New multicultural business network event held in Victoria

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Small Business Victoria and the Victorian Multicultural Commission recently collaborated last week on a multicultural business forum with the multicultural business sector.

With close to 100 business owners and stakeholders from a diverse range of multicultural businesses across Victoria attending, the event offered a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the supportive network for Victorian small businesses.

Bill Papastergiadis was part of a panel of speakers for the forum where he was wearing a number of hats in the panelist role – as a Commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission, as the President of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM) and importantly, as an employer and business owner in his capacity as the Managing Partner of the Melbourne office of leading law firm Moray & Agnew.

Other panelists included Light & Glo Designs Creative Director, Suji Sanjeevan, and Executive Director of Small Business Victoria, Ylva Carosone.

This panel discussion was followed by a networking event to engage and showcase Victoria’s multicultural business sector.

In opening, Ms Sanjeevan said: “We live in a vastly multicultural society and acknowledging its worth, the value diversity brings to the table is front and centre.”

The forum was an invaluable opportunity for two-way learning between State Government and business representatives, with a number of attendees commenting that there is a real need for the State Government to continue to connect multicultural business, particularly through more frequent and more representative events.

A commitment to action by the State Government is needed to assist with supporting chamber and trader organisations with tailored communications and supports – for example to assist groups such as newly arrive migrants, young people, or specific industry types.

Victorian Multicultural Commission Chairperson, Vivienne Nguyen, commented that one of the most important aspects of the forum was to gather insights on key issues from the stakeholders of so many in the multicultural business sector.

“This objective was well and truly met through a frank and robust discussion” Ms Nguyen said. “Rest assured – this is not once off – there is more to come.”

Panelists reflected on the challenges faced by multicultural businesses, and all businesses over the last few years of COVID disruptions.

“The impact of lockdowns had a profound effect in weakening resilience in many people – we all noticed increased frustration, over reactions, dwelling on problems – caused by loneliness and isolation,” Mr Papastergiadis commented.

There was discussion about the importance of focusing on engagement and reconnection in rebuilding resilience in employees.

“The way forward to rebuild the resilience is through meaningful engagement – with each other as individuals, with our workplaces, with our business communities, our broader communities, and with the whole world again in a global sense,” Mr Papastergiadis said.

The discussion also covered forecasted trends and opportunities for 2023. Some of the biggest trends identified in business for 2023 were the need for ongoing adaptation to a world that has permanently changed the way it does business.

“It’s a new landscape which required all of us to change – historically and pre-COVID in professional services firms, people were in their office every single day – now we have embraced new flexible ways of working,” Mr Papastergiadis explained.

“This has not had any negative impact on productivity but does have its downside, namely a significant effect on training, collaboration, and in building resilience through contact and expression of feeling.

“The world is not going back to how it was, and we are all working in different ways but as humans some fundamental things have not changed – the essential need for engagement is one of our key drivers, and connection to a productive workplace is key to this.”

Another topic covered was those opportunities that are now available as a result of the seismic
changes the world has gone through.

“All of the biggest opportunities for 2023 are going to be capitalised on by those business who are able to innovate – the world is changing rapidly, and there are great opportunities for nimble businesses in 2023 to be able to take advantage of a quickly changing environment. Not every decision has to the 100% perfect – but complete inaction is always a poor start,” Mr Papastergiadis said.

Reflecting on the success of the forum, and particularly the connections made both through discussions and the networking event, Mr Papastergiadis said: “Building business connections in a post-COVID world is best facilitated through participation in organised interaction, which is the job of all of us who took part in this important new multicultural small business initiative.”

“Businesses should be creating organised prompts for reconnection because Working From Home affords less organic opportunities for interaction. Through these initiatives, businesses will be able to reactivate their organisational culture after the hibernation of lockdowns,” Mr Papastergiadis concluded.

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