Being a Chamber Pro is not an easy job. None of us were prepared for what 2020 brought. But we can do a few things for ourselves and our chambers to prepare for 2021.
- You have very little work/life balance.
- People think it’s your job to listen to complaints and respond to them regardless of the cause or situation.
- You have a board that reminds you of crazy things like budgets.
- It’s a job where there always seems to be something else that needs to be done.
- And you can’t control it all.
- So many things are out of your sphere of influence.
Still, you try.
But there are a few things you can control and there are things that if you do them now, they will help you prepare for 2021 and make it a better year.
You may not need to use every one of these ideas but if you get these common problem areas under control, you’ll be well-positioned for success in 2021.
Let’s Prepare for 2021
#1 Get Rid of the Deadwood
Yes, I realize there are bylaws to be adhered to, and this may sound a little harsh, but if you have people on your staff, board, or committees who are not contributing, they need to move on. They are taking space from someone who is willing to do what you need.
Staff. If someone is not doing their job or continually fails at the job you’ve assigned, it’s time to clearly reiterate expectations and give them a deadline to work on what you’re asking of them. If they don’t–or can’t–it’s time to “set them free to explore other options.”
No one wants to fire someone but just as there are opportunity costs (the costs of doing one thing over the other), there are costs to having an ineffectual person in a position. You only have so much budget for staff. If someone is in a position and not contributing, you need to allocate that budget for someone who will.
Board. This may be the toughest because many Chamber Pros inherit their board and feel like their hands are tied between board elections. But if you have an unengaged board, you need to take measures now, not wait until elections.
First, set activity expectations. What is it you want them to do? Map out large responsibilities and smaller ones. For instance, if they have a Facebook profile, every time you post an event they should click “interested.” This is not a large time commitment. In fact, they could do it while waiting for a meeting to start. Marking “interested” will show the event to their friends on Facebook. This is a great way to expand your reach on the event.
Next, communicate other expectations such as time, treasure, and talent. Board members should be high contributors to the chamber. If not through dues or sponsorships, then through volunteering their time or their talents. If they’re not doing that, speak with them individually. Suggest ways based on their talents that they could help out. Make sure your suggestions are not all time-intensive. Some things should be quick activities such as liking something on social media. Finally, don’t assume that because a board member is “well-seasoned” that they don’t have a social media account.
Committees. Committees generally have a job to do. If a member is falling short, have the head of the committee speak to them. If they are the head, have your chair do it.
Going forward, rewrite materials to explicitly communicate what is expected in each position in the chamber from the board through a single day volunteer. Make sure everyone is clear on those expectations.
You may have fewer volunteers if you write clear descriptions but you will know that those who show interest after reading what is expected will be more likely to contribute and stay in the position.
#2 Learn to Prioritize/Say “No”
As a chamber pro, you will have millions of tiny fires to deal with – especially as you prepare for 2021 (which is just about two months from publishing this article!)
Some will be chamber related and some will be larger issues within your community that indirectly affect the chamber because they affect the future of your area. Some may have nothing to do with the chamber at all.
Create a system that helps you differentiate without bias what demands your attention because it is tied to your mission and what is simply a “fall down a rabbit hole.”
Improve communication skills so that when you have to tell people “no,” you can do so with confidence knowing that it will help you “do better work.”
You can leave the guilt behind when your “no” keeps you better aligned with the chamber mission.
#3 Minimize Multi-tasking
We all think we can multi-task because it’s frequently required of us but there have been several studies done that show multi-tasking makes us less efficient, not more.
- Give important activities your full attention and get them done.
- Create a to-do list for the week and the day.
- Make sure that every hour is not booked.
- You need overflow time for tasks that take longer or change directions unexpectedly.
- Prioritize the must-do’s and the should-be-done’s.
Also, create a list of small tasks that are not emergencies but fit nicely into the minutes you have while waiting for a virtual meeting to start or waiting on an appointment.
#4 Forge Strong Relationships with Your Peers
Yes, every chamber is different but we have a lot of the same experiences, concerns, and pressures. You can learn a lot from your peers.
- Join the Chamber of Commerce Pros group on Facebook.
- Reach out to your peers in the neighboring area or other parts of your state.
- Ask chamber friends to introduce you to other chamber pros.
- Go to Institute and the ACCE annual meeting.
The peer exchange that occurs from these relationships can be the best professional development out there.
#5 Take Care of Yourself
If you’ve ever experienced terrible pain or spoken with a physician who helps people in pain, then you probably know it is much easier to manage the pain if you’re ahead of it, than it is to manage it once you’re in the midst of it.
The same is true of your own health and well-being. It is a whole lot easier to manage and maintain before a big problem arises than it is to already start from a place of need.
Take time for yourself. Unplug occasionally. Don’t look at your phone after a certain hour. Communicate that you’ll be doing that to others. Set boundaries.
Chamber life is a marathon so you must pace yourself if you want a career in it. Burning yourself out with working late nights and missing important personal social events will make you regret your professional choices.
#6 Stay Abreast of Changes in Sales and Marketing
2020 has really been a test for most businesses. Those who were well-positioned and connected on social media did better than those who were not connected because most of us were at home on the internet. Businesses who took the time to reach their audience online stayed top-of-mind.
As the voice of business, it’s important that you are knowledgeable in marketing and sales techniques. You should understand the basics of content marketing, social media marketing, word-of -mouth marketing, digital marketing, and others.
Even if you’re not putting those marketing concepts into practice at your chamber (but please do), you should be able to explain them and provide assistance to your members either through tips on social media, your blog, or through learning sessions.
(Search this site for many articles on social media strategy, tips and ideas.)
These techniques are important and most small businesses aren’t as well-versed on the subject as you may be. Help them understand what these techniques are and how the business can benefit by using them. Always position it by what’s in it for them.
While many businesses have struggled in 2020, there are a lot of them that have thrived because of how they pivoted their sales and marketing. Share those stories.
These things may seem obvious but they are the most commonly neglected areas. Drawing lines and setting expectations make it easier to prioritize what will make our chambers their most successful. 2020 has been a challenge for most of us and our members. You owe it to your members to get things in order so that you can help them be more effective in their businesses as well.