The adage ‘what a difference a year makes’ has never been more fitting. Alongside welcoming new and returning members to the Chamber of Commerce network, today’s Bradford Chamber annual elections marks 12 months since I became President last July.

I won’t wax lyrical about ‘unprecedented times’ or the eye watering impact of Covid-19 on businesses in Bradford. And we know there’s been an incredible spirit of unity and collaboration as well as being catapulted into a world of digital communications, a good half decade ahead of our time.

A force for good

But there has been an underlying force for good which may have gone unnoticed throughout this outbreak. A force which is fighting its own battles while helping us fight ours.

Each of the 52 Chambers of Commerce within the British network is a business in its own right and as such, is not immune to the impacts of Covid-19. Each Chamber has adapted to home working, navigated furlough, found new income streams and switched to online networking, online events and online training while supporting and representing its membership’s 5.8million employees.

Bradford Chamber of Commerce is no exception. I’ve never known the team work harder, longer or more determinedly to keep its business running ‘as usual’ while consulting with members, speaking with local government, feeding back to national government, making complex issues clear and updating essential information so businesses like mine can adapt, adjust and hopefully move forward.

Never alone

We couldn’t have seen last year where we are today. And as a business owner, I have never experienced a more stressful and uncertain time. A time which has forced me to re-evaluate so much of how we work and with whom. And I know I’m not alone.

Conversations with West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce members have been a lifeline  – sharing, coaching, reassuring, advising. The Chamber’s legal helpline has given me confidence. The regional, local and national insights have been reassuringly reflective. The network’s resolve and reliability has been comforting. And the sharing of rebuilding guidance has been invaluable.

Yes, there’s a way to go before recovery is a reality. But 12 months since Bradford Chamber’s July 2019 elections and as a business community, we are more experienced, more informed, more digitally proficient and more aware of what is important.

If Covid-19 has brought anything positive, it’s perspective.

Versatility to rebuild 

Whatever the future holds, being part of a Chamber which consistently demonstrates its own versatility while helping us navigate our own is inspiring and another positive in my personal Covid-19 experience. Even British Chambers of Commerce Patron, Her Majesty The Queen, says: “It gives me great pride to see the contribution the British Chambers of Commerce and your members are making to help firms, champion trade and rebuild communities.”

A lot can happen in 12 months. By supporting each other, growing our networks and recognising the expertise on our doorstep, being part of the local, regional and national Chamber of Commerce network will improve our chances of surviving the coronavirus storm in the months and the year to come.