Supporting Small Businesses: Podcast with Chris Lamont | CBCC News
Wally Mehanna, CEO for the Canterbury Bankstown Chamber of Commerce (CBCC), recently sat down with Chris Lamont, the NSW Small Business Commissioner and regular CBCC guest, to talk about how the CBCC is supporting small businesses in Canterbury-Bankstown.
As ‘one of the most passionate supporters of small businesses’ that Chris has met, Wally works tirelessly to be the voice, the advocate, the driver, the connector, and the ambassador who can relate to the person on the other side. He is a Canterbury-Bankstown local who connects to and understands deeply the needs of the community that he belongs to.
Using his insight and knowledge of the Southwest Sydney business community, Wally and Chris discussed various topics including what is being done in Southwest Sydney to support young entrepreneurs, the many challenges facing small businesses at the moment, and the role of industry organisations like the CBCC in representing and advocating for small businesses.
“I understand and feel their pain, feel their joy… and it gives me pleasure and gratitude to see that I am able to help. That’s why I see my role as a doer to walk the talk, and a friend.”
– Wally Mehanna, CEO of the CBCC
Encouraging Entrepreneurial Mindset
Encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset is a large part of the CBCC, particularly in the young generation. Entrepreneurs bring innovation through new ideas, products, and designs, provide solutions to gaps in the economy, and contribute to employment and economic growth.
As a business chamber, the CBCC sees successes and failures often. However, as Chris remarked, ‘it’s important that we learn from failures’.
The CBCC is dedicated to supporting small businesses in the area for greater chances of success. Wally shared a recent example of a young and new entrepreneur who sought the help of the CBCC after wanting to know how to kickstart his business:
‘We made him equipped, from A to Z, in a simple way, but then he’s ready, while equipped, and he’s out there. And we gave him a complimentary membership with the Chamber to set him up, give him visibility on our website.
‘Now he’s coming to his first networking event on Monday, to network. And I will make sure he’s accompanied to introduce him to different people that he can be able to create the leads and hopefully convert them,’ says Wally.
This energy and passion to walk with the business owners and entrepreneurs of Canterbury-Bankstown demonstrates the vision that Wally and the Board of the CBCC share: to be the platform that brings people from all walks of life, so they focus on building relationships, to collaborate, and operate as a team.
“In a journey… you need to be part of a group that supports you, backs you up, and provide you with indirect mentorship and advice and support mechanisms.”
– Wally Mehanna, CEO of the CBCC
The Challenges Facing Small Businesses
There is no doubt that small businesses are feeling the heat and the pressure of the challenges of the last few years since the COVID-19 pandemic first began.
‘Now, the promise was to stay together, hold on, and then hopefully after COVID, we can sort of have a break and just see the light at the end of the tunnel’, states Wally.
However, with the current economical circumstances with inflation, rising costs of living, and reduced global supply chains, the financial effects of the pandemic have continued throughout 2022 and into 2023.
With many small business owners putting everything on the line, from their personal wealth, to their family time, to their mental health, it becomes a question of ‘Why do I need to be a business? What’s my incentive?’
‘They believe in the vision,’ Wally explains.
‘They believe in being an entrepreneur. They believe in being something in life, meaningful, and they want to make a difference, and they believe in the journey that will take them somewhere.’
The effects of having the support of a Chamber like the CBCC on small businesses have proven to be powerful. Despite economic challenges, the CBCC continues to grow its membership steadily, helping its members communicate and collaborate and bringing the voices and concerns of its members directly to the decision-makers in government.
Chris agrees, noting that being able to communicate with CBCC members directly at events has helped him understand how to support the small business community further. To date, Chris has attended six CBCC events, with plans to attend more events in the future.
“It’s often, perhaps, not understood, the role of a Chamber and the role of my office. But we very much collaborate on things. We are not competitors, we complement each other.”
– Chris Lamont, NSW Small Business Commissioner
What's Next For Small Businesses?
Despite the challenges of the last few years, many people still hope to start their own businesses. Sharing insight into what is truly important for small businesses, Chris and Wally emphasise that the power of community is what can make or break a business.
‘In a journey… you need to be part of a group that supports you, backs you up, and provides you with indirect mentorship and advice and support,’ shares Wally.
‘For us as a Chamber, we’re going to be the best buddy for that person to help them, guide them, and steer them in the right direction.’
Chris agrees, adding that many young people doing apprenticeships or training are often unaware that they will one day operate their own small business.
‘That’s the logical progression. You finish your trade, you’re in the construction industry… a healthy percentage of those apprentices will start their own business within 5 years of completing an apprenticeship,’ states Chris.
‘It’s a level of peer support to learn from each other [within a business Chamber].”
With the Chamber’s support and guidance, Wally wants to encourage our young generation to dream big and believe in themselves.
‘When we work collectively as a team, the wonders and the benefit and effect of this kind of [entrepreneurial] attitude will change the hearts and minds of people, so they can operate in a way not a singular, but operate as a team,’ shares Wally.
‘Small businesses [are] the pulse, the heart, of local communities, of local CBDs. When you go to visit different CBDs, there’s a unique structure, unique characteristic, unique strength, and the small businesses of that area provide that.’
‘We believe in this destination [Canterbury-Bankstown] and we will advocate for it as an ambassador to live, study, work, and do business.’
Interested in hearing more? Listen to the full podcast with Chris Lamont and Wally Mehanna yourself!