It is somewhat startling to write, but I have spent fifteen years as a member of the Arlington Chamber. Over that time, my participation has evolved depending on schedule, interests, opportunities and relationships. Hindsight creates a fine sense of the obvious, but maybe sharing my rear view mirror will help some readers utilize their Chamber membership more effectively and, in turn, help the Chamber to be an even more impactful organization.
Photo - (L-R) Michael Foster of MTFA Architecture, Tim Hughes of Bean, Kinney & Korman, John Murphy of Washington Workplace, and Sean Hosty of Morgan Stanley LLC at the Chamber's Fall Golf Outing on October 22, 2013.
1. Define Your Membership Goals
Different members have different goals from their membership. While potential goals may be legion, the basic lesson is singular – you need to have an idea of what you want to accomplish via membership to reach that goal.
2. Have a Plan
Spend time strategically defining the means to your end. If you are a financial planner looking to meet potential clients and referral sources, that goal may point towards specific activities. If you are looking to have an advocacy voice on local business legislation and regulation, that goal may point in a very different direction.
3. Use the Chamber Resources
Chamber staff, the Board of Directors, committee chairs, and volunteers are all excellent available resources. USE THEM. People volunteering with the Chamber will not look at this as an imposition – remember, they are looking to meet folks and develop relationships too! Chamber staff members know better than anyone about all of the events, opportunities, and people that may be fundamental to your goals and plan.
Woody Allen once said, “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Maybe this explains why I am not a Woody Allen fan. For the vast percentage of members and potential members, just joining the Chamber is not the path to reaching your goal. Instead, implement your plan through meaningful, consistent, and extended engagement and involvement.
5. Spam = Bad, Meaningful Relationships (and Fun!) = Good
Developing authentic friendships has been the heart to the Chamber being a vital part of my life. Paying it forward for your friends is a great way to making the Chamber work as an organization and the path to true success for virtually any member’s goals that I can think of. How much better is it to have fun helping your friends than to sporadically show up to a couple happy hours and carpet bomb the room with business cards given to strangers? Whether you are a nonprofit looking to increase community awareness, a governmental agency looking to increase communication with the business community, a business entity looking for greater advocacy influence, or any business looking to expand it client or customer base, developing deep relationships is the key.
From the vantage of fifteen years of volunteering, events, and a whole lot of fun, I can concretely say: the Chamber is full of really great folks who are warmly looking to connect, do business together, and do great work in this business community. As a starting point, please feel free to contact me if I can help with your efforts to make the Chamber work!