If you work for a smaller staff chamber and/or you’re very good at what you do, you may be plagued by thoughts of how your chamber would get along without you.
What would happen if you weren’t available? Could you take a sick day? Go on vacation for a week? Could you take a longer leave of absence if you or a family member had a serious illness?
Would the work just pile up until you came back? Would things slow down a bit? Or would your system make it possible to keep the programs going and the sales coming in?
Wellness coaches will tell you that a break is healthy and important for self-care. Mid-sized or larger employers have resources so that they can continue business as usual, but as a small chamber professional, you know that the role you play is a lot more personal.
You may be a staff of one or two. The board, your staff, and the community may have learned that you’ll be available. All the time. Day or night.
That can be a lot of weight on your shoulders. It can add to your stress and derail you from relaxing while on vacation or in the evenings.
This isn’t healthy for you and makes your susceptible to burn out.
If you feel that your chamber can’t get along without you, it’s time to create a system to allow you the opportunity to breathe and take sick days and vacations like a “normal” business employee.
Making Your Chamber Less Dependent on You
When we talk about helping your chamber (board, staff, community, stakeholders, etc.) to become less dependent on you, we’re not talking about underperforming or abandoning your responsibilities.
Your full effort is needed; maybe a little too needed. Most chamber professionals enjoy helping and it’s difficult to say “no” when people need you.
It’s time to put things in place to ensure everyone – not just you – is doing their part and that resources exist to insure that no one person feels forced to sacrifice their own well-being.
Still hesitant to “let it go?” Here’s an analogy for you:
If you’re a parent (if not, you probably know some), you may remember all the things you did for your child when they were new. They couldn’t do anything by themselves, not even hold their heads up. But as they aged, became more coordinated and capable of understanding, you taught them age-appropriate lessons and tasks. They learned and began doing things for themselves.
Now imagine if you never taught them how to do anything. Sure, some tasks they’d learn in school. Eventually, they’d learn to tie their shoes, for instance, even if you never taught them.
But what if you never taught them how to treat people or what was socially acceptable behavior?
What if you continued to wait on them well into adulthood?
You’d be exhausted and they’d be awful humans.
Do you think at that point they’d realize it and just start doing things on their own?
Maybe a few would. But young adults would become totally dependent. You wouldn’t get a moment’s peace and if anything happened to you–even if your child was an adult–they would be ill-equipped to fend for themselves as independent adults.
That doesn’t serve anyone.
If you have been the point person for everything, you may find yourself like this metaphorical parent–burned out, exhausted, feeling obligated, maybe resentful and definitely worried about the chamber’s future.
We know that–ironically–if you’re in this position, you’ll have a hard time getting out of it. But if you ever want to take a breather (or a vacation) you need to create a system and a strategy that doesn’t depend on your immediate and constant attention.
Release Them from Dependency On Only YOU
If you are doing everything and no one would know where to begin in your absence, you have made them dependent on you.
Instead of being their 24/7 “go to” here are three things to put into place to reduce that urgency:
A “Chamber Brain” Book
The brain of the chamber, an SOP, the handbook, The “Book of Spells”–whatever you call it–get everything chamber-related out of your brain and into print.
These things will include:
- standard operating procedures (like how payroll is done and who does it)
- a list of daily, weekly, monthly, and annual activities (don’t forget to include documents that should be reviewed periodically)
- access to the passwords (preferably password software or a password-protected spreadsheet)
- social media profiles
- job description (even though you’re so much more than that)
- access to chamber documents/spreadsheets including the Strategic Plan, By-Laws, Board Packet, etc., (are they on your computer or a cloud space?)
- signature events and contact information
- who you call for what answers
- a list of monthly bills and when they are due
- where employee, vendor, and other important contact info is kept
- paperwork for the job as well as how-to’s on important processes like securing a Certificate of Origin
- past listings of award winners, special honors, etc.
- information on how to access your database
When creating this document or binder, also think of the things you do infrequently but just know how to do, things that can be done by following a checklist or that you get asked about multiple times.
A Crisis Management Plan
If you have extra time (we know–that’s funny), but if you do, you should consider putting together a crisis plan that covers extraordinary events like extreme flooding, fires, global pandemics, and other things we never expected to weather and yet have.
A crisis management plan is a good idea so that everyone knows what to do even if they can’t reach you immediately.
Reworked Job Descriptions
This isn’t a resource as much as something that should be done periodically. If you have a small staff, or none at all, you need to ensure your group is doing what you need them to do.
That means reviewing job descriptions periodically and updating them as necessary as goals change. You may also need to reallocate resources as your strategic plan changes.
If you are a single staffer (or your operations have grown exponentially), you may need to bring on a contractor to handle membership, payroll and/or administrative work. With a freelancer/contractor you only pay them when you need them (unless they’re on retainer) so you can easily bring someone on when it’s busy.
Eat It Like an Elephant
If you’ve read this far and now you’re feeling even more overwhelmed, remember to proceed the same way you would eat an elephant–one bite at a time.
Line Roy from the Yelm Chamber of Commerce shared how she makes time to create an SOP, “I take a few minutes at the end of each day and think about what I did, putting notes into each section, and adding sections as new events/promotions/campaigns come up. It might take an entire year to put everything in it but at least what I have is there. I only started mine last month but it’s been super helpful to do it as stuff is fresh in my brain.”
In other words, create it as you do it and it will get done so you can finally take that well-earned vacation and your chamber can get along without you…for a little while.