Guest Blog Post from Pat McGaughey, CPF, IOM - ChamberMentor.com and ActivatingPeople.com
War stories are starting to surface regarding secret board meetings happening without the Chamber Executive to discuss the closing of the Chamber of Commerce. If you believe there is even an inkling of something like this happening, it's time to take your job back.
The one and only person who should ever suggest the demise of a Chamber of Commerce must be the chief executive officer. If you as CEO don't think the organization can weather the storm, tell them, but if you think it's worth fighting for, then scream at them! This is your moment to take the organization back.
If you believe the organization can survive while some (or all) of your board members don't, why not turn the tables and ask them to resign? Your neck is on the line either way but if you believe in your heart you can lead the organization through the crisis, this is your moment.
Imagine getting on the phone and calling your list of business members and letting them know you are looking for leaders who aren't ready to quit. If anybody respects anyone, it's someone who's willing to put it all on the line. What a perfect time to take charge and, take your job back.
Feedback is welcome, please reply to Pat@ChamberMentor.com
Guest Blog from Patrick McGaughey, CPF, IOM
Our first BONUS BLOG during the COVID-19 pandemic featured Perry Webb, president & CEO of the Springdale, Arkansas Chamber of Commerce admitting he really didn't know what to do as we began facing this crisis. So, he said, he went back to his original management model and chose to lead by prioritizing the issues that came up. It seems to be working.
As state governments begin relaxing the shelter at home orders and allowing certain businesses to re-open, the biggest priority is helping them do it right! The current priority is just that, and the Springdale Chamber is providing business with a PLAYBOOK FOR REOPENING that any business can go online (click here) so they can hit the ground running.
What can be more essential than that? If I'm a chamber executive and don't have one of these ready for my members, I'm going to stea.. uh, plager.. uh, research this document cover to cover and then get permission to copy it A.S.A.P!
This is what they pay us for. Kudos to Perry Webb, Bill Rogers, and the entire Springdale Chamber team for developing this Playbook for Reopening Your Business.
For another example, click here for what Don Long is offering the Lake Nona Chamber of Commerce members in Florida. I continue to recommend that everyone market these reopening links as "Another Essential Service" from your Chamber of Commerce.
Note: If you have a 'playbook' for reopening, please send me the link so I may share it. Send to Pat@chambermentor.com.
Guest Blog from Bob Harris, CAE and Arturo Mariani, Life Coach
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before,” said Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel.
Now there are hundreds of stories about chamber of commerce and personal improvement during the pandemic. People are sharing ways they are adapting.
Many of the changes have positive, long term impact. The adaptations are necessary or organic to survive, sustain, and thrive.
For example, what used to be a day-long board meeting requiring hours of travel, is being replaced by a video conference. Groups that shied away from on-line technology are rethinking the concept, realizing governance decisions can be made without the expenses of in-person meetings, meals, and travel.
Regarding staffing after the government closed offices, employees and their bosses might have thought working remotely would not work. At first it was awkward without guidelines and technology. Now it is being embraced to save time, be effective and add quality of life without the hassles and costs of commuting. Could it be the new normal?
At the Ventura County Coastal Association of REALTORS®, in California, CEO Wyndi Austin, CEO, said that employees have been able to collaborate and complete projects that often were set aside by the urgencies of the day when they worked in the office.
Associations and chambers of commerce serve as platforms for sharing concerns and learning how others are surviving. Among others, Wyoming and Minnesota chamber executives are sharing by webinars frequently.
The Colorado Society of Association Executives transformed its May membership luncheon to an online forum, including break out groups. The meeting was an hour of questions and encouragement. For instance, while some associations were thinking of foregoing dues billing for a year, others explained how they had become indispensable to members and recruitment was up.
Business associations and chambers in the Republic of Georgia amplified their advocacy by creating coalitions and sharing challenges through webinars.
Organizations are improving by evaluating activities, transforming events, and creating new services for members. Many of these will be lasting enhancements for chambers and associations.
For individuals, do not let the crisis paralyze you. Be proactive instead of waiting for the situation to pass. Many executives have kept blogs or written about how the pandemic has affected them.
Anastasia Baklan, a communications specialist at the Center for International Private Enterprise office in Ukraine, wrote about five ways the pandemic has changed life for the better. Among them, development of women in business, increased use of technology for learning, and personal development.
Some people suppress their thoughts instead sharing. They might think they are alone, or nobody else will care. During social distancing and isolation, communication can be a real gift.
