It’s both reasonable and understandable that the first question most business owners ask, when presented with the opportunity to join a Chamber of Commerce, is “What exactly am I getting for my investment?”As a business owner, myself, I have asked the same question; but as I began my new career as the Executive Director of the Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, more pressing questions came to mind. I wondered exactly what a Chamber SHOULD be, what it should DO for area businesses, and how my experience as a business owner should influence the direction of THIS Chamber.The old school concept of a Chamber of Commerce, at least in my mind, was that of an organization to be contacted by people new to the area for information on and referrals to local businesses, especially those in the service industry. The Chamber office might also be called by visitors and residents alike, to find out about upcoming functions and events and even to get ideas about fun weekend and vacation activities in the area. New businesses might contact and join the Chamber looking to capitalize on the publicity that comes with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and subsequent newspaper article about their opening.There is nothing wrong with any of those ways to utilize the Chamber. Many of those ideas are the foundation of what a Chamber should be. But one thing they all have in common is that they put the Chamber in passive and reactive positions – waiting to be contacted and depending on the actions of others to be “effective.” I knew that if I were going to work for the Chamber, it could not be “business as usual.”Everything in the business arena is changing, especially in how we purchase goods and market to consumers. We are more of a pay online, learn online and market online society. Unfortunately, the art of the handshake and personal contact is quickly fading away!The whole atmosphere surrounding the business world is vastly different than it was 20 years ago – or even 10 years ago. The needs of local businesses has changed as well, and continues to change. This Chamber must take a more proactive and adaptive approach to connecting with its membership (and area businesses in general) if we are going to be effective in meeting those evolving needs and working to enhance the growth of our business community. As both a business owner and the Executive Director of the Chamber, I recognize that growth is two-fold. It’s not just bringing in MORE businesses but assisting those already in our midst, that will ultimately lead to the kind of growth this community needs.The Chamber can help educate business owners on ways to use digital media and advertising more effectively. It can assist in promoting their membership and advocating for change. But while we are promoting new ways of doing business, we also have to take a step “backwards” to offer something that is increasingly rare – the personal touch…a “hands-on” approach.Our goal is to reach out to our membership in person; to establish new, personalized approaches to support our business community. We hope to get back something that has been lost in the wake of so many technological gains by developing sincere personal relationships and offering an atmosphere of collaboration. The objective of this blog is to tell the story of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce through my personal interactions with businesses in our community… one handshake at a time.
The Greater Franklin County Chamber of Commerce
A special thank you to Jenni Moran for her help and support in assisting me with pulling my thoughts together!