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Pam Martin, Chapter Development Director, BNI New Zealand and co-organiser of the NZ Small Business Summit, set to run on September 20, at the BNZ Business Centre at Highbrook. BNI is New Zealand's largest structured business networking organisation for small to medium businesses, with over 2,600 members. Every week, business owners across the country meet to build sustainable relationships with other businesses and develop new networks.

Why do small businesses need the Small Business Summit?

Small businesses often operate in a bubble where they work in the business but rarely on it. Many struggle to find ways to move beyond a" job" to develop a successful business. They don't have the time or know where they should be going.

Effective networking groups and targeted small business events can provide a solution.


Who are the organisers behind The Small Business Summit?

The Small Business Summit is run by the Small Business Voice (SBV), a group with worldwide affiliates. We champion, nurture and promote the interests of small business, the backbone of the New Zealand economy. As the voice of small business, the SBV lobbies and interacts with government on issues of concern.

What is your role with the Small Business Summit?

I started out as a presenter at one of the early Small Business Summits and was so impressed by the commitment of the organisers that I became a trustee. I am now one of the four volunteer organisers of the summit. We all have our own businesses to run but recognise how important it is for NZ's small businesses to be heard.

What are you trying to achieve with the Summit?

At the moment small businesses in New Zealand have been sidelined. They are seen as hard to talk to so the Government talks to larger organisations such as Business NZ which claims they represent small business. We want to show that small businesses do have their own views on what should be happening and to provide a conduit to put their views forward.

Who attends and what happens?

We attract a wide variety of small business owners who have decided to step outside their businesses for a day and look at the bigger picture. They enjoy contributing to discussions and meeting other business owners facing similar challenges.


Researchers or those working with small businesses also attend to gain an insight into ways that they can help NZ small business.

We have inspirational business owners in the morning to illustrate what can be achieved by small businesses, followed by the Policy Debate, where politicians and business leaders debate their views on current policies while responding to questions from attendees. We have had a great response from most parties although National hasn't attended for the last three years which has been disappointing. We have invited the Small Business Minister John Banks but he has yet to confirm. In the afternoon we have a workshop that provides practical input on ways to manage risk in business.

There is plenty of time to network over morning tea and lunch. This often results in meaningful connections that continue way beyond their day at the summit.

Is this a money making enterprise?

No the Small Business Summit is a not for profit event.

What are the challenges?


It has taken a while to find the right sponsors for the summit. However we have now found a group of organisations that work with SMEs and can see the value of a Small Business Summit. Their continued commitment and large databases are helping us to grow the event and the on-going breakfast information sessions. Sponsors include BNI, Yellow, BNZ Partners and Two Degrees.

Small business owners can be hard to connect with because they work alone. But as more and more attend these events we will be able to illustrate the benefits of increased knowledge and larger business networks.

Do you think there are enough events out there for small businesses?

Annual events such as the NZ Small Business Summit can start the ball rolling but to keep up the momentum requires a range of smaller events which can be held in a variety of locations. SBV is now running breakfast information sessions to keep up the connection between summits. We held a successful series recently on the impact that social media has on productivity. Any event that promotes small business education and discussion will help to strengthen a critical part of the economy.

Next week: We tend to associate corporate retreats or company conferences as something only for big companies. But for successful and fast growing SMEs,an informal getaway with your staff can be incredibly fruitful and doesn't have to cost the earth. Tell us how you get together with staff out of work.

I am especially interested in how internationally active New Zealand businesses manage to get their staff from all over the world together from time to time.