Time to Chart a New Course to Success

Dave Kilby

As we start the new decade—the next Roaring Twenties—there’s no doubt in my mind that chambers of commerce are at a critical fork in the road. It’s time for our industry to take the road less traveled.

Let’s face it, we can be any kind of chamber we want to be.

The opportunity for relevance and the need for leadership in the sane center has never been greater.


The question is: Do chamber executives and boards have what it takes—the courage—to truly be problem solvers and help their businesses grow and communities thrive?

The mindset of doing what we’ve always done and doing what’s “safe” and “easy” has outlived its expiration date and needs to be pushed aside in favor of reinventing ourselves, embracing a willingness to take risks and, frankly, doing what matters most—the hard stuff.

When W.A.C.E. came out with the 3Cs—Catalyst for business growth, Convener of leaders and influencers, and Champion for a thriving community—many members quickly embraced this philosophy as their new WHY and changed their messaging to drive home the point that “there’s a new chamber in town.”

This “new (and improved) chamber” isn’t just going to cut ribbons and emphasize parties, parades and pageants; the mantra will now be to do what needs to be done and truly make a difference.


But not everyone embraced the 3Cs or agreed that chambers should be in the solutions business.

One executive confided in me that, while the 3Cs sounded good and that a new direction was probably needed, that person’s chamber was going to stay the course and keep doing business as usual. When I asked why, the executive confessed, “This 3C stuff is hard…maybe our chamber can do it after I retire in a couple of years.”

Many have heard me say that an important step to charting a new course to success involves identifying the “Protectors of the Past.” These are folks who constantly and consistently put up roadblocks to change, avoid controversy and shy away from the challenges that must be addressed in order for businesses, the community and the chamber as an organization to not only succeed but thrive—and maybe even simply survive—during the next decade.

Run Toward the Roar

Instead of being like the gazelles and running away from the roar of the lion, only to be killed by the lionesses, it is now our time to change things up, run toward the roar and truly do what needs to be done.

This might require us to chart a new course that includes new program priorities, a new mindset and, likely for many chambers, new leadership.

Yep, it’s now the Roaring Twenties. My hope is that chambers will embrace the opportunity, resolve to truly make a difference and roar louder and more effectively than ever before!

Dave Kilby is president and CEO of W.A.C.E. and executive vice president of corporate affairs at the California Chamber.