A new marketing group is set to launch in Whistler with the aim of supporting and strengthening the local business community.
April 2 will see the official launch of the Whistler chapter of Business Network International (BNI), a professional marketing organization that relies on word-of-mouth referrals.
"The benefit to the business community in Whistler is getting an organized group who are going to think about other reputable people who are ethical, honest and perform well in their businesses," said founding member Peter Dagg, of Tantalus Mountain Realty. The strategy at BNI is to create an extensive, diverse network of members who will foster a supportive and trustworthy environment to develop business connections. The group limits the number of members represented from each business sector, and each new applicant must be vetted and approved.
"It raises the bar as far as professionalism goes to a certain standard, so if somebody is looking for, say, a naturopathic doctor in Whistler, we have a member who does that," Dagg explained. "He's been vetted, interviewed and scrutinized and he'll probably be first in mind for referrals."
The group has been meeting unofficially since the fall, and is on pace to top $1 million worth of referrals for the year, Dagg said.
Tom McColm of TM Builders said his company has already benefited from the BNI mandate, encouraged by a fellow member to bid on a substantial commercial project he ultimately won.
"This is going to help keep local businesses thriving," McColm said.
But does creating a network of established businesses with existing ties to the community prevent new companies from gaining a foothold in the marketplace? Based on the way membership is structured, McColm doesn't think so.
"It's good to be in the group and gain more (exposure), but there's so many young, new businesses in town that I don't think they'll suffer drastically by not being a part of the group," he noted. "For example, there's only allowed to be one landscape contractor in the group, but there's probably 15 in town, and they all seem to be thriving quite well."
Moselle Dibdin, founder of Local Whistler, said the structure of the group's membership could be limiting, although she supports any organization that advocates for local businesses.
"I think one of the limitations to their structure is that only one business per industry can be a part of the group, and considering a lot of our local businesses are part of similar industries, it might be a bit limiting to how much value there is, particularly to local businesses," she said.
The BNI Whistler chapter is currently looking for members from specific sectors to fill the remaining gaps in the group. Reputable businesses operating in Whistler, Pemberton or Squamish are open to apply. For more information, call Dagg at 604-698-0055, or Stuart McConnachie at 604-905-4645.
For those interested in attending the April 2 launch, scheduled for 7 a.m. at Legends, register online at www.bnibc.ca/events.asp.