Networking is the key to building up businesses to withstand ongoing and future crisis events, according to a new White Paper on business resilience released last week.
Many Blue Mountains businesses are operating in isolation, but new information has said creating a regional-based network, tied to disaster education and mentoring, can meet this need.
Commissioned by corporate2community, and conducted by leaders in business community resilience, the white paper 'Getting Connected: Using Networks to Build Business Community Resilience in the Blue Mountains', looks at the specific role business community networks can play in the disaster space.
A leading expert in social capital, Professor Daniel Aldrich, joined forces with Associate Professor Valerie Ingham from Charles Sturt University, and Renae Hanvin from corporate2community.
For the Blue Mountains these findings are especially worrying considering the high overall failure rates of businesses affected by disasters- Associate Professor Valerie Ingham
Combining the results of a survey of local businesses from late 2021 with a review of recent literature relating to networks and crisis, they have written a paper which focuses on enhancing the networking of business in the Blue Mountains local government area.
"The Blue Mountains area is a perfect case study with its many villages and varying types and sizes of business communities," Professor Aldrich said.
His work is given local context with input from Blue Mountains emergency management and community services academic Dr Ingham.
"Our main finding is that there is a place for focused programs in the Mountains that foster connections among business owners and operators in order to build their business capacity to handle ongoing and future crisis events," Professor Aldrich said.
"Developing a regional-based network to provide opportunities tied to disaster education and mentoring can meet this need. With funding from regional and national authorities, a number of NGOs and private sector organisations can help guide the creation of this network."
The survey asked Mountains businesses how they went about connecting with each other. More than 60 businesses responded, highlighting while business owners already recognised the power of networks and connections in building resilience, many lacked broad and diverse networks, and did not fully embrace or understand the value in networking, especially in terms of building disaster preparedness.
"For the Blue Mountains these findings are especially worrying considering the high overall failure rates of businesses affected by disasters," Professor Ingham said.
"Many businesses continue to operate in relative isolation - this is not an ideal situation, given the recent disasters of the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20, followed by severe flooding in some locations and then the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Encouragingly, most survey respondents said they would be interested in developing a new, more open network of businesses, but would need administrative help given time and resource constraints," corporate2community's Ms Hanvin said.
"We know our business networks are not inclusive enough, so it's critical we put in place mechanisms that allow businesspeople to create and join networks that attract diverse members who can share their knowledge, experience and support for when the going gets tough," she added.
Meanwhile Mountains businesses are being invited to help co-design a free tool for local businesses so they can ride the wave of benefits from business tourism.
Resilient Ready Hub: Blue Mountains project lead Sue Wills, who is running a series of business tourism workshops in the next fortnight, said the tool would be an asset for local businesses looking to diversify.
"Having more than one source of revenue is a key part of business resilience," Ms Wills said.
"This project will capture existing knowledge and capabilities from the Mountains business community to inform a micro learning-based tool, which will help businesses integrate 'business tourism' as a source of revenue."
Working alongside a local steering committee, the project is being delivered by corporate2community in collaboration with BusinessBM and funded by a grant from the NSW Government's Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund.
The first workshop kicks off in Blackheath on June 20. Interested businesses can register here: https://corporate2community.com/resilient-ready-blue-mountains/.