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Why isn't your community more thankful for you?

  If I lived in your community, I would be so thankful for you. You are a champion for the business community. You're a catalyst for positive change. And you're a convener of leaders and influencers. 

You do the things that most people think "just happen." You grow businesses. You connect and mentor and lead and promote. 

But here's why I'm most grateful for you. Somewhere in your town, there's a little boy or little girl, who is growing up in a home where at least one parent has a job outside the home. And maybe that wasn't the case for that child not so long ago. 

Studies show that when a child grows up in a home where at least one parent has a job, the opportunities for that child are exponentially greater throughout their entire lifetime. 

You are standing on that proverbial fence, protecting jobs, enabling the creation of more jobs, and preserving the economic prosperity of your community. 

And to that little boy or girl, that doesn't...

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Should chambers allow marijuana businesses to join? 

Colorado, California, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and coming soon to a state near you: marijuana dispensaries. The economic impact of these businesses is significant and the tax benefits to your community positive. 

The problem is chambers might be unclear about the ethics of serving a business that sells something that offends them personally or may have only recently become legal. 

I know plenty of chamber execs who don't drink but are fine with allowing bars to join. Maybe that's because prohibition was a century ago and we need some more time with this one? 

But let's look at this from a business perspective. Who benefits from the dollars moving to and from marijauna dispensaries? 

There are three primary beneficiaries in your local economy: 

  1. Landlords and commercial builders. If you have a high vacancy rate, you can hate on weed and still love that your commercial real estate members have healthier revenues. The first thing one...

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How much do you know about sound systems?

You do a lot of events at the chamber and you probably know what to do with a microphone, but maybe you don't know as much as you could. And just because you know what to do with a microphone doesn't mean your members do and if you're going to put your members on stage, it's good know some tips that can help them to be heard on your sound system. 

Here are three steps to help you sound better on any microphone, along with a little bonus tip. 

  1. Never cup the microphone. Rappers think it's cool to cup a mic, but you'll lose vocal range. If you don't know what that means, that's ok. I hosted and produced a Live Band Karaoke Show for 15 years and that qualifies me to say, "don't cup the fucking mic!"

  2. Hold the mic just below the grill with a firm but not too tight grip. A tight grip can cause a shaky voice, but too loose of a grip can cause what's called "handling noise." 

  3. Point the mic at your mouth from your chin at a 45 degree angle -not zero degrees or 90...

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What is it called when you know where you want your organization to go and the steps to get there?

Do you know where you're headed? How do you define success? How do know when you've arrived at your destination? 

You might have great clarity around the answers to these questions, but the problem is your board may not. And the bigger problem is that your staff doesn't either! 

I'm working with chamber teams all over the US and Canada and it's pretty clear to me who has a clear mission and who is unclear. Some new folks come into this work and see a mission statement without a strategic plan as an invitation to change the mission. That's when we lose continuity in the chamber. 

If I'm a board member of your chamber, I don't go to one more board meeting unless you provide me with the strategic plan that outlines how we answer the questions I've asked you. 

Where are we headed? How do we measure progress? Who is in charge of what? 

Now when I mentioned strategic plan just now, did you roll you eyes at me? Some people do back flips over the idea of a strategic...

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Are you breaking your number one promise to businesses?

Your number one promise to businesses is being broken all the time. The promise? We're not going to waste your time or attention. 

We waste their time by starting meetings late or going over time. We waste their time by being unprepared for meetings or conversations or showing up uninformed or without an agenda. I have a rule for this: "No agenda, no attenda!"

We waste their attention by sending all emails to all members instead of segmenting them appropriately. We waste their attention by reminding them about every single event even though they have told us they don't want to come to anything -- by not coming to anything. And we waste their attention when we only talk about our stuff instead of the issues they care about. 

Here are three tips to make the most of your members time and attention.

