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Walking the talk in Claremorris

South of the border
Walking the talk in Claremorris

Willie McHugh

THE directions from the high altar in Westport were a bit vague. Suss out a group of business people who meet in Claremorris every Tuesday morning. Contact details to follow. They didn’t but we’ll pardon the faux-pas because on Monday the nerve centre can be a tad busy. There’s a newspaper needs putting to bed. In Dereendafderrig, Scardaune or other idyllic hamlets they milk cows around that time. Except they do it every evening.
I must have cast a forlorn figure on the streets of Claremorris. Discreet inquiries led me up a few blind alleys. The chap working in a business outlet on Dalton Street sent me to Mount Street. Either he’s not au fait with local shenanigans or I’d stumbled on the Claremorris sense of humour. Because the venue I was looking for was directly across the road from him on Dalton Street.
John McEllin, at the door of the Business Centre on Dalton Street, was a tad more observant and he spotted the wandering spirit. John was mine host for the morning and it was he took it upon himself to have me as his guest at the weekly meeting of the St. Colman’s Chapter of Business Network International.  John cut a fine dash in a dapper three-piece suit complemented with as snazzy a pair of red shoes as you’re likely to see.
He was the perfect guide. Within minute he had me at the hub centre of the gathering. If John noticed I was a bit dubious and less than enthusiastic at first he was too much of a gentleman to say it. It’s a badly kept secret that SOTB isn’t over amorous with committee meetings. I find such gatherings are more or less glorified talking shops betimes. A haven for the ‘how come they didn’t’ and ‘a wonder they wouldn’t’ brigade.
But my doubts about St. Colman’s BNI Chapter in Claremorris were quickly dispelled.
It’s refreshingly different for all the right reasons. If you want to see how a meeting should be conducted with efficiency and purpose then drop in as a guest sometime. It may not be for you but, for an enlightening experience of how things work when done right, then this is surely it.
About thirty people assembled in one room. BNI chapters like St. Colman’s only allow one person from each trade to attend meetings. The principle is based solely on referrals. It’s word of mouth where members promote each other. Ergo you have thirty people pitching for you and you for them. They are from every strand of the South Mayo and North Galway business community. From Milltown to Murneen South, from Ballinrobe to Balla and the hard miles in between.
Have they no other way of passing time on Tuesday morning you might ask. Nope. They’re too busy. In here they’re at work. Setting out their stall and letting others know what they’re about. People like John Craddock from Ballinrobe, Billy Fitz’, representing his son Brendan’s Physical Therapy and Acupuncture business, Pat Culliney, plasterer, Brendan Halligan, cleaning maintenance,  Pat Coyne, home renovations,  Michael O’Connor, garage, Cathal Sheridan, bar and restaurant from Milltown, Emily Fleming, accountant, Sarah Flood, printing and Jenny Brennan, social media are but a few within.
Kevin Murphy is chapter director. Kevin runs a tight ship. You get one minute to speak without interruption. A bell shushes you if you waffle on. The chapter doesn’t do negativity or recession talk. But they are not whistling past the graveyard and ignoring the obvious either. It’s all about references and following up on the referrals.
The boardroom setting might be a smidgen off-putting but those are a serious body of people who know the value of this organisation. John Craddock, Cathal Sheridan, Tim Oates and John McEllin are visitor hosts.
A friendly word might get you in for a peek as to what happens there. Recruiting officers they are not. They’ll be the first to tell you it’s not for everyone. But it might just be for you.