Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Things We Value...Part III

I continue with the discussion of Chamber values started several posts ago. You'll recall that our Board of Directors met in late October for our Annual Planning Session, determining the Top 3 Things We Value. In my last post I reported that we value being the respected voice of business in Chico.

We also value Partnership and Participation with our members. This seems rather obvious but deserves to be explored nonetheless.

A good place to start might be to discuss what the Chamber of Commerce is NOT. We are not an advertising agency although you can find some unique ways to promote your business to other Chamber members. We are not a regulatory agency, although we seem to be the first call folks make when they want to complain about a business or the City. We are not party planners, although we do throw a good Mixer!

What we are is an association of businesses, banded together to promote a climate where business can thrive. We support each other, promote ourselves within our group, debate the issues of the day, give each other the benefit of our knowledge and skills, share our successes and our challenges. That's the 'Partnership' part of this value.

So...what's the 'Participation' thing all about? To put it simply, we believe that many hands make light work. Partnership in the Chamber can't be a one-sided affair. We can't simply take your membership dues and never deliver anything you value. You expect more than that from us.

On the other hand the Chamber expects your participation as well, because honestly that's the only way to ensure you're getting the best value from your investment. There are so many ways you can participate besides the obvious Mixers, Annual Dinner and BBQ's. You can offer to train other members in your area of expertise. You can become part of our committee to track State legislation and City policy. You can help welcome new businesses as they become partners in the Chamber. You can serve on our Board of Directors. You can just offer feedback when the mood strikes. It doesn't much matter how you participate as long as you do.

I sense a new culture emerging in our nation. Actually, it's an old culture that is re-emerging. It's the culture of responsibility. For a very long time it seems that we were operating in 'fat, dumb and happy' mode. Everybody was making money. Success came easily. It was the norm to keep your head down and plow ahead, letting everyone else take care of themselves.

Most everyone has been generous with non-profits that assist children, families in need, the hungry, etc. But I'm not sure that the sense of responsibility carried over to helping each other in business, particularly not among those who compete for the same customer. Clearly there were exceptions but by-and-large, if you are in business you were pretty much on your own.

Now I'm sensing a resurgence of responsibility to our business community, and to each other. I want to foster that culture. Being responsible for and to others is a good thing. Encouraging that culture of responsibility is our challenge in the coming months.

I believe that part of that responsibility is to be a partner in the Chamber of Commerce. It seems to me that we are quite similar to Public Television...everybody benefits but only a few responsible folks pay for the service. I hope to change that. I would like to see everyone sharing the cost of the important work that the Chamber does day-in-and-day-out. Now more than ever making sure that the voice of business is heard is critical. Who's speaking for you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Chamber Values Part Duex

My last post referred to the Chico Chamber of Commerce Planning Session where the Board of Directors discerned the Top 3 Things We Value. I promised to elaborate on these things but have been neglecting my blog again. Thank goodness for my friend Valerie Reddemann, President of, who continues to urge me to get-off-the-dime and blog!

The Chamber values being the respected voice of business in the community. Representing the needs of business locally is at the core of our existence and it is something we will always take very seriously. Sure, we love ribbon cuttings, mixers and promoting the various businesses that do business in Chico, but we will always point back to our undergirdings of advocacy as the real reason we're here.

Think about it...who is speaking for your business? Probably lots of folks. Your loyal customers and fans. Your advertising agency. Your mother-in-law. They are all out there giving you a shout-out whenever they have the chance, talking up your products and service as the best in town.

But who's representing you with decision makers? Who's representing you at City Council meetings late into the evening. Who's writing letters to Assemblyman, Senators and the Governor reminding them that business drives the economy?

The Chamber of Commerce does that.

I think it's important for lawmakers to be reminded often how important business is to the community. In fact, one could argue that without business, there IS no community. That's a message that can't be repeated too often.

Take a look around. Everything you see is the result of a successful business. Take a mental trip with me around town and I'll explain.

Every building, every road, every street lamp, every school, every piece of public art, even every park, is the result of successful business. In the case of most of the buildings you encounter, they were built with private investment, usually by a business. Even private homes were originally built by a developer who stuck their neck out, bought the materials, built the house, and sold it to a homebuyer. Sure, they made money doing that but that's why they take the risk in the first place.

In the case of public buildings, infrastructure and parks, those too are the result of successful private businesses paying taxes and hiring employees who also pay taxes. Without the tax dollars made possible by successful businesses, the maintenance of our public holdings is impossible, as is hiring public employees to do that work and in turn pay taxes on their own income.

It's all too easy for government leaders to forget that government doesn't create the wealth that turns our economy. They simply collect it and spend it. If you take successful business out of the equation, there is no more money to spend. No more roads, no more public art, no more schools...well, you get the idea.

The Chamber of Commerce will always be there reminding decision-makers of this basic concept. Successful business is what makes everything else possible, so let's make it possible for business to be successful.

We value the opportunity to perform the critical function of being the respected voice of business in the community, and we welcome your partnership as we execute the mission.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chamber Values

About 10 days ago the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors met for our annual Planning Session. Rather than a three-day, out-of-town off site session filled with getting to know you games and exercises, we met for a full day at Canyon Oaks Country Club. (No, not on the golf course, in the meeting room). Beginning at 7:00 AM and working straight through lunch, the Chamber Board of Directors broke through the barriers of "we've always done it this way" and talked almost exclusively about what we value, who we represent, how we measure success and how we move ourselves forward.

