is coming in useful,” he says.
Why should a business in the Thanet, Dover and Shepway district join their local Chamber? “We provide the information, advice and services which help ensure the business success of our members at a local level, but also act as a gateway to a vast national network and a host of nationwide benefits, advice and influence,” says Tim.
“We connect and promote people and represent them as far as policies are concerned and increase their profits where we can. For example, we offer members a healthcare policy for employees, AA insurance and recovery, plus free 24x7 legal help.”
“We also encourage our members to work with and support other members. I’ve seen examples of great referrals coming from one-man bands that’s meant huge business for bigger companies.
“We create a level playing field and the more engagement they have with us, the more we can do for them.”
Monthly breakfast networking briefings are held in each region, using different members’ venues, such as the Turner Contemporary and Quex Barn, with a guest speaker each time. On 4 June, for example the managing partner of Dynamix Accountancy will speak in Folkestone, .
The importance of social media is not underestimated as a networking tool and a Social Media Academy has just been launched in east Kent, following the popularity of one introduced in West Kent 18 months ago (see page 109).
So what does Tim want for the Channel Chamber of Commerce? “I want us to be the essential resource for every business person in our region, helping them in every way we can,” he says. “That involves dealing with representatives of local councils, with KCC and with national Government, working out what funding opportunities are available for local regeneration on both a county and district level, working out the funding opportunities for different projects and getting involved in apprenticeships.”
And of course ‘local’ is key. “The beauty of Chambers is their strong local knowledge and the way they can really impact on what goes on in towns and villages around where they’re working.
“Although we’re backed up by a national organisation, localism is something we’re really keen on, so we get involved in Folkestone, Dover, Thanet and Margate to help regenerate those areas, working closely with each of the councils.
“Regeneration in East Kent has a long way to go, we have had a major kickback with Manston closing, but certainly in Folkestone there is a lot being done at the moment in the Creative Quarter, the Turner Contemporary has had such a huge impact on Margate and Dover has just had their good news of a massive building programme in the centre.
“There are green shoots throughout the region and we are trying to get as much European and national funding into our areas as we can, giving our members – who range from one-man band plumbers to multi-million pound companies - a voice at both regional and national level.” n