One of the things that I love about my position with the Chamber is talking with other business owners and sharing ideas. In some cases that means sharing common struggles. Other times that means sharing what has worked to overcome common challenges. Often, it gives me a bit of inspiration and ideas that I can relay to other business owners.
Just a few days ago, I met with a prospective member who recently left her corporate job to start her own business and so far it has been progressing rather successfully. In some ways she reminded me of myself about 10 years ago when I did the same. She was full of excitement. She was enthusiastic to network with other business owners, and find the keys to open the next few doors.
We discussed all the typical things that are challenging with businesses today, employees, looming shutdowns, uncertainty of the future and finding new customers. We discussed the benefits of being a chamber member: increasing visibility in the community, networking opportunities, business referrals, publicity, etc.
I mentioned to her that I used to be a job coach and that what I enjoyed the most was that I could watch business owners grow. I could see their problems, help them connect with others who can possibly show them the next step in their growth process.
Oh… wait! I guess I still do that!
I believe that is what the Chamber is supposed to do by providing those opportunities. There is a certain level of satisfaction that comes from being able to help another business owner connect the dots. Too often, people are afraid to speak up and ask for help. Perhaps it is in our nature (or our egos) to keep pounding at the same thing, the same way, hoping that eventually we will break through it. We have been conditioned to believe that being independent means NOT asking for help and/or advice.
As she and I were talking, I was thinking about my own outlook on things lately, when it comes to my business. Over the past week, we have seen the influx of new event request begin to slow down. Some events that were once promising are being canceled one after another, and my staff is dwindling as some employees head off to school.
It is so easy to get caught up in a negative spiral, but there are a lot of positive things that are happening, if we just take the time to focus on them. I often run into business owners who have found ways to attract employees or successfully restructure their business models to adapt to the changes around us.
I enjoy listening to other business owners who share the obstacles and challenges that they face or have worked through. One, in particular, was an insurance agent who had a brick-and-mortar location. During COVID, he and his staff worked from home. He mentioned that not only is he saving money on office space, but his employees have been more efficient, and his customers have been happy over-all. My point is that despite the economic climate, there are a lot of great stories out there. If you are one of those businesses, I would all love to hear your success story and capture that in a future blog!
I received a call last week from a business owner who had been reading my blogs and asked if I knew of any organizations, other than the ones that she had already pursued, to help find employees for her warehouse. Just like many of us, her summer team had gone back to school and there was a void in the number of people seeking employment. I shared that my best source has been referrals from friends or other employees. I added that for others, Facebook and the major job boards have worked well. I also mentioned to her that there are several job fairs in the area at different times, and that it may be helpful for her to participate in a few to find people who are eagerly seeking employment.
In my last two blogs, I discussed customer service, and said that in this blog I would explain why and how the Chamber is concerned with it as well. In one of my first blogs, I mentioned that the most common question I get from business owners is: “What can the Chamber do for me or my business?” Both concepts are actually related. Just as business owners should be concerned with meeting the expectations of their customers, our goal at the Chamber is to meet the expectations of our members.
The simple answer to WHY we should think of what we do as “customer service,” is that it is the sole reason for the existence of the Chamber – to meet the needs of the business community in Franklin County. It is what we focus on every day!
How do we provide good customer service?
I think that we can help connect the dots and provide opportunities to meet others who have like interests and challenges. We are taking a more personal approach to getting to know our business owners, and what their needs are now and what they are becoming – as challenges are overcome and new ones crop up. The more involved our members are, and the more feedback we get from both members and potential members, the more we can tailor our events to meeting those evolving needs. We are evolving as well, to better serve you and to more accurately represent you!
We have had several very successful Meet the Chamber events around Franklin County. They are typically on a Wednesday or Thursday evening at a local business. We have an open invitation, not only to Chamber members, but to anyone. I would encourage any business owner and those who are thinking about owning one in the future, to attend. It costs absolutely nothing except an hour or so of your time, and you just may meet that key person who can take you to the next step. I hope to see you at the next event, and I look forward to hearing your stories!