It was an interesting and inspiring day, although it started out with a "start"! One of our directors is a professional trainer and corporate coach. He was all set to facilitate the day and had worked hard on an agenda and power point presentation to help us focus. For my part, I was simply to bring the board up-to-speed on our current financial situation, staffing and reorganization of activities. No problemo....I'm all set! Until the phone rang at 6:30 that morning just as I was packing up to head out the door. It was Scott reporting that he had the flu, including a temperature of 102. He wisely chose to stay home and would be keeping his germs to himself.

YIKES!! Facilitating the day just fell to me and I wasn't ready. Crikey...I'm in scramble mode.

Drove QUICKLY to my office to download an e-mail from Scott containing his PowerPoint slides. Drove QUICKLY back to Canyon Oaks to set up the program and projector. Said a little prayer and dove right in.

Thankfully, I have a very understanding Board of Directors, many of whom I've worked with in various capacities for many years, and several more that I have incriminating photos of, so all in all, they were ready to WORK WITH ME!

Long-story-long, we came up with the Top 3 Things We Value, the Top 3 Measures of Our Success and our list of The Best Idea We Heard All Day. In the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about these things in detail focusing primarily on the things we value.

Some folks might not realize that the Chamber of Commerce has a value system by which we judge the things we do. Values are important to our board and to me. It's my job as CEO to make sure we are living those values every day and I take that job seriously.

I hope you'll tune in and read about our values in the coming weeks. Not really a cliffhanger as exciting as who shot J.R. Ewing, but it should be interesting nonetheless.

Stay tuned.....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ode to Bear

I've been neglecting my Blog again. I think it's because I haven't been very inspired lately. Need to fix that.

Perhaps it's just because I've been really, really, did I say REALLY, busy lately. City Council meetings (please just vote on the Walmart and get it over with for cryin' out loud!), restructuring the Chamber of Commerce, twin daughters in their Senior year at Pleasant Valley High School, planning my sister's wedding for October 4 in my backyard, getting Deputized by the County to perform said wedding ceremony, and oh yeah, just trying to be a good wife.

It's been an interesting 6 weeks.

Yesterday something happened that did give me some inspiration to put some words down. My Mom and Dad's 12-year-old Chocolate Labrador Retriever died unexpectedly in his sleep. His name was Bear.

Yes, I know, he was a dog. But he wasn't just ANY dog. He was the most beautiful specimen of his breed I ever recall seeing. He should have been a "calendar dog", he was THAT handsome.

But more than that, he was the smartest, sweetest, most well-behaved animal I've ever been exposed to. Seriously. He never jumped up on you. He never licked your face. He didn't beg or whine or chew on things he wasn't supposed to. He would pack his own duffel-bag when he knew they were leaving for their cabin. No joke...he would bring his bag into the kitchen, wait for Mom to load up his food, cookies and leash, drag it out to the front yard and wait by the pick-up until it was time to go.

Bear was my Mom and Dad's constant companion for a dozen years. We delivered him as a birthday gift for Mom the year she retired from the bank. He was 8-weeks of cute, cuddly, brown, slobbery puppy, and the entire family fell in love. It sounds crazy, but he was almost like the son my folks never had, having survived raising three girls.

It's the craziest thing. I don't know that I've ever been as saddened by the loss of an animal before, not even those that I've raised myself from puppy/kitten-hood. Bear was special. He was so special that the majority of our family rallied to Mom and Dad's house to share in their grief. All three daughters, 1 son-in-law, 3 adult grandkids and two new great-grandkids, showed up to say goodbye to Bear. Clearly, he was more than just a canine.

I think he had the soul of a person behind those big brown eyes. He would stare at you when you spoke to him and it felt like he was looking right into your thoughts. I believe he truly had the capacity to love, and he loved all of us unconditionally. Not the "I know you feed me so I love you" kind of love. It was more like "I know what kind of person you really are, and I will love you until I die" kind of love. That's what makes me so sad. I feel like I've lost someone who really, truly loved me.

Imagine what kind of world we would live in if everyone took the time to look below your surface, like I will always believe Bear could. Imagine if we were accepted and treated as the soul we truly are, instead of the labels people place on us because of where we work, or who we associate with. If we could be as transparent with everyone we encounter as we are with our family (even if that family includes animals), would people have a harder time judging us harshly?

Don't really know where I'm going with this...I just know that I feel a little better doing it. I also know I will miss that dog for the rest of my life. Goodbye were so very, very loved.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tonight on WWF Smackdown...Health Care Reform!

Wednesday August 19 ought to be an interesting afternoon. From 11:30 to 12:45 we'll be at the Neighborhood Church to learn more about the President's Health Care Reform Bill during a discussion with Congressman Wally Herger. A health care discussion at a church? How did THAT happen?

The whole thing started out normal enough. Congressman Herger's office contacted us about gathering a group of business leaders to discuss the pending legislation. Easy enough. We put the word out to local businesses through a press release because I really didn't want to limit attendance to just Chamber members. Maybe hindsight really is 20/20.

Within days our conference room was at capacity with a big waiting list and more calls coming in every hour. Most of those who'd RSVP'd weren't Chamber members. Most weren't even business owners. They were just interested citizens. Okay, time to change gears.

Chamber staff went to work and arranged to have the event moved to the CARD Center, with a capacity of 250. Whew. Crisis averted...or was it??

Again, within days the room was booked at capacity with another large waiting list. The most interesting part was that many folks who called were annoyed because we didn't have room for them. Chamber staff members took more abuse that week than y'all can imagine. It was truly disheartening to me, however they all kept their cool and helped folks as best they could.

We thought things would settle down, but then out of nowhere, another e-mail announcement about the event from a group other than the Chamber started the ball rolling again. This time, people were really angry, like spitting venom angry, because we couldn't seat them.

