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?