It has been another cracking year for the BHBPA, with membership still high in the 170 region, lots of good attendances at events, a really excellent atmosphere whenever members meet and of course the Amex Awards Night which topped it all off.
We began the year at Hickstead Hotel, in now traditional fashion, with a cheery breakfast event at which Jon Lavelle interested and amused us with his observations and knowledge of ‘Negotiation Skills’. Indeed, Jon has written at least one book on the subject, and he came over very well in his presentation. The turnout was excellent on a cold January day.
In February we went to the Birch Hotel in Haywards Heath, again for breakfast, and the number who signed up was over fifty. We squeezed cosily into the large room at the hotel to hear the Leader of Mid Sussex District Council, Garry Wall, give us a wealth of information of interest to businesses. The breakfast was delicious of course and a lot of people were still there chatting and networking long after the 10am finish time.
We are still recovering from the shock of the March Quiz Night at the Woolpack, when new-ish members and first timers at the quiz Blackman Terry had the temerity to sweep to the title. It was an impressive effort on their part, and I trust they will return to defend the crown in 2018. The evening was once again pleasant, a packed pub, great fun and just a little bit of competition. The only shame was that the BHBPA team were dogged by terrible bad luck which explained their third consecutive failure to win des[ite starting as as hot favourites. Good losers Dave Farmer and James Newbery have now finished their post mortem and already started planning for 2018. The best result was the generosity of members who raised on the night an incredible £620 for St Peter & St James Hospice.
There was no event in April as a determined committee set about the task of filling the Amex Stadium with members and friends for our first ever BHBiz Awards Night. And what a night it was, as 310 people filled the Mayo Wynne Baxter Suite to dine, drink and find out who the winners were of the quirky awards we had set up. Despite all our fears, the members rallied around brilliantly, with over 50 award applications and by buying tickets and filling the coffers for the Hospice too.
In case you forgot, these people and companies won the awards on the evening. I doubt that any event could match this one in May 2017 for customer satisfaction. The feedback we received, and still receive, was overwhelming complimentary and it was very well deserved for that small number of people who gave a lot of their spare time to help organise it to such a high standard. I thank them once again for their outstanding efforts.
Later that month we had a terrific event at Q Leisure, where an eclectic bunch of members all tried out some new activities. The axe throwing efforts probably caused the most amusement, but people became seriously keen to shoot accurately with the assault rifles and to hit the bullseye with bows and arrows. This really was great fun for all involved, and well done to QLeisure for putting it on for us, and also for providing some excellent refreshments afterwards.
In July we joined with other business associations to have an evening out at Lingfield Park for Horse racing, which was fun but in truth did not produce the numbers of people we had hoped for. Nevertheless, we had a good turnout from Burgess Hill, it must be said.
For once the weather was perfect for our event at Ridgeview Wine Estate on Independence Day in July. Tamara showed us around the vineyards and the wine making process with her usual panache. She has really been a good supporter of the BHBPA over the years, and I’m delighted that she remains as down to earth and grounded as ever, despite all the success she and her family have achieved in the last twenty years. Long may it continue. They are a lovely bunch of people over there.
We took a break in August to allow members to have holidays with their families, and resumed events in September with a visit to the ever popular Porsche Mid Sussex Garage in September. Andy Crabb and his team showed us their usual fine level of hospitality and refreshments were kindly provided by new member Substop, who were very keen to get involved in BHBPA activities.
Jon Francies, the new Principal of the Burgess HIll Academy, was very pleased to welcome a good crowd of members to the school in early October. It was very impressive to listen to presentations from senior students, who came up with ideas of how businesses might help to create links with education and the Academy in particular. I know that there was a very positive response from members on the day and afterwards, which is great for the school and good for local businesses too.
Our visit to Ockenden Manor in November was full to the rafters; in fact I had to put a limit on numbers in the end, such is the popularity of this venue. Professor Karen Cham, from the University of Brighton, spoke about the Digital Catapult and how small businesses could get involved with new digital ideas and systems at the University. Dan Soanes, from Sherrards Employment Law, followed up by taking us through the changes in data protection law coming up in 2018.
And so the year comes to an end, and I offer a huge thanks to those who have helped the BHBPA is so many ways this year. It would not be possible to sustain it without such help, and it is a credit to members and local businesses that the organisation continues and flourishes. I wish you all a very happy Christmas break and a successful New year.