So, on go the thinking caps again, and we call the largest room we can find, Neighborhood Church, who welcomed us with open arms for the event. With 1600 seats available, we should be able to accommodate just about everyone that wants to come out.

However my anxiety level remains high. If you've been watching the news over the last few weeks, you've seen how some of these Town Hall events go. Lots of shouting, lots of threats, not much accomplished. Man, I really don't want that to happen in Chico. We don't like to behave that way 'round these parts.

Clearly this is an emotional issue on both sides, but for Heaven's sake, screaming at each other is not a solution. I've written in this blog before about the level of anger out there. When you add this issue to the poor economy, many small business owners feel like they are losing control of their businesses and by extension, their lives. Network news provides daily reminders that the anger and frustration are real.

I have a couple of suggestions with regard to the health care brawl.

First, the Obama Administration should slow down. What's the rush, anyway? If this system has been screwed up for decades now, a few more months can't hurt. I understand that this is the way it is in politics...push as much through as fast as you can while you're approval ratings are high. (Where's the 'Change' in that?) It seems that the only people that understand this bill are the few that wrote it. Take some time to think it through, educate folks, give them time to digest it, listen to their suggestions and make this the best plan it can possibly be, not just the quickest. American's don't like to be force-fed anything, especially something this big and important. And please stop adding stuff to it that doesn't need to be there.

The second is that the 'other side' opposing this legislation should stop with the fear mongering. On the one hand you say it's too big and you haven't read it all yet. In the next sentence you're shouting about some God-awful provision you think will doom us all. So, did you read it or not. If you did, please just calmly explain what it says and offer alternatives to the parts you don't like. If you didn't read it yet, try skipping the next network news interview and read the darned thing. In other words, stop being obstructionists. We get enough of that from extremists, we don't need it from our representatives.

So can we just stop all this madness? Politicians, from the top levels of the administration on down, were elected to do the work of the people. From a 'people' perspective, you're failing miserably on health care. Why not put just a small portion of that brainpower and wordsmithing skill into helping companies put people back to work. Most American businesses don't need bailouts, handouts or politicians telling us how to run our companies. The best way to help American business is to get out of our way and stay out of our pockets.

There...I feel so much better now. And I didn't even raise my voice!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My husband is jealous of my GPS Man!

Another marathon day come and gone. Monday was a blur...meeting, meeting, budgets, board of directors nominations, meeting, meeting, drive to SAC airport to pick up teenage units, drive to Sausalito to drop off teenage units, sleep 5 hours, drive home to get to work! My life is so glamorous!

My husband and I are polar-opposites when it comes to traveling. He attempts to beat his personal best time every time we travel anywhere....even if he' s never been to that destination before. I like to take my time. He likes to arrive early to everything, I'm more of a right-on-time kind of gal. Because he's an Eagle Scout (honestly), you can give him a compass and a map and he'll navigate the straightest, flattest, bestest, quickest way to anywhere. Me, not so much. He says that watching me read a map is like watching a monkey do a math problem. He's probably right.

So, what does a resourceful, forward-thinking, organized gal do when she is navigationally challenged? Get GPS navigation on my cell phone of course! It's one of the best purchases I've ever made. Seriously.

The first thing I did was reprogram the voice from the moderately bitchy female voice it came with to a smooth-talking male genre. Much easier to take, especially when it says "you missed the turn....recalculating route". Female voices simply cannot pull-off that comment without crossing over to the world of annoying.

I now discretely smile when my handsome hubby ignores Mr. Sexy GPS voice and gets us lost, or worse...takes a route that costs us precious milliseconds of travel time. Clearly, I am passive-aggressive because I enjoy watching him try to outsmart my phone.

Wouldn't it be great if someone would invent a new application for our smart phones to help us navigate the new economy? Think about more missed more bad decisions...just point the device to "success" and follow the smooth-talking voice to the end of the rainbow. Magic!

Now that would be a big seller. But it's about as likely as sinking a hole-in-one on the day you win the Lotto, just before you get struck by lightening. Yup...that slim.

I don't have a smooth-talking navigator to direct success, but I do have a database chock full of successful business people right here in Chico, and I happen to know many of them are happy to help others find their own way to success. It's called the Chico Chamber of Commerce. Navigate your way to our office in Downtown Chico and check us out. We're waiting to help YOU!

In the meantime, I'm going to try to find and even sexier voice for my GPS system. Does anyone know how I can download Sean Connery's accent....?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How Many Rocket Scientists Does It Take....?

So, by now we've all heard the story about how someone at NASA 'taped over' the 1969 Moon Landing of Apollo 11. Wow...can you imagine the 'walk-of-shame' that guy made on his way to his supervisors office to explain how one of the most important events in human history no longer exists? Man, what a moment THAT must have been.

Honestly. What could they have been thinking? They spend half-a-million dollars on a pair of space gloves, but they can't afford to send someone to Radio Shack to buy a dozen blank tapes?

And what, exactly, was so darned important that they had to reuse a tape that contained footage of something of that magnitude? Were we creating history somewhere else in the world, or was there just a really great episode of The Monkeys on TV? I was a big fan of Davey Jones too, but good God man...use some common sense!!

I'm poking fun at someone I don't even know, which certainly isn't very gracious of me. In my defense, I'm just trying to find the humor in everything these days. I have to admit that my husband and I did have a good belly-laugh over this, though.

I wrote last week that I was concerned about the level of down-right anger there is out there. Could be the heat, could be the economy, but whatever it is I have vowed to put an end to it in my little corner of the world. I will continue to look for the funny side of whatever happens (unless it truly is a human tradgedy of course).

