Colour­ful Kekovich wows at lo­cal launch

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Colour­ful tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Sam Kekovich was the star of the Ber­ri­gan Shire when he of­fi­cially launched the re­turn of the re­vamped shire busi­ness awards on Thurs­day night.

Mr Kekovich en­ter­tained the 80 busi­ness own­ers and staff at the Co­bram Ba­rooga Golf Club with his trade­mark dead pan, straight-to-the-point rou­tine.

He hu­mor­ously rem­i­nisced about how it was ‘‘tougher in my day and the world has gone soft’’, even telling one au­di­ence mem­ber ‘‘if they wanted you to speak they would have asked you’’.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Mr Kekovich boasted why he’s one of the great­est sales­man of all time, hi­lar­i­ously talk­ing about how he pro­moted lamb and how Paul Ho­gan’s ‘put a shrimp on the bar­bie’ was noth­ing com­pared to him.

But Mr Kekovich also showed his se­ri­ous side, en­cour­ag­ing the busi­ness peo­ple to con­tinue to strive and why coun­try peo­ple know what hard­ships are.

He said mak­ing con­ver­sa­tion is just not im­por­tant for busi­ness but in ev­ery­day life.

‘‘Re­tail­ers are per­sua­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tors; the abil­ity to be able to get a buck from my pocket to buy your prod­uct,’’ he said.

Mr Kekovich also spoke about price be­ing the eas­i­est ob­jec­tion to over­come, based on strong re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers.

‘‘They will give you the op­por­tu­nity to re­spond and be a part of the dis­cus­sion,’’ Mr Kekovich said.

The Ber­ri­gan Shire Busi­ness Awards will be re­vamped in 2019, with the plan to have a dif­fer­ent theme each year.

Af­ter a two year hia­tus the event will re­turn in April and will only re­tain just two of the ma­jor awards of pre­vi­ous years — Busi­ness of the Year and Peo­ple’s Choice Award.

The rest of the evening will be ded­i­cated to high­light­ing the set theme.

On Thurs­day, 80 peo­ple at the Co­bram Ba­rooga Golf Club were asked to vote for a pre­ferred theme for the first year dur­ing the Busi­ness Awards Night launch.

Themes in­cluded ‘What’s New – for busi­nesses that have been trad­ing for four years or less’, ‘Au­to­ma­tion, In­no­va­tion or In­ven­tion’, ‘Food, Wine and Hos­pi­tal­ity’, ‘What’s hap­pen­ing in Main Street’ and ‘Made in Ber­ri­gan Shire – Man­u­fac­tur­ing, Agri­cul­ture, Arts etc.’

The pre­ferred theme voted by the au­di­ence was ‘What’s New – for busi­nesses that have been trad­ing for four years or less’.

Ber­ri­gan Shire eco­nomic and in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment li­ai­son Mer­ran Socha ex­plained to the au­di­ence how the Busi­ness Awards evening will run.

Ms Socha said the big­gest change will be hav­ing just two awards for the whole pro­gram, how­ever it will al­low a greater em­pha­sis on pro­mot­ing the nom­i­nated busi­ness.

‘‘We want to fo­cus on in­tro­duc­ing busi­nesses to the com­mu­nity whilst high­light­ing and show­cas­ing what is here in the Ber­ri­gan Shire,’’ she said.

‘‘The way we’re go­ing to run this is with a theme. One of the things we heard dur­ing feed­back was there are al­ways se­rial award win­ners and peo­ple.

‘‘So the new theme can high­light new busi­ness. We’re go­ing to tell a story about the busi­nesses that are in­volved with the theme.

‘‘Any­one can nom­i­nate a busi­ness and an ex­ter­nal panel of judges will re­view all nom­i­na­tions and se­lect a group of qual­i­fiers. The qual­i­fiers will be in­ter­viewed and the judges will se­lect five fi­nal­ists.

‘‘At the awards evening a short video out­lin­ing each of the five fi­nal­ists will be pre­sented so it will ac­tu­ally have a real fo­cus on the busi­ness.

‘‘The Peo­ple’s Choice Award is one we’re keep­ing be­cause it’s grown in pop­u­lar­ity due to on­line vot­ing from the com­mu­nity. The last time we did it more than 1000 peo­ple voted.

‘‘The process will be sim­i­lar; any­one can nom­i­nate a busi­ness and on­line vot­ing will take place dur­ing March.’’

The Busi­ness Awards were first held in 1998 and over the next 18 years more than 650 busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als were nom­i­nated and more than 150 had won an award.

Ba­rooga based Coun­cil­lor John Bruce said the pos­i­tiv­ity of the old for­mat still needs to carry over into next year.

‘‘The nights weren’t about win­ners it was about pro­mot­ing the great things that are hap­pen­ing in the Ber­ri­gan Shire and per­haps giv­ing busi­ness an op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote them­selves; I hope this new launch is tak­ing us in that same di­rec­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘Since we can­celled the event in 2016 we’ve done a fair bit of work look­ing at how we can progress these awards by re­launch­ing themes and sourced out to the com­mu­nity to get their feed­back.

‘‘What we found out from the feed­back is the busi­ness com­mu­nity still want the awards.

‘‘Peo­ple were about pro­mot­ing lo­cal busi­ness and high­light­ing achieve­ments of lo­cal peo­ple and I think peo­ple would be amazed with the num­ber of busi­nesses we have oper­at­ing in the shire.

‘‘Quite of­ten there would be peo­ple say­ing they didn’t re­alise an award win­ner ex­isted and that’s one im­por­tant thing; we are sell­ing our own busi­nesses to our own peo­ple but that’s what these busi­nesses are all about.

‘‘If there’s one thing I was al­ways proud of it was how the busi­ness awards would bring our five Ber­ri­gan Shire com­mu­ni­ties to­gether — four towns and the ru­ral com­mu­nity.

‘‘We want to re­mem­ber that fact; we can come to­gether and com­mu­ni­cate and so­cialise.’’

Tocumwal Cham­ber of Com­merce pres­i­dent Ser­gio Rede­galli said the evening is about gath­er­ing busi­nesses to­gether.

‘‘Get­ting to­gether is im­por­tant be­cause we need more con­ver­sa­tion and af­ter four years liv­ing here I’m still meet­ing new busi­ness peo­ple across the shire.

‘‘This area is not just built up on farm­ing; the busi­nesses are also the heart­beat of lo­cal towns.’’

More pho­tos from the launch are avail­able at

At the busi­ness awards launch on Thurs­day were Gary Carr, An­drea O’Neill, Sam Kekovich, Ser­gio Rede­galli (front), Dar­rell Bow­den and Ber­ri­gan Shire eco­nomic and in­dus­try de­vel­op­ment li­ai­son Mer­ran Socha.

Coun­cil­lor Colin Jones, Ian and Liz Lang and Claire and Mark Wile­man.

Ste­wart Craw­ford, Cr Roger Reynold­son, Ted Hatty and Cr Ross Bodey.

Val and John Hand, Terry Walm­s­ley and Sharen Parm­ley.

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