Do not stifle sharing for fear of the reactions. What you share can enrich others, offering solutions and help. Knowing how others are coping can have a powerful positive impact.
By sharing and writing we lighten our own fears. All people need opportunities to express themselves. Many are fearful of taking the first step of sharing their experiences.
Receiving knowledge enhances personal understanding and self-confidence. The reader opens themself to new ideas.
The pandemic may be a good time for making improvements. Through sharing, blogging, writing, and reading, the possibilities expand. You have the power to give others encouragement through this difficult time.
This moment teaches us about sharing and adapting. We do our best and realize what is beyond our reach, such as grief, economy, and pandemic.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com. Arturo Mariani is a speaker, author, athlete and life coach in Rome, Italy. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Bob Harris, CAE and Kateryna Glazkova
As the economy was faltering and associations began hurting, Ukrainian executive Kateryna Glazkova circulated a statement, “Associations are made for times like these.”
Kateryna is the executive director of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs, founded in 2016. Its purpose is to protect the interests of entrepreneurs and create a favorable business environment. UUE uses the acronym SUP in Ukrainian language.
We discussed the impact of her statement. I agree, associations have proven to be resilient through wars, politics, recessions, depressions and pandemics.
We shared what characteristics make associations strong.
Collaborative – Associations build partnerships to solve problems. SUP organized a union of regional and professional business associations, named COVID-19 Business Task Force. The purpose of the initiative is to analyzed problems and increase influence.
Member Care – In troubled times especially, members need support. We should be positioned as their indispensable partner. Listening to members, we have created new products and services. SUP launched a hotline so entrepreneurs can get advice on government lockdown and legislative changes.
Strategic – Association boards and staff are strategic, realizing the need to stay out of the weeds and avoid tactics. Plans have been made during the pandemic that reflect urgent and short-term goals. It is often said, an idea without a plan is simply a dream.
Advocacy – An association best knows the issues of their members. SUP knows the pandemic will end, lockdown will stop, and entrepreneurs will face new conditions. We are preparing proposals for the authorities addressing reforms needed to restart the economy.
Leadership – Few organizations have assembled the depth of leadership found in an association. From emerging leaders to past presidents, they step up and champion the cause when called upon.
Convenor – Many organizations are seeking answers to the same questions. Associations provide trusted platforms where others can share news and projects. “…associations have proven to be resilient through wars, politics, recessions, depressions and pandemics.”
Adept – An association has two distinct workforces. Volunteers govern, while the staff manage. The board develops governance finesse through orientation. Continuous training is the cornerstone of performance excellence for staff.
Transparency - Clear communications with state authorities, entrepreneurs and the media are a priority. We inform the government of the mood and problems of business, explain to the media the real situation, we tell members the most important news about coronavirus and how we are addressing the problem. SUP issues the Coronavirus Business Digest to advise entrepreneurs of progress and victories.
Empathy – Associations maintain close relations with members and understand their challenges. It requires flexibility. For members unable to pay dues, be ready to extend the deadline or offer waivers.
Holistic – While associations serve their members, they impact the community, economy and jobs. Associations are positioned to see the big picture and to work for the benefit of all.
Innovative – Associations are innovative, using leverage, expertise and experience to find solutions.
Resourceful – Associations are able to develop sustainable streams of income. It requires the work of committees and staff to monetize programs and deliver value. Diversity in income streams is critical.
Passionate – People are drawn to an association because they share a passion. It is rare to find such passion in any other type of organization. Volunteers dedicate time and energy; staff are known to work hard.
Visionary – Whether a new or seasoned organization, participants develop and communicate a clear vision. This vision is often the fuel for hard work. Few organizations have this combination of characteristics to survive a crisis and sustain the association.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com. Kateryna Glazkova is the executive director of the Union of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs (SUP), in Kiev.
Guest article by Bob Harris, CAE
The executive committee met in secret, without the full board and disinviting the executive director. “I suggest we layoff all the staff immediately except for our executive,” was the motion.
A few weeks earlier this board discussed a plan. Everybody agreed that with sizable reserves they would wait to assess the situation in June.
At a different association, the executive director offered a plan to furlough some staff. The board of directors met and offered, “No, the staff team is too valuable.” They decided to keep all staff, making best use of their savings reserve.
Roles and Responsibilities
The pandemic and economic recovery pose challenges for boards of directors. Good governance remains essential.