I will start by laughing at myself, often, and stop taking myself so seriously. Because truthfully, on the larger scale I'm not important enough to most people to be taken seriously anyway. I can always laugh at (and more importantly, with) my husband. Many people who know him don't realize that he is a truly funny guy with a dry sense of humor that can buckle my knees most days.

I probably won't laugh at my teenage daughters very often. As I've written before...they are seventeen-year-old high school seniors, and therefore have no discernible sense of humor. Most particularly when the humor is directed at them by an adult. Simply NOT funny!

I can laugh at my son, though. He's hysterical. If he weren't such a great firefighter he'd be a decent stand-up comedian.

Luckily, the folks that work at the Chamber all possess a jolly sense of humor. We laugh at each other all the time, and everyone takes it in stride. I usually laugh with and at Alice. She's a hoot...and tells us she is a self-proclaimed Bridget Jones. I would PAY to read her diary!

So, this post is going nowhere fast. I think I should just end by asking everyone to LIGHTEN UP FOR HEAVENS SAKE! Life's funny...find a laugh in it. When you're laughing, it's virtually impossible to be annoyed...let alone angry!

Now I'm off to Radio Shack to order a box of blank tape for NASA. They can use it to record new episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Temperature vs. Temper got really hot really fast. No big surprise. It's summer in NorCal. But I swear, as long as I've lived here (every one of my 49 years), I will never fall in love with the hot, hot weather. Anywhere below 95 degrees is tolerable, above that it's just sweaty, and not in a good way.

The heat makes a lot of folks cranky. No wonder. Your feet burn on the sidewalk, your legs stick to the seat of your car, your hair gets matted down and your clothes feel like lead. It's not pretty. But it's still no good reason to behave like an uncivilized boob!

I'm concerned by the level of anger I feel in the atmosphere lately. It might have something to do with the heat, tempers seem to rise with the temperature. But I think it's just as likely due to the uncertainty in our economy. It seems to be downright fearful out there. People are wondering..."will I still have a job tomorrow?"..."will my business survive?"..."where can I turn for help?"..."why won't that idiot hurry up and get out of the sidewalk so I can get to my meeting on time?"...(oops, that's a story for another blog entry).

A couple of things are certain. The first is that things will continue to be UNcertain for a while. The second is that getting angry with others is NOT going to help.

I would like the Chamber to be an oasis from the anger and fear. A place where folks who are concerned about the future can pull together and give each other a lift. It seems counter-intuitive to me to be fiercely competitive in a market like this. Competitors should be dropping their guard and offering a hand up to others. It sounds corny but it's true..."United We Stand, Divided We..."well, I don't even want to say it out loud.

So if you're feeling like you're on your own out there, come by and see us. We want to give you a lift, point you in a different direction, network you with some folks that can help. We won't just whistle a happy tune and pretend "it's all good", we will try to help you find some real solutions to your real challenges. Don't get mad....get connected!!

My goal is to keep a lid on the fear and anger no matter how high the temperature rises. To be more tolerant and kind. To be helpful whenever I can to whomever I can. And to hope everyone else will do the same.

Random thought....."Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be GRACIOUS if it kills you!" (Elsie De Wolfe).

If we can be gracious under pressure (and in 103 degree heat), we can do any damned thing we set our minds to. Take THAT, you lousy economy!!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Is neglecting your blog a criminal offense yet? It might be soon...I heard yesterday you can be arrested for drinking alcohol before you nurse your baby. Of course, if you're not smart enough NOT to drink excessive alcohol while feeding Jr., maybe being arrested isn't your biggest worry. But I digress....

I have been neglecting my Blog and I feel just horrible about it. Well maybe not horrible, but certainly lazy. I took a week vacation and went to the mountains with my handsome hubby. We had kids coming and going throughout the week and we thoroughly enjoyed being out of the valley during the over-100-degrees-days.

Back to work now and ready to train our new Concierge Corps! I'm really excited about this new program. We have been able to add some needed hours to our Visitor Center operation by enlisting some of the dedicated volunteers that are part of our Chamber Ambassadors and Board of Directors. What a swell bunch of folks...honestly...these are salt-of-the-earth kinds of people!

When I initially put out the call for volunteers to help us staff on Saturdays to greet visitors and help them find their way around, I was fully prepared to twist some arms. Happily, but not surprisingly, that was completely unnecessary! I simply asked the question "who wants to help" and dozens of hands flew into the air. So...braid my hair and call me Pollyanna...I think this idea is going to work. You have got to just LOVE Chico!

The summer is upon us although you can hardly tell by the "Chamber of Commerce Weather" we're enjoying. Tell all your out-of-town friends that if they don't visit Chico this summer, they're INSANE! It's so lovely here and there is SO MUCH TO DO! How much, you ask? Well come on down to the Chamber office and pick up one of our brand new "StayCation Central" itinerary brochures. It will give you all the tips you need to have a great time in-and-around Chico while you help bolster the local economy. If you come by on Saturday, you can say hello to one of our Concierge Corps!

On my honor, I will try, to do my best to not neglect my Blog. Especially on such a significant day as this. Today is 7-8-9.

What were you doing today at 12:34.56 PM on 07-08-09? (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9).

I was celebrating the arrival of my grand-nieces, Isabella Grace and Emma Rose, born at 12:20 this afternoon and tipping the scales at over 6 pounds each! can call me Great-Auntie Jo. My niece Morgan did a stellar job delivering her two little beauties. Nicely done sweetheart, and welcome to the world you little angels!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stay-cation Central

May is almost over, and I'm taken aback by that! This year seems to be whizzing by at breakneck speed! CSUC graduation is over, high school graduation is on the horizon, and my term as Rotary President is quickly coming to a close. (Probably can't come fast enough for the rest of the Club....they've GOT to be tired of ME by now!)

