Suzanne Watson Vice President Bradford Chamber

The bigger picture – from the beginning to vice president

Being part of something much bigger than your business is something I’ve long been a big believer in. It’s a way of learning, gaining impartiality, support and getting the head space to see the bigger picture.

I joined Bradford Chamber when I first started Approach and never dreamt that 16 years later I’d be elected as vice president of what is Bradford’s biggest representative body for businesses. An organisation which is a key part of the recently combined North and West Yorkshire Chamber embracing Bradford, Leeds and York.

Of course, it’s a privilege to be asked to take on such a leading role but it did initially promote considerable soul-searching. What can I offer? What do I bring to such a significant position?

Approach was my personal mission for achieving better ‘work / life’ balance as a mum of two – I never thought it would become my sanity restorer and my key to survival. But the twists and turns of life meant that for many reasons, Approach had to work.

In 16 years, it has provided full time employment for 23 people, survived a brush with the bailiffs, battled through a client-crippling, budget-slashing recession, adapted with the fast-paced digital communications landscape and won more than 25 business and industry awards. We’ve supported six PR undergraduates through 12 month placements, opened our doors to universities, colleges and schools to support the next generation of employees, delivered award-winning and business changing campaigns and trained solicitors, manufacturers, accountants and marketing teams in the art of social and traditional PR.

Throughout the highs and lows of growth has been one remaining constant. Bradford Chamber – a pivotal part of our success story through its networking, legal advice, training, access to funding, partnerships and of course, unrelenting support.

Approach is one of the UK’s ‘backbone SMEs’ and Bradford Chamber has provided a steady foundation for growth. Living and breathing its services and knowing what businesses like ours need and value in our day-to-day operations gives me an inside knowledge which will be invaluable in the role of vice president.

Challenging times lay ahead as Bradford’s 16,000 businesses continue to operate through the uncertainty of Brexit negotiations, a shifting government and more locally, better connectivity for our city through Northern Powerhouse Rail. If ever we needed headspace, clarity, direction and to be heard, it’s now.

SMEs have a right to operate within an economy that ‘works for all’. Through Bradford Chamber and working alongside the experience and business acumen of new president Nick Garthwaite I simply cannot wait to play my part in the next chapter of Bradford’s business profile and to give our deserving business community a voice, locally, regionally and nationally.

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