By Angelica Ingram
Bernie and Jim Davis are avid travellers and wherever they go they are interacting with frontline staff at restaurants grocery stores and gas stations. Their impression of any town or region is shaped by the interactions they have with the workers they encounter.
That’s why when last year’s Chamber of Commerce Business and Community Achievement Awards nomination period came around Bernie decided to submit the name of an employee at her local grocery store. Problem was none of the categories applied.
“There were some nominations over the past couple of years … that didn’t really quite fit into one of the other categories” says Autumn Smith member services representative for the chamber. “It was the gala committee that sat down and thought about adding [the award].”
The result was the Customer First Employee Award introduced for the first time this year.
The award is to celebrate those workers who make patronizing a business a pleasant experience.
For Bernie the addition of the award means that those who most often represent a company – and the Highlands community – to customers will receive important recognition.
“The frontline workers are the people I see as a customer and that’s really significant” she says. The man she intends to nominate always treats her kindly and she sees him brightening the day of others in the store as well.
“You just come out of there feeling so much better” she says. “I feel really inspired and not only that he really helps me.”
The chamber wants members of the public to put forward nominations and Smith stresses that the awards are truly a community initiative.
“Anyone can nominate. You don’t have to be a member and anyone can be nominated [for an award]” she says.
Mark Lester director of Supertrax Media Inc. said that he was pleasantly surprised last year to receive a nomination for the Creativity and Innovation Award. Supertrax is based in Minden Hills and produces media that reaches millions in the United States and Canada specializing in motorized recreation.
“We thought it was an honour for Haliburton too because part of the television shows that we produce … our content is generated right here in Haliburton County. What people see all across North America – we have 11.5 million viewers – what they see is Haliburton” Lester says.
That is precisely the intention of the awards Smith says.
“We want to recognize the incredible work that these businesses are doing” she says. “They’re working around the clock to do what they do and it’s important to recognize them.”
The deadline for award nominations is quickly approaching. All nominations must be in by 4 p.m. on Friday Jan. 22.
Other categories include Business Achievement Customer First Business Entrepreneur of the Year Innovation and Creativity New Business Not-for-Profit of the Year Skilled Trades and Industry Tourism and Hospitality and Highlander of the Year along with Customer First Employee. Nomination forms can be downloaded from www.haliburtonchamber.com or picked up at the office in the Village Barn in Haliburton.
This year marks a decade of awards for the chamber and Smith says the gala committee has been busy planning for the awards ceremony which is scheduled for Feb. 27.
“We are highlighting all of the award recipients over the past 10 years so we’re giving all of them an opportunity to showcase their business” Smith says.
“In terms of decor it’s going to be really big really glamorous. The 10th anniversary is the diamond anniversary so they took that theme and ran with it. Really putting the emphasis on the businesses: how your business shines.”