The economic news in California just won't seem to get better. No matter how much I wish for it, or how many new pairs of pretty shoes I buy to try to stimulate a sluggish retail sector, it just seems to want to plug along at its own pace. So heck...let's look at the bright side anyway!

Ever heard of the word "stay-cation"? It's a new term that's been bantered about lately. Simply put.... it means staying put. Spending your vacation time in your own backyard.

I'll tell you what...those can be some of the most relaxing days ever! No airport terminals, no baggage claims, no humorless armed guard poking through your personals in your carry-on trying to determine exactly what that tube of "Preparation H" is for. (It's for undereye wrinkles, I swear to God! Look it up in Glamour Magazine!)

A "stay-cation" will save you money! Let's face it, travel expenses are way too high! But there is an economic bright-side to a "stay-cation". The money you DO spend will be spent locally, and that's a really, really GOOD thing!

And think about it. How much more relaxing would it be to plan a real vacation right here in Butte County? There is so much to do and see. Some of it you may not have experienced since you were a kid (or maybe not at all, which is just sort of sad).

Climb Feather Falls or visit Devil's Kitchen in Upper Bidwell Park. Go visit Bidwell Mansion and get a fresh taste of local history. (When I was a kid, we used to slide down the staircase banister. Please don't do that! We were naughty 4th graders, and we got in BIG trouble.)

Go to a matinee movie and then out for dinner at a lovely downtown restaurant. Finish the evening at a local ice cream shop.

Take a tour of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, then have a late lunch on their pub patio.

Take an early morning ride on as many bike paths as you can find. See how far you can get, and how many different ways you can get home. You'll be surprised what new things you'll see while you're enjoying the fresh air and exercise. When it gets hot, take a dip in the creek. Pack a picnic lunch and watch the kids explore our beautiful park.

Get a babysitter and spend a romantic night in a local hotel/motel. We have lots of lovely local lodging rooms in town that I bet you've never even seen!

Visit the many historic sites in Oroville. Drive up to the Centerville Museum and spend the afternoon at the Covered Bridge. Drive up to Paradise and check out their antique shops. A little further up the road is Sterling City, where they've got on of the cutest little churches you've ever seen.

I've told you a lot, but I've really only scratched the surface!

With so much to do, how do you decide? Simple....visit the Chamber of Commerce! We are "Stay-cation Central"! Come by and let us help you find an itinerary for your family "stay-cation". We've got maps, brochures, community event calendars....everything you need to actually PLAN a stay-near-home vacation for your family.

Remember...the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center isn't just for visitors! It's for YOU, too! Come on down and let's chat!

Monday, May 4, 2009

OMG...did that really happen?

Sometimes you just wish you could have a do-over. I wish we could buy do-over's like you do mulligans at a golf tournament. Buy as many as you need, keep them handy for when you need them. In my perfect "do-over friendly" world, you could use a do-over for just about anything. My sister could use one when she has in "did I really say that out loud?".

Man, do I wish I would have had one available a few weeks ago. I write this story now, several weeks after the event, because I've tried in vain to suppress the memory and figure maybe I should just purge it instead. So here goes.

I'm a member of President Paul Zingg's Advisory Board at CSU-Chico. The Advisory Board funds special awards for Chico State students who excel at community service. We drop into the classroom unannounced and surprise the student with their award. It's really fun. At least it was until a fateful Tuesday in April.

I was in a hurry. No surprise, I'm almost always in a hurry. It was windy and cold that day, and I was late getting over to President Paul's office to meet the other members of the Board for the presentation. All the way over I was wondering how I would keep the dust and pollen out of my eyes and my wildly blowing hair from getting stuck in my lipstick. Little did I know, these would be the least of my problems that day.

I arrive out of breath in the President's office and thankfully had a few minutes to sit in his waiting room with other Board members while we waited for Paul to finish a phone call. Shortly he joined us and we began our walking journey clear across campus to the building housing the Construction Management classes. Again dust, pollen and lipstick laden hair kept my mind occupied as we trekked against the wind, hands thrust deeply in pockets to stay warm.

We arrive outside the classroom and meet up with several faculty members who want to witness the award. As a group with single purpose-of-mind, we flung open the doors to the classroom and marched to the front of the room. Staring up at us in surprise is a jam-packed room of construction management majors, mostly young men in their early 20's, eagerly waiting to hear why the University President and his entourage have crashed the classroom.

After introducing us, Paul reads the award announcement, and the honored student joins us in the front of the room for pictures. I'm feeling really good about being part of this ceremony, and at that moment am thinking "I'm so lucky to be here". We finish the ceremony and file outside to say our goodbye's before hoofing it the 4 blocks back to my office.

It is at this point, I have no idea why or how, that I realize the zipper of my black slacks is down. All the way down. NO, NO, NO, this didn't just happen! In the same instant I take stock....what color undies am I wearing today? OMG, say it isn't so...I realize they're white. Black slacks, white undies, zipper down, hands in pockets in front of a big group of people for pictures. Do-over...please God, let me have just one do-over.

Weeks have gone by and I've told this story to only two other people...Alice in my Chamber office, because we can laugh about anything together...and my husband, only because I'd rather he hear it from me first and he already knows I'm a dork.

These silly events can be a learning experience, however. I've learned to be much more forgiving in the last several years. Particularly in business, and particularly in Chico. As much as we all want to be perfect, everybody makes mistakes and this is still a relatively small town. How well we do in giving folks a do-over speaks much more loudly about our own character than anything else.