State corporate law authorizes the board to make governance decisions on behalf of stakeholders. Trustee roles are described in the governing documents
Most boards understand their responsibilities to approve budget, protect resources, set policies and positions, and to advance a mission and strategic plan.
The exuberant executive committee firing staff without consultation with the full board and their executive, is problematic. Even in a crisis there is no reason for poor governance.
If staffing issues arise, it is likely a personnel committee will be appointed to study and make recommendations to the board of directors, with the counsel of a HR specialist or a lawyer.
Missing in Action
Another effect of the pandemic is a board that is MIA or AWOL. Understandably some volunteer leaders are focused on the survival of their businesses or jobs
In their minds they may have abdicated responsibilities to the executive director. But to drive a nonprofit organization it requires balance: governance by a board and management by the staff.
If board members are MIA or preoccupied, consider relaxing some demands so they can continue to serve.
Because of urgency, the board may need to convene more often. Plan shorter meetings to address critical issues. It may be easier to get 20 minutes for a meeting rather than an hour or two. In lengthy remote meetings it is easy to be distracted or drop off the call.
Create board agendas that address only the vital issues. Delay the ordinary reports and updates for a later meeting.
Pause the multi-year strategic plan. For now, the board should focus on immediate initiatives. Return to the strategic plan as appropriate.
Bylaws indicate the minimum number of directors needed to conduct business. If circumstances find the board lacking a quorum, do not adjourn the meeting. Document all actions to present recommendations to the full body at the next meeting for affirmation.
For maximum efficiency, the bylaws should empower the executive committee to address issues when the board cannot meet. Authorize the executive director with full management responsibilities.
Help the board adjust to technology and small screen meetings. The benefits of reading body language and casual discussions are missing, so urge everyone to turn on video screens; and mute microphones unless called upon.
Rules of Order
For groups that hire a parliamentarian and follow Roberts Rules of Order, they may have to be relaxed. Respect the chair and require motions be made and seconded, but do not let parliamentary procedure slow progress.
Agree on Vision
Set a short-term vision for buy-in by volunteers and staff. It may be, “To sustain the organization and deliver value to our members during the pandemic and economic recovery.” Create a written plan to support the vision.
Put members first. Volunteer leaders should be willing to listen, empathize, and categorize member challenges. Turn needs into opportunities and offer solutions. Members must see the organization as their indispensable partner.
Pause standing committees prescribed in the bylaws if they do not have urgency, i.e. bylaws review. Appoint quick action teams, strategic project groups and strike forces to address the challenges.
A subsidiary foundation may have reserves dedicated to education and scholarship. Approach the foundation board about expanding its mission to include pandemic and economic recovery. Consider using funds for the support of members with hardships.
Anticipate adjustments to revenue. Sponsors may not be available, events postponed and membership recruitment on the back burner. The treasurer and finance committee should prepare a contingency budget. Project income and expenses through December 2020.
Organizations usually keep a savings equal to at least half of the annual budget. The rationale is for survival for six months if a crisis occurs. Some boards call it their “rainy day fund.” Maximize best use of reserves and assets.
Circumstances may cause missed deadlines. The election process may have passed or the annual meeting postponed. Document the reasons and find other ways to conduct business. Current board members may be asked to extend their terms until an election can be held. Urge past leaders to serve in open seats or supplement board work.
The organization is not in this alone. Collaborate with organizations having similar interests. Maintain open channels of communication to exchange ideas, needs and solutions.
Organizations amass a host of activities and events. Now may be the time to analyze activities to check their alignment with mission, return on investment, and the drain on resources. Circumstances necessitate the board perform as the leadership team. Now is not the time for micromanagement, distrust or board absence.
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Note: Bob Harris, CAE, provides free governance tips and templates at www.nonprofitcenter.com.
A guest blog by Chris Mead, Magicians of Main Street
For this blog I am examining chamber executives' work to reduce PPE shortages. Feel free to "steal" any of the ideas mentioned here or to share these stories with your members. It's long, so feel free to skip around to what most excites you. I find these stories inspiring and hope you will too.
As we face the unknown with so many changes coming our way, now more than ever Chambers need to re-think an industry-wide over-reliance on in-person events to fund our organizations. It's as if W.A.C.E. President Dave Kilby had a crystal ball when he spoke at the 2019 Annual Conference about chambers transitioning from parade and party planners and evolving to leading as a 3-C Chamber. Now more than ever the COVID-19 pandemic takes chamber professionals to the economic front line of being a catalyst, convener and champion for the business community.
