What do you know about your Chamber and how often do you go? I’m guilty of not participating; many reasons but my excuse is because of my travel schedule which changes every week. Like many other small businesses, we are lucky enough to get our health insurance through our chamber and that’s where it ends. I decided it was time for me to “give something back” and get involved. Many of you have business expertise that would be valuable to others, how about contacting your chamber and share that expertise.
Since I knew I would be home the month of April I called Katherine Burbank, Executive Director, Guilderland Chamber of Commerce and talked with her about providing a presentation for the members. We came up with Tough Times Require Tough Strategies, an hour presentation with ideas for expanding business during the present business climate. The focus was on social networking, building a competitive advantage and providing an unforgettable experience for the customers. I offered a free business consultation as a door prize. Of course I brought magazines from Fabulous Floors and biodegradable golf tees; Can’t forget the importance of green.
With plenty of publicity from Cyndy Myers, Member Services Coordinator, the idea was born. The next thing I knew I had a new gig!
The Guilderland Chamber maintains maintains a membership of approximately 600 businesses, and strives to help their members succeed and grow. The Chamber also promote community life in the area and partners with schools, towns and other organizations that promote the areas.
I did a little research on the history of the chambers. It seems the Chamber of Commerce of the 21st century is constantly evolving but the first chamber was founded in Charleston, South Carolina in 1773. The early associations were organized to protect and promote commerce in their areas. The chamber was set up to protect and develop programs for its members, Today the modern Chamber of Commerce can no longer just ask its members, "What do you want your chamber to do?" Instead, it needs to ask, "What kind of a community do we want ours to be?" If something is to happen in a community, much of it can be fueled by the chamber of commerce members—but it takes a big commitment. The basic mission of the chamber of commerce is to create and promote a climate where business can operate in a productive and profitable manner. So the members are the chamber and it’s up to us to make things happen.
I loved it! Everyone seemed interested, I met lots of new people and got plenty of emails. Everyone was excited and seemed very involved with the chamber and each other.. The winner of the free consultation was Greg Zorian from Sims, a high-end barbershop with multiple locations. I am going to pay a visit to Sims this week and see what events we might promote to develop business. I can’t wait to go up and "learn the barbershop business."
I spoke with Chairperson, Roger Lipera, from Roger Lipera Web Design & Consulting, after the event. Roger is very active in the chamber and obviously has committed lots of time and expertise, “ Making the chamber work is important to the growth of the community says Roger, without the members participation it would never work." Roger has plenty of enthusiasm and knowledge I felt energized after our conversation.
I received good wishes from Cyndy who was not able to attend. Katherine seemed genuinely pleased with the turnout and was already looking at another event. "Lisbeth's workshop on Web 2.0 was the most well-attended and captivating workshop our chamber has held in a long time," she said. "It shows the importance of the web and how businesses need to be able to interface with their customers in this era."
I was surprised to see an article about the presentation in Spotlight newspapers in the days following.
What can you do for you community? Just get moving!
- Take an interest in your city or your town and become part of the solution. These days we all need to invest in the changing of our country.
- Support others in the chamber, seek their advice, recommend them to others and use their services when possible. We all come with our own associations and are not comfortable changing what works but we can still help others network.
- Help your chamber grow, talk about it and get others to realize the value of belonging. Remember when people consider moving to an area one of the first places they contact is the local chamber of commerce.
- Take a major role if you can. I spent several years on the Board of Albany Executives and learned so much about my capabilities as well as what we were able to accomplish as a networking group both locally and nationally.
- Take a stand; we all have our times when we "let others do it." Remember if we all do it, it gets done for all!
Well I’m hooked, what's next? We’ll see.