For instance, there was a period of time when the Chamber of Commerce was heavily involved in politics, including candidate endorsements. Not everybody loved this, in fact lots of folks were really upset about it and turned their backs on the Chamber of Commerce. It's not quite the same as standing in front of a group with your zipper down, but sometimes it feels the same.

If I could ask for one do-over for the Chamber, it would probably be on this issue. But I can't, so we'll just learn the lessons and move forward. But it bears repeating, often, that the Chamber of Commerce no longer participates in candidate endorsements. We focus on issues only and stay out of the personality of the candidates. Tell your friends. It's important that they know, too.

I know that the Chamber learned a few things from the experience, and we'll remember the lessons. My experience with the CSU-Chico President's Advisory Board taught me a few lessons as well.

First, slow down for goodness sake! Rushing is a mistake when you've got someplace important to be (especially if you're going to be in front of a crowd with your hands in your pockets). You should always make time for one last "mirror check".

Second, black undies with black slacks. No exceptions.

Third, don't kid yourself into thinking you're so important people will remember who you are, unless you've been standing in front of them with your zipper down.

Lastly, there really are no do-overs, so try not to picture these mistakes in your head, and for heaven's sake learn to laugh at your dorky self!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Proof is in the Puddin'

Well, another Business Showcase has come and gone. I will continue to be amazed by the extraordinary amount of work produced by the office staff of the Chamber. Organizing, managing, coordinating and pleasing almost 90 business exhibitors is an enormous task. It's almost like a circus coming to town, setting up the Big Top, unloading all the animals, putting on a big show, and then packing it all up the very same day. I get tired just watching all this activity.

I've heard the same question over and over for the last few days...."How did it go"?

My honest answer would have to be that I don't really know. There seemed to be a lot of positive energy in the room, folks were smiling and jovial, we stayed comfortably cool on a hot day, and the whole building literally buzzed with activity all day long. DID it go?

The puddin' test on our success will be the feedback we get from exhibitors. After all, it's their day. We don't do this event because we love throwing up the Big Top and tearing it back down again. We do it because we think it's important for local businesses to support each other and Business Showcase has historically been an effective and efficient way to do that. Whether or not it was a successful, positive experience for participants that led to lots of leads for their business will be for them to decide. I truly hope they did find it a day well spent for their business. And if not, I hope they'll let me know how we can improve.

No rest for the weary! This weekend will be another buzz of activity around this gorgeous community, with even more people working together to make it a better place for everyone.

On Saturday the Chico Rotary Club, of which I am honored to be President, will participate in our 3rd Rotary-At-Work Day this fiscal year. Our 200+ members and their families will be out in force working on various community improvement projects. We start with a big celebration breakfast and then hit the streets with our tools, our funky orange vests and our smiles.

You might see us in Bidwell Park sprucing up the horse-shoe pits or painting the lifeguard towers at One-Mile pool. You might see us at McManus Elementary School refurbishing their track. You might see us at the Stansbury Home, at the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Park or at the Community Rummage Sale. But wherever you see us, please know that Rotarians are just a bunch of local business people who care enough about our neighbors to roll up our sleeves and Git 'r Done!

Later that day, I'll look forward to joining the Golden Valley Bank Relay For Life Team at PVHS. Like hundreds of other caring citizens, our team will be out walking in circles all day long to raise money for Cancer research. Honest-to-goodness, if you want (or need) inspiration in your life, go spend some time Saturday at Relay For Life. No matter how tired you are from a long week at work, you will be energized by the tremendous amount of love and compassion that engulfs this event. I guarantee you'll leave with spring in your step and a smile in your heart.

But since it's still Friday evening...I think I'll go home and open beer, throw the tennis ball for my dog, make a nice quiet dinner for my handsome hubby, and fall asleep on the couch watching TV. Ahhhhh....the life of a jet-set CEO!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Where is my "Mini-Me"?

Man...have you ever wished you were two people at once? You know, the meeting you're still in is running late and the meeting you should be at next is already underway? Don't you HATE when that happens? Those are the days I wish I had my own "Mini-Me" like Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame.

That would be so awesome. I'd really love a "Mini-Me". (Well, maybe not THAT mini, but certainly a few 'lbs smaller would be excellent). I'd never miss a meeting again. Very cool.

I like to try to show up at every Chamber event we plan, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Like last Thursday night. There was a really great Chamber event planned at The Hotel Diamond and I knew it was going to be huge! Lots of folks there to celebrate being part of the Chamber of Commerce. And I was late...really so late lots of folks had already left. Bummer.

It wasn't like I was just off screwing around somewhere. I was in an important meeting, with City Council folks, no less. We were there presenting our draft plans for proposal to run the Chico Visitor Center for another year. It's an interesting process.

Every organization, and even a few individuals, make a pitch for funding of specific projects aimed at boosting the economic health of the City. Ours is aimed at increasing Transient Occupancy Tax through tourism. We do that a couple of ways, including running the Visitor Center.

It's kind of interesting going through this process for the first time. I don't know that I've ever had to prove the value of my professional performance prior to delivering the promised result. It's sort of like an annual job interview, except it's for a job you've had for over 25 years, you have to do it publicly and anybody can weigh-in on your performance. Weird!

But I get it. The City is planning to again spend taxpayer money with the intent of improving our local economy and our quality of life. It's my tax money too, so I WANT them to be extra careful.

