As a chamber pro, you wear a lot of hats and work long hours in an often thankless environment. Yet, when you think of all of the businesses you are helping, it’s a very rewarding career. But like any job, you sometimes need a little break and a little humor.
Did you ever do Opposite Day in elementary school? Maybe you gave your sister a compliment and as soon as she smiled you would say something along the lines of “Sike. It’s Opposite Day.” (The 80s was a great time, wasn’t it?) Well, we did something similar (albeit not as mean) in the Chamber Pros Facebook Group recently.
We stitched together the following article from answers to the prompt “Share Chamber Industry Best Practices (wrong answers only). Thanks to everyone who provided these answers and made us all smile. Hope you enjoy the (tongue-in-cheek) advice.
38 Things You Should Always Do as a Chamber Pro If You Want to Be Successful
(and by “always” we actually mean never)
Note: I am not an attorney and if you’re going to use any of these suggestions in earnest, you should really check with a legal professional or a bail bondsman because you might need both.
- Seek out nonprofit executive directors as board members, especially the chair of the board. These folks have a lot to add and even though their experience is completely unrelated, they have the same title so it should work.
- Assume that your board understands their role. Don’t insult them with a board retreat or anything like a board handbook. Let them be creative and make up their job duties as they go.
- Board members need to be able to attend every ribbon-cutting and networking event. Busy top corporate CEOs need not apply.
- Take phone calls and answer texts on the weekends. Answer emails too. Members will never abuse this. You’re a chamber CEO. You should be available for every “cat in the tree” call in the area
- Sleep with your admin. That always works out for the best.
- Don’t sell any sponsorships. Go in the hole on every event. Members don’t really need the goodwill and visibility that sponsorship provides. Being profitable is a terrible strategy. You don’t want anyone to think you’re greedy or have any kind of business knowledge.
- Huge boards are awesome. Have at least 100 people. Plus, it’s best if most of them understand that if they miss the board meetings no one will notice their absence.
- Fill your board with elected officials. Watching them try to one-up each other is more entertaining than getting something done. Plus, the empty seats of those who can’t attend are a good reminder of what happens in Congress on important votes.
- Work hard to plan and execute events. Then give percentages to nonprofits even though you have bills to pay. As the voice of business, you should show your members that profit is overrated. That way, if they’re not profitable, they won’t feel bad because you aren’t either.
- When things don’t go as planned do not be proactive and let your board know. It’s better to surprise them. Everyone loves surprises. Look how much fun the surprise of a global pandemic was.
- Campaign for your friend while representing the chamber. Wear your chamber name badge so you don’t have to use one of theirs. Save the campaign some money.
- Never change. Going in the hole for the sake of tradition is fine and good practice. Innovation is overrated.
- Pay the staff the bare minimum. No benefits. No raises. Withhold promised bonuses. This motivates a high-performing team.
- Have appealing bonus structures such as $1000 for doubling the chamber membership. Most people who work in the chamber industry can simply pay their mortgages with goodwill. Just call up your bank, tell them you work for the chamber, and that you were promised a bonus, and they should just put a checkmark next to your name. (I once paid my electric bill with “exposure.”)
- Invite your board members to not show up for anything. They’re smart people. They know when things are happening. In fact, you can test their skills by never giving them any information and seeing what happens.
- If you’re a board member, belittle the chamber executive repeatedly at board meetings. This tends to motivate people to achieve more, especially if they think that you think they’re not as capable as your crony who you want to put in their position as soon as it’s vacated.
- Allow a volunteer to have access to money and all accounts. This makes people feel valued and a part of your chamber. The “keys to the safe” is one of the top indicators of trust and should be given early on to build goodwill.
- Say a member business isn’t local, because the owners don’t live in town. In fact, you might want to add to your chamber bylaws that everyone should live above their business to avoid confusing situations like that.
- Keep doing things the same way over and over because you’ve always done it that way. People don’t like change. They will get behind a chamber that is on the fast train to the basement as long as they’re continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done. There’s comfort and consistency even if it runs the organization into the ground.
