It’s obvious that we’re in uncharted territory and these are undoubtedly difficult times that will require different thinking and bold action—maybe even new business models and chamber organization structures.
Driven by the belief that we are better together, we reached out to several “Chamber Champions” for their words of wisdom, guidance and advice for their chamber peers and chambers as organizations.
Enact the 3C Values
This is a moment when we had better demonstrate that our work is focused specifically on solutions that matter to our members and communities. For our chamber, we are using the foundations of the 3C brand values to guide our work:
• We serve as a trusted Convener and Connector for the business realm and the community at large.
• We operate with a Results-Driven Focus.
• We are a proven Hub of Information within the business community.
• We are a proud Defender of Business Values.
• We strive to foster a Culture of Collaboration in our community.
Chambers that live up to these values will come out stronger than ever; those that don’t may not come out at all. There will be a moment in time when businesses will ask, “Was my chamber helpful when I was in crisis?” Make sure the answer in your community is a resounding “YES!” –Glenn Morris, Santa Maria Valley (CA) Chamber
Don’t Be Timid
This situation will test us all; it’s a significant leadership challenge and opportunity. Much that leaps to mind may sound like mindless platitudes, but here they are anyway:
• Take care of yourself.
• Make a plan and work the plan.
• Line up resources to keep the chamber operational.
• Be a Convener.
• Be a synthesizer of information and communicator for your members.
• Keep perspective and keep your faith that things will get better.
Leave it all on the field. All you can control is what you do. Don’t be timid—regardless of how this all ends, you still need to live with yourself. When you ask yourself: Did I do everything I knew to do? Make sure the answer is “yes.” –David May, Fort Collins Area (CO)
Trust Your Staff
Trust your people. Now, more than ever before, as we all work remotely and at an even quicker pace than normal, is the time to trust your staff and lean on them to help. As CEOs, we can’t do it all ourselves and we can’t be afraid to delegate and trust that they want to do whatever they can to help get our communities through this crisis as well. –Brittany Quick-Warner, Eugene Area (OR) Chamber
Be the Voice for Business
This is uncharted territory. As we continue to follow the lead of our state and local public health officers, it is time to shine. Chambers have the unique opportunity to prove our value to the business community as the voice FOR business, advocating for local, state and federal recovery programs and being a trusted resource to help our communities recover. –Chris Romer, Vail Valley (CO) Partnership
Be a Shoulder to Lean On
Now, more than ever, our members and community need the services that chambers bring our citizens. Chambers are a valued resource, answering funding questions, advocating for our businesses, connecting resources to find supplies, providing guidance and, most of all, being a shoulder to lean on. The chamber is part of the fabric that holds the community together. –Cindy Roth, Greater Riverside (CA) Chambers
Mitigate the Damage
Don’t let fear spread faster than the virus, and don’t get distracted from the real goal, which is to save lives and save the economy. It’s up to us to mitigate the damage. Once we are through the woods, we will set out to rebuild what’s been lost. In the meantime, we can’t moan and lead at the same time. –Brad Hicks, The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County (OR)
Convene Problem Solvers
Chambers are uniquely positioned within their communities to be the convener of partners to address business, employee and community needs during this health and economic crisis. We are a trusted source for small businesses and the communities we serve and must be at the forefront of helping everyone ride out this challenging time. –Diane Schwenke, Grand Junction Area (CO) Chamber
Be the Experts
We have put our entire focus on the direct needs of our businesses, providing experts three times a week via webinars and getting our members’ questions answered quickly and directly. Additionally, we are working to be a conduit for any potential emergency funds for financial assistance to our businesses. During this crisis things change daily, and we need to be experts for our members. –Tom Pierson, Tacoma-Pierce County (WA) Chamber
Act Fast and Communicate
During these unprecedented times, the agile and business-focused leadership of chambers is more important than ever. Dream big, act fast and communicate often. Your community will quickly understand the value and impact of your chamber. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” –Kami Welch, Arvada (CO) Chamber
Plan for the Road to Recovery
It’s important for us to rise to the occasion because that is where we will show our value in the long run. Our current situation needs to be triaged to the best of our ability now, but we also need to be thinking long term at the same time about the road to recovery. –Jeremy Harris, Long Beach Area (CA) Chamber
Pinpoint Your Weaknesses
First, don’t wait for an invitation to lead. Your chamber and community need strong leaders now more than ever. Second, there’s nothing like a crisis to expose the vulnerabilities in your strategic and/or organizational structure. Use this as a time to identify those weaknesses and then develop a going-forward strategy that emphasizes your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. Your chamber will emerge stronger, sharper and more sustainable than ever. And third, take stock of the hidden skillsets of your chamber team and your board, then put them to work. The results will surprise you. –Todd Sanders, Phoenix (AZ) Chamber
Stay safe. Stay strong. And remember, we’re all in this together!