The inaugural building ‘Building Better Business Networks’ event that was held on 2 March at Jimmy Rum Distillery, Dromana. A crowd of 50 local business people came together to reconnect with each other over great food and conversation.

This event showcased three of the recent Victorian Tourism Award winners:

  • Paul Pingiaro of Mornington Boat Hire - won BRONZE in the adventure tourism category
  • Richard Hawkes of Hawkes Vegetable Farm - won SILVER for excellence in food tourism category
  • Mel Oliver of Carmel of Sorrento - won GOLD for the 5 star accommodation category

Running for 30 years, the esteemed Victorian Tourism Awards rewards excellence, innovation, industry professionalism and collaboration. Nearly 200 entries are submitted every year across the 31 categories available in Victoria. In the most recent awards (2021) the Mornington Peninsula had 12 of the 74 finalists, and nine award winners – a great effort for our region.

So, lets find out what sets these businesses apart from the crowd. Our panellists were each asked the following questions and gave the following advice in amongst examples and anecdotes:

What are the 3 things that you feel have made your business an award winner?

  • Know your product
  • Know your customers
  • Know how to reach your customers
  • Know what your customer wants
  • Understand your costs
  • Work collaboratively with local businesses
  • Understand product differentiation
  • Tailor your experiences and offerings
  • Invest time and energy into training & communicating with your staff

Share two challenges of the past two years that you have managed to overcome, and how?

  • Navigating the tenant/landlord issues, knowing when to challenge or to walk away. What are the costs and (although change is painful) what might be the benefits?
  • As confusing and challenging as the changes with COVID restrictions were – being clear and communicating openly with staff helps them to understand the situation. You need to look after your team to retain them
  • Closure of supply chains in either supply or sales is hard work. Consider offering different types of product, reducing (or expanding) your product range, but always take the time to maintain business relationships. Try using every resource available. Think outside the box, collaborate and leverage your connections
  • Sometimes doors close and there's nothing you can do. Endurance is critical. Looking after your own mental health is foundational to surviving

What advice would you give your younger business self?

  • Know when to walk away from a challenge in order to make changes happen that will work in your favour
  • Put your ego aside. Focus on what is important
  • Be patient – sometimes it is better to sit back, rather than force it - let the idea evolve organically
  • Don’t let the job define you, try to keep a balanced perspective
  • Don’t burn bridges as you never know what opportunities will arise in the future

Yes, the last few years have been challenging for all sorts of reasons. These events give local business people a chance to come together to celebrate excellence, share their knowledge, get a dose of inspiration, and reconnect with their peninsula business tribe - over a bite to eat at a great local venue.

Attendees spent the remainder of the evening meeting other business people and building their networks. The feedback was extremely positive with 100% of those surveyed saying they would recommend the event to others.

  • Great to be back networking and hearing inspiring stories for other businesses
  • Love the panel
  • Great concept using award winners to share stories - inspirational thank you
  • Great networking opportunity
  • Very interesting and informative

The next event is the series will be held on Wednesday 4 May. Learn more.

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