A few weeks ago I was asked by Aaron Burns, a reporter for Lake Norman Publications, what sorts of skills are necessary to be a good Chamber President? At first, my immediate response was the thought you needed to be able “bob and weave.” Like the prize fighter, the blows come fast and furious and instinct takes over.
Businesses look to the chamber for a myriad of resources. In times of plenty, it may be a chance to expand their contact base, building referrals and customers or sometimes just giving back to the community. When times are challenging, such as they have been since 2007, businesses look to the chamber almost like an emergency room.
Local businesses look for programs and advice to help them market, staffing solutions, and financing through the tough times. Chamber executives may not have the answers to complex operation problems, but we must be able to draw from resources that might be unavailable or simply not knowledgeable to the business owner or manager.
The ability to think quick, build cohesive partnerships, and support your business member is critical to the chamber executive. That said, perhaps no single skill is more important than communication. It goes without saying that boards look for a strong executive who can communicate the message of the chamber – whether speaking to groups, in front of the camera, or with a pen.
However, the Good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason and perhaps the most difficult skill to master – but the most important to implement – is the ability to listen!
Over the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting with many of our members. Cornelius Commissioner John Bradford and Huntersville Commissioner Danny Phillips and I have made impromptu calls on many of our local businesses.
We have stopped in on retail businesses, healthcare agencies, restaurants, and attorneys. We’ve called on businesses that have been challenged by signage constraints to those dealing transportation issues. Some have seen great improvement over 2011 while some are still just getting by.
Recently we’ve added Don Harrow, our new Cornelius EDC Director, to the calls in Cornelius and soon my visits will expand into Davidson. The Chamber’s specific goal is to hear from as many of our existing members, as well as businesses who are not involved in our chamber family, how we can work better as a business association and make recommendations to our towns, which can make us a more viable business community.
As we enter this new year and with it many new opportunities, I am reminded of the words of former President Ronald Reagan from his second Inaugural Address (January 21, 1985). Reagan said, “My friends, we live in a world that’s lit by lightning. So much of it is changing and will change, but so much endures and transcends time.”
The introduction of social media has changed how we as chamber executives communicate with our members. The Internet, much like lightning itself, has profoundly impacted our businesses and how we promote, represent, and serve you the member.
One thing that has not changed is listening to you and how we can best serve your business needs. With it – our commitment to allow our words to speak boldly of our intentions and our actions to speak louder than the words. Our commitment that will endure and transcend time.