- Tell everyone what you really think. This is a very effective form of transparency and will help everyone fix the problems as you see them.
- Never serve alcohol at your networking events. Prohibition was a pivotal time in our history and lots of businesses were created (look at all those successful bootleggers) because alcohol wasn’t present.
- Minutes are designed to catch board members up on who said what if they miss a meeting. Attorneys appreciate this too when suing the chamber and board.
- Tell everyone you are a nonprofit and thus should not make a profit.
- Don’t have a continuity plan. Those take a lot of time to put together and they’re really boring. Same goes for a strategic plan.
- Put all your family members on the board. That way you don’t have to waste any time with Ice Breakers or the board members getting to know each other. They already do.
- Give your personal cell to all the members. That way every time they see a pothole, they can let you know about it. You can then, in turn, call the city hotline for them. This kind of customer service at 2:00 AM is an excellent way to build loyal membership.
- Add your personal cell to your business card in hot pink neon font. People don’t read anymore so it’s essential to call their attention to what they need. Hot pink font is a good way to do this.
- Write bonus checks to yourself. After all, you deserve it and who else is going to do it for you? With the upcoming holidays you may want to consider doing this more frequently.
- Never promote from within. You don’t want your staff getting cocky and thinking they can remain with the chamber indefinitely. One of the main reasons people leave a company is a lack of opportunity. But if you give them the sense you are willing to promote from within they may want your job and then you won’t have one.
- Say yes to everyone. Try to solve every problem. Be sure to make everyone happy. That’s the chamber’s job and the only way you’ll know if you’re doing a good one.
- Make sure your community knows you are a government agency. As such, community members pay your salary. That means you have to do everything they ask
- Record and report complaints to the Better Business Bureau. Oh wait, you are the Better Business Bureau.
- Chamber professionals are renaissance people who know a little bit about everything. That’s why you should do everything for every member all by yourself. Delegating it to someone else only means that it will be done more efficiently. Then you will have more time on your hands, which means people will expect more of you. That’s too tiring.
- Create a group text for every committee and make sure no one can opt out of it. Then text your members all weekend as early as 7:00 AM and as late as 9:00 PM. The earlier or later that you text them the more likely they will be available and will see your message immediately. If you want someone’s attention, the best thing to do is wake them up. They will look at it immediately because they will want to know who woke them up. Plus, they won’t forget it.
- Along those lines, educate everyone who serves on a committee or board on the beauty and efficiency of hitting “reply to all” for every e-mail that is sent to the group. This keeps you top of mind as members see 20 emails a day from you and other committee members repeating the same old things. You know what they say in marketing? It takes about seven touchpoints to get the message through. So, replying to all is the best way to ensure that everyone sees every message.
- Schedule your emails to go out at 3:00 AM in the morning. This does several things. It makes people think you’re working really hard and you’re up in the middle of the night doing chamber work. Secondarily, if someone ignores the CDC’s and the National Institute of Health’s recommendations on sleep and has their phone by their bed (even though these organizations clearly state this is bad for sleep), your text or e-mail will wake them up. This will remind them that their phone should not be kept in the bedroom for optimum sleep. In addition to helping businesses, you are now assisting people on your text and e-mail lists with their wellness. Kudos to you. They will undoubtedly be appreciative of your efforts.
- Know that Google has gotten too big. It is hard for many people to use and is certainly not friendly. That is why you must answer the chamber phone with “Hello, what obscure fact, phone number, or detail about our town or a town with a similar name can I help you track down today?” The key to growing membership is making yourself invaluable to your community. Becoming a search engine that they can reach over the phone is one of the best uses of your time when it comes to member recruitment and retention.
- Give everyone a moment at the mic during your next event. It is extremely important that every show pony gets his or her ego scratched every time. You want them to be able to be seen and talk about anything they want to in regard to their business or political platform for the betterment of
the communitythemselves. After all, giving them exposure is what the chamber is designed to do. Forget your strategic plan and businesses within your community. Also, forget your time constraints on the event. These are merely suggestions and everyone knows that they’re not carved in stone.