  1. Teach your volunteer chairs and paid staff to start on time and end early. In fact, share this video with them and I will tell them. Hey committee chairs, please start your...

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Why are you still doing ribbon cuttings? 

Lots of chambers are talking about the fact that they are tired of talking about ribbon cuttings. They are great public relations and awareness for your growing businesses but the problem is it seems we have attracted members who join just for the ribbon cutting and then drop. 

Here are three ways chambers are addressing this.

  1. Charge for ribbon cuttings, member and non-member rates.

  2. No more ribbon cuttings. Call another chamber. You can be their problem. 

  3. Treat Ribbon Cuttings as evidence that you're winning. 

In this third option, chambers are owning ribbon cuttings as content rather than an event or a service. It's proof that our community is getting better and stronger. Rather than lamenting yet another ribbon cutting request from a new member who will likely drop their membership next year, be honored that a business has invited you to celebrate with them. 

Here are a few suggestions: 

  1. Spend less staff time on a ribbon cutting. For execs, this...

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Is it good for business to keep your prices low?

Memberships are known for being a more cost effective way for consumers to acquire something that would be too expensive to create for themselves. Just look at all the equipment in your health club and it's easy to understand that a small monthly fee is a whole lot easier than a hundred thousand dollar home gym. 

The problem is that most chambers keep their prices low because they are afraid to raise them. Maybe they're afraid they don't offer enough value to justify a higher price. Maybe they are afraid of hearing from that one PITA member when they get the renewal invoice... PITA stands for Pain in the Ass, of course... or maybe they are afraid of losing members because of a price increase. 

The reality is that you've increased your value since your last price increase weather you realize it or not. The difference between chambers who regularly raise their rates and those who don't, is that chambers who regularly raise their rates are intentionally raising their value...

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Should the chamber compete with members?

I've met lots of business owners who believe the chamber shouldn't be competing with members, and when this question is posed to any board member, they agree that chambers shouldn't compete with their members... but wait a minute? Who believes the chamber competes with them? 

The Problem is that there are really three kinds of businesses who are threatened by the Chamber as a competitor:

  1. Community events. There are only 365 days in a year so there's going to be competing dates from time to time. I believe you should be working with other organizations in your region to make sure you're not putting all your event efforts into a conflicting date and time. Be good partners, and that goes for them as much is it does for you.

  2. Leads groups. You know that leads group that only lets in one person for each type of business? They tell me that chambers compete with them because chamber members get together and network... well c'mon... membership is subscription plus community and...

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How should chamber staff interact with the board?

Many chamber CEO's have their staff attend every board meeting. Some have their team sit at the table with the board and other teams sit at their own table in the back of the room to observe or respond when called upon. 

That's all well and good. But when staff and board step around their executive director or CEO to have private conversations trouble ensues. 

I've seen where a chamber staff person had reached out to a board member about their dissatisfaction with a decision made by their boss -- the chamber CEO. And if that wasn't bad enough, the board member scheduled a special meeting to hear them out and then became involved in the situation between employee and employer. So after the fact, when that board chair asked me for input, I told them not to be surprised when their CEO tenders their resignation. 

Any organization or business needs a clear structure or organizational chart so that everyone knows to whom they are accountable. The chamber staff should treat...

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What are the ingredients for a good member orientation?

Chambers who have an on-boarding process for new members keep their members longer. And if you've been in the chamber business for a while, you know that the members who stay for three years are the least likely to drop in the future. 

I've attended some great member orientations and some terrible ones... Let's just say that if you are playing a video at an in-person member orientation program, you've got some room for improvement. 

The problem is you're going to run this program several times a year -- in fact I think you should be doing it every other month -- and it's hard to keep doing the same program over and over again without resorting to some sort of automation. But you owe it to your members to acknowledge that it's their first and only orientation to your chamber. And it should be a great show. 

I was attending a conference in southern California a few years back and I had a free afternoon. So I checked out the calendars of some chambers in the area and...

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