It can't be an easy job. There are very traditional activities that have always been funded on the public dime, and they are all very worthy. Unfortunately, nowadays the dime is only 9 cents. That means City staff and the Council need to find a way to cut back on the total cost of these activities, while trying to keep them all alive and well. No small job there. And no matter how you feel about the individuals making these decisions, you have to recognize that they are caring people, and this process can't be any easier for them than it is for those of us asking for funding.

All that aside, I have confidence in the process and in our ability to deliver the services the City wants and needs in a professional and cost-efficient manner. We're darned good at it, and our proposal this year includes cutting some non-essential activities, focusing on those that will make a real difference, and I project it will cost 4.5% less than last year. Not a huge drop, but it's heading in the right direction. I am very interested to see how this all turns out. And it will all be decided in just a few more weeks!

In the meantime, I need to get working on that "Mini-Me" thing, because it's shaping up to be a really busy Spring!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hug a Fireman!

Wow. Things are busy around here lately. We're pulling together our proposal for the City Council subcommittee requesting funding to continue operating the City Visitor's Center for another fiscal year. I'd really like to be able to revamp our website as well, separating "visitor" information from "member" information. It seems too cramped right now, and I have to admit I get tired of searching for what I need and sometimes just give up. Gotta get that fixed FAST!!

Business Showcase is coming up quickly, and we're happy to be bringing some fun speakers to the event this year to talk about "going GREEN". (Seems appropriate since Showcase falls on Earth Day!) We've got a couple of Hot Mama's who really know GREEN scheduled to speak. You won't want to miss it!

And if that wasn't enough, we're planning the Industrial BBQ for June 18. We're bringing back the concept of honoring a particular industry, and this year we've chosen Public Safety Personnel. It will be a lot of fun to honor our local heroes in the Police, Fire and Sheriff departments. It's important to me that we plan a patriotic, flag-wavin' fun party!! We need an opportunity to let our hair down and have some good ol' fashioned summer fun. At least I need it, so you'll all have to just suck it up and have some fun with me!

As before, we'll include a competitive cook-0ff, with local BBQ restaurants competing in the Professional division, and hopefully teams from the police, fire and sheriff departments competing in the "Backyard" division. Can you think of anything more fun than that?

So plan to come on out and join us that night to say "thanks a alot" to the folks who work hard to keep us safe. Hug yourself a cop....or maybe a fireman! (I do it all the time. He's 24 and his name is Casey Dietle. He's the best lookin' Cal-Fire dude in Butte County, and he just LOVES it when Mom embarrasses him like this!)

Speaking of friend Valerie Reddemann asked me if I punked my kids on April Fools Day. Honestly I didn't because Casey was working and our girls are 17-year old high school Juniors and therefore currently have no discernible sense of humor. However, if you punked your kids, or spouse, or bratty little sister, I'd love to hear about it! At this rate, April Fools Day will creep up on me again before I know it, and it always pays to plan ahead!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Have a Good One"?

How many times have you gone into retail/service/food establishment, conducted business, dined or shopped for what you needed, stood in line at the checkout to hand over your hard-earned cash, only to have the clerk/associate/teller/waiter hand over your receipt and say "Have a good one"? A good what for heavens sake? What kind of a lame acknowledgement of customers is that?

I'm probably going to show my age here, but I swear I remember a time when employees were consistently trained to say "thank you" after you'd paid for something. I know I didn't dream was real. So what the heck happened? When did it become okay for employees to neglect thanking customers for their business?

Now, I'm not expert on customer relations but I have a lot of experience training and managing retail service staff. More importantly, I'm a customer of a lot of businesses in town. (Yep...I SHOP!) Some establishments have obviously taken the time and care to properly train their employees to be appropriately gracious with customers. I love to do business in those places. I feel great when I leave, even if my wallet is a little lighter. A good old-fashioned "thank you" goes a really long way with me.

Conversely, I get really annoyed when I've spent money in a place and all I get from the clerk is a receipt. No smile, no "thank you for coming in", sometimes not even eye-contact from the person I handed my money to. In short, no customer service at all.

This economy is making it really hard for business to remain profitable. With consumers making fewer purchases than in years past, everyone is competing for a smaller piece of the pie. No fun. So how do you make sure that consumers will choose your business over others to patronize? By making sure your employees give the very best service available. Set the bar really high, and help your staff reach that peak level of service.

The same thing applies to the Chamber of Commerce. After all, we are a service company too, and I'm committed to making sure we are providing the very highest quality of service to our members. No negotiating on that point. High quality service is what makes the expense of your membership worth it. If we're not doing that, I really want to know.

I think this economy is a good time to get back to basics. Concentrate on your company strengths. Focus on what you do really, really well. And make absolutely sure that one of the things you do really well is customer service. That's my plan for the Chamber.

And by the way, in case we haven't said it lately, THANK YOU FOR YOUR BUSINESS. We appreciate you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Community Schmoonity"

Every time I turn around someone is waxing on about "community". Building Community. Protecting Community. Growing Community. The LOCAL Community....the GLOBAL Community..., blah, blah, blah.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of this place we call the community of Chico. I grew up here, my folks still live in the house I was raised in, my husband grew up here and our kids want to make their lives here. In short, I'm not dissing the place. I just think the word "community" tends to be overused as a touchstone.

I say that because I think there is something even more basic than community as a basis for our shared lives. For me it all boils down to relationships. Without personal relationships with those we live, work and play with, there is no community. It doesn't matter if you live in a great neighborhood near a great park in a great city that's part of the greatest country in the world. Without relationships you are not part of a community.

When I took over the job as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce I heard a lot of folks referring to 'the business community'. Historically this seems to be a label that is applied to companies that make up for-profit industry. Big mistake!

