Diversity is one of those overused catchwords that we see a lot recently and the word itself elicits, for many, very specific pictures and ideas. I submit to you that there are many areas of what we do that require types of diversity that may not immediately come to mind. Diversity is not just people centric. It is a core piece to every aspect of what the chamber does.
Membership variety is obvious low-hanging fruit. A good mix of large and small businesses, sole proprietors and nonprofits make up the community, so they should all be present in the chamber’s member mix as well. Having this diverse group makes for interesting networking discussions and is great for referring members to one another.
I once had a board nominee tell me “I’m not a yes person.” Thank goodness! I want people around the board table who have different thoughts and ideas.
Adam Grant said, “To get real diversity of thought, you need to find the people who genuinely hold different views and invite them into the conversation.” In addition to having your board be diverse in representing your member businesses, in their background, race, age, type of business, they also need to bring different perspectives, ideas and views to the table and not be afraid to voice those to the betterment of the chamber.
As we’ve transitioned from the 3P Chamber to a 3C Chamber, I also observe that various revenue streams are also a major player.
Within a year, our chamber went from having tourism monies and a generous economic development corporation contract to having neither of those as well as new expenses in a new facility.
We’ve had to look at our revenue streams to see what is sustainable and what can be tweaked and added to maintain a multitude of different types of revenue.
Our chamber activities need a shot of diversity as well. Our membership is made up primarily of small businesses and sole proprietors. Lunch meetings don’t work for those who are open 10–5 or those restauranters serving at that time.
To meet the networking needs of our members, we alter the times and types of events we hold so that there are early morning events, after hours, lunchtime etc. We also throw in something random occasionally, so the get togethers don’t get tired.
We try to make sure there are different focuses as well. Networking get togethers are great, but members also like the educational and problem-solving gatherings.
Staff and work environment also are pieces that we should look at to be diverse. When going through the hiring process, my team all took personality assessments, the DiSC and StrengthsFinders, so that we could have a good mix of personalities and so that their strengths would match the positions they hold.
It would not do to have a whole team of talkers and party people. We’d have a lot of fun, but we’d never get anything done. Staff can work their desired hours and can pick a variety of “places” to work: in the office, outside (we have picnic tables outside the office because there is no natural light inside), from home or at a business in the community. They also can utilize our shared workspace if the open office gets too loud.
Variety is the spice of life and we find it everywhere in the chamber.
Anne Glasscock, ACE, is CEO of the Kaufman (TX) Chamber.