Business guru moving on

By John Cousins

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Outgoing Chamber of Commerce chief Max Mason said he had used his relationship skills to foster a culture of inclusion in the Chamber of Commerce.
Outgoing Chamber of Commerce chief Max Mason said he had used his relationship skills to foster a culture of inclusion in the Chamber of Commerce.

Tauranga business guru Max Mason says he will need all his skills when he takes over managing Bethlehem's Bob Owens Retirement Village.

Mr Mason has exchanged being CEO for the 700-member Tauranga Chamber of Commerce for the new job of go-to guy for 570 village residents.

The 53-year-old who has never been far from the headlines since he arrived in Tauranga in 1995 was asked whether it would be a huge change.

"Not really," he replied.

Mr Mason said he had used his relationship skills to foster a culture of inclusion in the Chamber of Commerce - skills that would go to the heart of his new job.

He resigned because he felt he was getting into a comfort zone with his old job and that change would be good for him and the Chamber.

"Every organisation needs new ideas and a new perspective."

His appointment as village manager, effective mid-January, will end seven years with the chamber of which all but 18 months was as chief executive.

The Rena disaster proved memorable for Mr Mason in more ways than one. He swung into action during the early confusion when marine-orientated businesses were hit by the pollution and the exclusion zone.

The chamber worked closely with the Government and other agencies to create a package of assistance for the 100 or so businesses impacted by the disaster.

He was able to tap into the earthquake experience of the Christchurch Chamber of Commerce. The emergency assistance of $500 a week per employee paid to Tauranga businesses was the same as the Christchurch package.

Sadly, for some businesses it was the last nail in the coffin from the pressure of the economic downtown, he said.

His appointment as the chamber's CEO coincided with the global credit crunch that ushered in a mini recession. Fortunately the Chamber was able to offer services that were usually the first to go when businesses were suffering, such as training and networking.

"It was pleasing to be able to maintain our value to members."

And although overall business confidence was high as the recovery continued, retailers were still feeling the effects of people's reduced discretionary spending and competition from online shopping.

His big regret was not closing the gap in which Tauranga lagged behind the national average for organisations employing over 100 people. Only 63 Tauranga organisations employed over 100 people whereas it should be well over 100 organisations on a population comparison with similar sized cities.

He would have liked to counter this by pulling all of the Bay of Plenty's chambers of commerces into a stronger strategy focusing on boosting the capability of medium-sized businesses

"We need more jobs and more sustainable careers ... there is a new wind blowing of local government reform - perhaps this could be the impetus."

Max Mason's Tauranga jobs since 1995

*Tauranga Historic Village manager (3 years)
*Tauranga City Council Communications manager
*Council change manager helping set up Priority One & Tourism BOP
*Adventure Education
*Tauranga Chamber of Commerce (7 years)

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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