Last night, I attended as observer a meeting of the regional committee of the Federation of Small Businesses. I have been a member of the FSB for a few years and on the local (branch) committee for a much shorter while; I would not normally wish to go further "up" the organisation, but agreed to an appointment as observer for this one meeting.
And a very strange meeting it was too. Our Regional Chair, who has done so very much for the FSB over recent years, had been asked to stand aside from official duties while certain issues are addressed. And the meeting proceeded as if nothing had happened. With the vice chair keeping to agenda, with what appeared to be veiled threats to keep on topic, with nothing at all being said about what had been going on (leaving newcomers such as me utterly bemused) but with all sorts of references to emails that were said to have been sent out that afternoon so "you won't have seen them if you have come straight from work" it was mightly confusing.
Frankly, I don't know exactly what it WAS that I observed. I saw one issue that I knew to be contensious passed. I saw great respect for the work of the Regional Chair - and I share that huge respect; it may have been just "skin deep" from some of the people around the table, but it's heartfelt from me, and I remain of the opinion that any issues have been blown out of all proportion (indeed, I expect they are non-issues in reallity), with a handful (at most) of people carefully fanning the flames, perhaps based on their own agendas. I do know that I did not understand the meeting, that I don't know what happens next, and that if I make any specific comments on the issue in a public place such as this blog, I am liable to be unpopular. As I say, a very strange meeting indeed!
But sitting out to one side, the meeting did convince me that whilst I'm happy to remain an ordinary member of the FSB, I find their systems, rules and goings on at a branch, regional and policy level to be complex, and the organisation and procedures to be rule-driven, controlling in character and old-fashioned and long-winded to administer. I look, too, at the central and branch costs and I wonder how the organisation as a whole stacks up on this. That's not intended to be a criticism limited to this particular organisation - and indeed much of it may be forced upon them by the legal framework under which they have to operate); I have seen similar scenarios elsewhere - if you look to Rotary, to Chamber of Commerce, and so on.
I think it's astonishing that the Chair has been placed to one side in mid-year when it would have been more appropriate to wait until the organisation's year end in the autumn to look to the next chair based on proper vote and not something else (I don't know if the words "coup" and "kangaroo court" are relevant or not). I'm going - I think - to sit out this year, but not offer myself for committee service even at a branch level next year. (written 2007-06-27, updated 2007-07-06)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ401 - Federation of Small Businesses 
Wiltshire - multicultural community - (2007-02-13) 
Train and business balls all in the air! - (2007-03-02) 
B-2-B Networking, 20th April. Useful for YOUR business? - (2007-04-03) 
Speed Networking - a great evening and how we arranged it - (2007-04-21) 
An oddball day. Strange experiences! - (2007-06-27) 
West Wilts Show - (2007-07-26) 
An update on the West Wilts show ... - (2007-07-30) 
A wasted evening? - (2007-08-01) 
FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Western Region - (2007-09-13) 
FSB leaves its members feeling like mushrooms - (2007-12-20) 
Summer Ball at Bowood - Saturday 12th July 2008 - (2008-01-19) 
Keeping staff up to date on hotel room status - (2008-01-22) 
FSB, EGM, AGM. - (2008-02-18) 
The old sayings are the best (FSB) - (2008-05-26) 
FSB - an update. - (2008-10-07) 
Volunteer v Employee - a skewed balance? (FSB) - (2008-10-25) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce, or the FSB - (2008-11-12) 
Getting hold of the wrong end of the stick - (2008-12-12) 
Blogging accuracy - open invitation for any corrections - (2009-11-29) 
An update on legal changes from the FSB? - (2009-12-03) 
Coincidence, or Conspiracy - a wrong email address - (2010-11-06) 
Melksham Campus - any last minute inputs from Melksham businesses? - (2011-03-26) 
Networking - North and West Wilts FSB Style - (2011-11-15)
Some other Articles
Key new contactsWestbury Bypass - how it would effect MelkshamSubstitute operator / modifiers in PerlBusiness speed networking - a place tonight!Is this how to run a business for businesses?How NOT to oversell a hotelAn afternoon at a public enquiryEnsuring that our tutor answers YOUR questionsFolksFest Bristol - German beer, Bratwurst and music