The Business On Smith St (BOSS) traders association was formed in 2005, according to this Age article that describes it as a new organisation. It maintains an extremely low profile and rarely engages with the public. A business lobby group may see its primary responsibility as influencing local government in its favour, but I think it is a fundamental public relations failure for a representative organisation to ignore the customers – the residents and visitors – who purchase goods and services from its members.
I’ve been distinctly unimpressed with BOSS since I first encountered them in relation to a 2006 photo competition where the entry conditions were designed to alienate artists from their copyright and intellectual property. The competition has not been held again.
In 2007 BOSS was primarily concerned with the issue of law and order and public drinking on Smith St. I agree that this is a serious issue, and like many locals I am sick of being confronted by drunks and junkies of all ethnic backgrounds, but BOSS does not seem to have done much about the problem apart from complaining about it.
In July 2008 BOSS obtained a $6000 grant from the Yarra City Council to build a website. In January 2009 I contacted Councillor Steve Jolly and asked if he could find out about progress on the site. It was reported back to me that the Economic Development unit of Council entered into a written Agreement with BOSS regarding the site and that BOSS will have the website published by June 30 2009. The Council advised me in January that the site is expected to go live in February / March 2009.
It’s now April 2009 and the site still has not been published. The deadline is closing and I think this issue deserves greater scrutiny.
I am unhappy about the dubious politics and waste of money implicit in this arrangement. No organisation needs $6000 to publish a website. It can be done for a few hundred dollars in setup costs and some initiative and creative flair. Hosting costs about $100 a year and domain name registration is very cheap. You may need a few hours from a designer or coder to create some banner images and do some template or theme customisation, but not $6000 worth.
Particularly not $6000 worth of ratepayer’s money. What have the ratepayers of Yarra received for their $6000 investment? Nothing. I plan to seek further information from Council detailing how the money was or has been spent.
I called the president of BOSS in the process of writing this article, and he told me the site would go live in about 6 weeks. It will contain basic information about all traders on Smith St (I’m not sure if this means all businesses, or all BOSS members, as the two sets may be quite different) with more advanced features to go live at a later date. Scope creep may be responsible for the extended deadlines, but I don’t think this can account for such a slow publication schedule.
No organisation should take nearly a year to publish a website. This is a fundamental marketing and public relations failure. I’ve published 5 new sites in my spare time already this year: Fitzroy and North Fitzroy local news, Collingwood and Abbotsford local news, Carlton and North Carlton local news, Brunswick and East Brunswick local news and the Inner North (Clifton Hill, Northcote, Thornbury, Fairfield and Alphington). It’s not that difficult, but it requires organisational skills (which is something that money cannot buy).
BOSS needs to start engaging with the community in and around Smith St. It should start by explaining its purpose and clarifying its agenda. It currently does a very poor job of representing business owners in and to the local community and does nothing to contribute to public debate about local issues.