Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce is inclusive to all.
But all too often such business organizations are viewed by outsiders as “old boy’s networks.”
That’s why Paul van Koll, a CPA, CA, and senior manager at Deloitte in Langley, has thrown himself into his duties as both secretary-treasurer and chair of the U40 chamber committee.
He’s determined to make the chamber more enticing to leaders of the future in Langley.
“People have the perception of the chamber being an old boy’s network, but I think that is definitely changing,” he said.
Van Koll, 29, doesn’t attribute the changes exclusively to the work of the chamber’s U40, although he does believe they have a large role to play in creating that reality.
“Without new younger members coming in, looking to make good use of their membership by attending events and meeting people, there is no future for the chamber,” he said.
When van Koll began casting around for some networking options as an up-and-coming manager in the Langley business community, the chamber proved a “perfect fit” for him.
“I cherry-picked some events that sounded interesting and met some really great people,” he explained, first attending a few of the U40 mix and mingle sessions.
“The worry that comes from the old boy’s network perception of the chamber, is that if a first-timer is thinking of coming out to a chamber event, they would not be included, and is probably thinking everyone already knows each other and I’ll feel like an outsider. The result is that they just decide not to attend,” van Koll shared.
But he was made to feel welcome, and said more and more efforts are always being made to make the chamber more inviting to new members of all ages.
So what’s being done specifically for the U40 crowd, van Koll said the monthly mingles were a great first step. They are casual, show-up-whenever-you-want and stay-for-how-ever-long-as-you-want events.
They don’t include any “dry speeches and are just a means for people in a similar stage in their career to meet, have a drink and some appies,” he explained.
“This has been a great success, although we definitely see some ebbs and flows – depending on the time of year. We realized that younger people are really looking for value, not just for their money, but also for their time,” van Koll said.
The committee recently decided “it was time to keep things interesting and look for other things we can be doing,” he said, point to a recent popular event held at the new KPU brewery. Plus, they’ve started a Top 40 Under 40 speaker series.
“We’re really trying to garner as much feedback as we can on each event, and try to see what other events might entice new people to come out,” he added.
“We have some lofty goals of where we want to end up and have some information on what’s worked in other chambers. But, we want to do it right and try to get a steady group of interested people to start growing rather than just haphazardly throwing out events to see what works.”
Upcoming are a series of events designed specifically for the U40 crowd, including a Forty Under 40 Lunch & Learn series on Thursday, March 23 featuring Breedon Grauer, a marketing director with the Jim Pattison Group.
This series features 2016 Business in Vancouver Forty under 40 award winners, and the next one to follow will be Thursday, May 25, featuring Langley’s own Dana Matheson (a past chamber business excellence winner in the category of under 40 businessperson and medium business of the year).
Also on the chamber calendar, and specific to U40, are two upcoming U40 mingles. The first free event is on Wednesday, April 5 and the second is Wednesday, June 7 at Earls Kitchen + Bar, both run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. To RSVP for any of these events, people can call the chamber at 604-371-3770 or email email@example.com.
One of the U40 committee’s biggest outstanding goals is to start a mentorship program, van Koll said.
“This works perfectly with our goals, as we’re not trying to replace the chamber with a younger chamber group, we’re trying to get everyone together in a variety of ways. While we do want to have some events that cater specifically to the U40 crowd, we also want to find ways where the chamber – as a whole – can get together where everyone involved can see the value,” he explained.
While van Koll and others are constantly working to make the chamber more inclusive for younger entrepreneurs, he’s pleased with the progress made thus far.
“I believe the business world is all about connections and being part of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce has afforded me many, many connections,” van Koll said, sharing some of his personal experience.
“Of course, as a senior manager at Deloitte, there are benefits and new business that I can directly attribute to being involved with the chamber. But, there is so much more that comes from the connections that I’ve made that isn’t so easy to trace back to any one thing in particular. It is working behind the scenes and is a combination of my hard work, the Deloitte team, and my connections” including all those made through the chamber.
“I’m 29, so I have some time to keep up with this whole U40 thing for a bit,” he concluded.