I think the term should apply to every person and every organization that helps makes this economy run. That means everyone...government, non-profits, service providers, manufacturers, sole-proprietors and publicly traded corporations. Anyone who works here has a connection to the business community in one way or another.

So how do we determine if we're really living as a business community? By thinking about the relationships we've built, or not built.

Things are different now. None of us have the luxury of sitting back and letting success roll over us. Our mere survival may very well depend on the relationships we've built and how hard we're willing to work on them. This is where the Chamber of Commerce can really shine.

I can't speak for the Chamber of the past, but today we are all about relationship building. That will be our primary objective going forward. Connecting people and building relationships. There is no higher purpose for this organization. We will define specific activities as we move forward but trust me, relationship building will be the undergirdings of every decision we make.

So from now on, even though I might say "community", I'll be thinking "relationships". Try it and see if it changes your perspective, too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

"MasterCard Marketing"

New Neon "OPEN" Sign....$75.00
1000 Glossy Business Cards....$295.00
1/4 Page Print Ad....$695.00

Membership in the Chamber of Commerce.....PRICELESS!

It's true. Sometimes you DO get more than you pay for. I think membership in the Chamber is one of those times.

Oh sure, you can just stick to the basics when it comes to growing your business. Produce a bunch of flyers, pass out business cards, maybe even run some TV and radio spots. Nothing wrong with that strategy. In fact all of those activities are great ways to market your business.

But standard marketing isn't everything.

What if you bump into a problem that takes you completely by surprise? What if you have trouble getting a permit you need from a government agency? What if you want to connect with other business owners and pick their brains? What if you want to try to break into the new social networking scene? What if...What if...What if...?

Every business owner runs into an issue or two sometime in their career that stumps them. (Okay, maybe not Donald Trump, but most everybody else!) Where can you turn when this happens to you? How about your friends, associates, peers (and yes even competitors) within the broad umbrella of the Chamber of Commerce.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't have all the answers you'll ever need run and grow your business. But it's a pretty good bet that I know somebody who does! That's the beauty of a business association like the Chamber of Commerce. With over 950 members, we surely know somebody who can help you out. And the great thing is, most everybody DOES want to help. Especially now.

So what's the real benefit of Chamber membership? Building relationships with other business leaders who've "been there and done that". It's the relationship part that's priceless.....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Can you recommend a good Ventriloquist?"

"I need a ride to Texas. Do you know anybody going to Texas?"

"Do you know anybody who wants to buy a rusty hay crimper?"

"Where in Chico can I buys pants that have a crease that won't fall out?"


Seriously. These are some of the questions we've been asked over the years at the Chamber office. NO KIDDING! We've kept a list of the funny questions people phone in. It's hysterical!

What this really tells me though is there is a lot of confusion about what the Chamber of Commerce really does. So in case you don't goes!

The Chamber is the collective voice of business in the community. We advocate on behalf of the business community at the City, County and State level. We're watching your back when it comes to business issues.

We share business news. We give members an opportunity to promote their own business. We plan events as networking opportunities. We offer training. And now....we BLOG!

It is somewhat challenging to lists all the things we do, but to sum it all up, we're here to help. If you have a particular need, and don't see it listed above (0ther than selling a hay crimper or renting a camel) give us a call. We'll help find a solution for you.

And to answer just two of the funky questions we've received over the years.....Robert E. Lee's Birthday is January 19, 1807, and NO, the Chico Airshow will not be at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. Hope that helps!

Friday, February 13, 2009

If you LOVE Friday's, shout YAHOO!

Don't you just love the Friday before a holiday weekend? I do! That last minute push to get everything done that you really need to finish before you can cut looseand relax with your family is a real rush. These can be the most effective days of the entire month!

"Effective". That's one of my favorite words. I think it's so much more important than being "efficient". You can be "efficient" all day long, and still not do a single thing that is "effective". I'd much rather be "effective". You'll have more to show for it at the end of the day.

My goal is to move the Chamber more toward being truly effective for members. I'd really like to hear your ideas on how we can be effective for you! Post a comment, or give me a call. And in the meantime...have a fabulously long weekend!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Focus, Focus, Focus

This will be another great day of information gathering as I host about 20 Chamber members (and former members) in two Focus Groups. So far the information I've gathered is quite interesting, some unexpected, but all very USEFUL!

My goal is to determine what we're doing well, what we're doing poorly, what we're not doing that we should be, and finally the ONE BIG THING...what is most important to business in this new economy.

This information will be used to move us forward in the direction that is relevant to our members and our community. I can't wait to see how it all shakes out. What an adventure!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Focusing on Members

Things are changing all over. The Chamber is no different. We're taking a look at how we serve our members. What we're doing well, and what we're NOT doing well. It's an interesting journey of discovery.

I'm meeting with members every day, in just about every way imaginable. We meet in my office, their office, at lunch, at coffee, on the street and on the phone. Just about everyone has a story to share with me, and I appreciate every one of them! This feedback is the most efficient way for me to determine a direction for the Chamber in this new generation of leadership. Please keep the information coming!

Yep....things are changing around here. Thanks to all of you we're developing renewed focus on our members and volunteers. I can hardly wait to see what comes next, but I can guarantee it will revolve around YOU!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All About Our Members

Welcome to Chico Chamber News, the latest blogspot for the Chico Chamber of Commerce. As the new President and CEO of the Chamber, I am dedicated to understanding the needs of our members and providing services that are relevant to YOU! Feel free to chime in and let me know your thoughts. Or, email me to take part in one of four upcoming Focus Groups I'll be holding with local business owners. Look forward to hearing from you!