Recipe for Success: Be Flexible, Leave Ego at the Door, Hire Great Staff, Think Long-Term

What are the key ingredients for success as a chamber executive?

Matthew Mahood
The Silicon Valley (CA) Organization

No matter the size of the chamber, you are going to have to be a “jack of all trades” and, depending on the size of the staff you have, you are probably going to have to master a few of those trades.

Some key ingredients are: the ability to hire and retain talented people; being adaptable to changing environments, audiences and board members; the courage to stand up for what you believe in, but the humility to admit when you make a mistake; the ability to listen and to compromise; the ability to think strategically and longer-term, while you drive daily tactics to get results; great time management and organizational skills to manage multiple projects and relationships; and, lastly, being honest, forthright and conducting yourself with integrity in all of your business dealings.

Angie Anderson, IOM
Glenwood Springs (CO) Chamber Resort Association

As my 5-year old daughter says, “Work together, get along and have fun.” In order to be a successful chamber executive, it’s important to surround yourself with a team of great people. Working with a staff and a board of directors who believe in the mission, have complementary skills and are enjoyable to be around can make all the difference. Hiring well and recruiting the right mix of board members should be a top priority. Make sure that your team feels valued and appreciated. Say thank you as much as possible and invest in continuous educational opportunities for yourself and your team.

Janet Steele
Albany Area (OR) Chamber

There are many words that come to mind when I think of what it takes to be successful in this ever-changing chamber world. Here are a few: flexibility, jack of all trades, organization and prioritizing, continuing education, having a strong network of peers you trust, knowing when to say yes and no, understanding the community you serve, taking time off to rejuvenate, great staff, and having a strong voice in who goes onto your board and up the ladder to leadership.

If someone had told me years ago that I would choose to be a chamber executive for a career, first I would have asked “what’s a chamber executive?” and then I would have thought they were crazy. Yet here I am, 30+ years as a president/CEO and I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a high-energy, high-profile position that somehow you come to embrace. One day you’re riding high and the next day something happens that reminds you, you don’t know everything. I thank God that through Institute, W.A.C.E., Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), and the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce, I’ve made fantastic friends that I can count on to help me through the tough times and help celebrate the moments when everything is right with the world.

Paul Little
Pasadena (CA) Chamber and Civic Association

I would say the keys to success of a chamber executive are leadership ability, collaboration and flexibility.

A chamber executive has to be able to set a goal or goals and then lead the staff and the members to accomplish that goal, sometimes by having it seem as if the leaders are others among the membership.

Collaboration because we are serving a wide variety of interests, our members, the community and the local economy and being able to bring people together to discuss, focus and find solutions that are right for the situation is key.

Finally, flexibility. No day is the same as the previous one or the next one. Being able to adapt to the needs of individual members, industries and the community at a moment’s notice can be stressful, but is integral to the success of any chamber.

Oh, yeah, and leave the ego at the door. There are lots of times it is best to share or relinquish credit to others to ensure success and forward momentum. We work with business and community leaders. Giving over the spotlight to others can cement relationships, ensure buy-in and lay the foundation for future success.