What should your staff focus on to make it through this storm? Be mission-driven and use the power of your Chamber's sphere of influence to convene those together virtually to dialogue about creative tasks to make it through the weeks ahead. So now is the time to find your on-line platform of choice, do some practice runs with your family to become an expert on the platform and step up to lead by virtually connecting your stakeholders. Here are some great ideas to get your chamber going:
1.) Connect with Elected Officials - take the lead to connect your community leaders, Board leaders, major employers and partner organizations with elected officials from the federal, state and local levels. Please don't just open the mic for discussion by all but prepare in advance facilitated lead in questions to make sure the time together is of most value.
2.) Ask the Experts - pick your topics and choose an energetic expert from within your region to field questions from business peers. Some timely topics now could target HR law; business funding; SBA legislation; marketing/sales during a pandemic; setting up a home office; ZOOM 101 best practices; field questions with health department or local hospital; working from home tips from an expert. The sky is literally the limit as we try to project what will be needed after this storm. Sadly, many may find themselves without employment and forced into entrepreneurism when that may not have even been on the radar last year so step it up to be the expert in connecting those wanting to start a business with available resources.
3.) Membership Meet-Ups - so your board is in a slight panic about the monthly networking event not happening now. Why not? If you have a speaker at a luncheon, the show can go on. And your members will appreciate staying connected. If you have a monthly platform for business connections, that show can go on, too. When you go virtual, the staff members control the power of the mute button so how cool is that when you can shift discussion if someone if trying to take way too much mic time?
4.) Personal Development - as people embrace working from home or even the reality of a potential short term lay-off, the traditional work schedule will shift. Think of topics that would offer personal development, those areas that many wish we knew more about but we just don't take the time to enhance skills. How about a hands on training for creative on-line tools like Canva or social media. This is a great opportunity to train small business owners who have never thought of selling on-line to transition from a brick and mortar only organization. Social media is a hot button that many small business owners know they should embrace but there never is enough time in the day to find out more about this area. Think this one threw and you can come up with many topics that your members will appreciate. And why limit this opportunity for members only? By offering to non-members, you are showing the community as a whole how we are all in this storm together and we care about all businesses that make up our community.
5.) Check on Your Members - Chamber professionals have a solid reputation for being the optimism in a community. However, now is not the time to tell your struggling small businesses that everything will be just fine, because the sad reality is that many won't be able to re-open their doors after all this lifts. Some chambers are planning targeted small group meet-ups with members where you can find out how they are truly holding up and talk about the deeper areas of concern that they are battling. This is a great opportunity to listen to your members and try and plug in ways that the chamber can help through this crisis. Many chambers held focus groups in person prior to this year . . . . why not do virtually now? Think of 10@10 (ten members at 10:00 a.m.) or 12@12 or however you wish to schedule. And target group (past board leaders of the Chamber; long-time business owners; family-owned business reps; etc. Get creative. Have fun. Go in to the meeting with a target list of lead in questions but most importantly, LISTEN to your members. These calls are not about the chamber. These calls are all about the members and will pay dividends when your chamber reaches out for renewals.
As you move forward, remember that Chambers could work in collaboration with peers in the region to offer these virtual connections as I know chamber professionals excel in the work smarter, not harder professional wins! You could do these as a ZOOM (or your preferred platform) meeting or as a Facebook Live push. Please make sure that the microphone audio of those talking is of high quality. Have a purpose for meeting. Record the content so that it is accessible for members who can't connect at your scheduled time. Let ICEA know how you are excelling with virtual connections by sending a brief e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org so that your ideas can be shared with peers.
guest blog submitted by Bob Harris, CAE
Guest blog post
"If you aren't at the table, you're on the menu."
This pretty well sums up why Chambers of Commerce should be in the business of advocacy and public policy. As
Chambers around the state have seen successes on issues like transportation, workforce development, and economic development, advocacy for Chambers of Commerce is a critical piece of helping support your local businesses.
Advocacy and public policy do not require a high-powered lobbyist or former legislator to make a real impact at the state level. Advocacy is all about being at the table and expressing the thoughts and concerns of your members. The key is being there, having a message to share that will show a positive impact for your community.
Showing up is a key piece to advocacy. Your elected officials need to hear from you. And while inviting them to events back home is great, there is something to be said for being in the hallways at the Statehouse. Legislators talk to lobbyists all the time. It's something quite different when they get a chance to hear directly from their constituents in Indianapolis. Not only are you a friendly face (most of the time...) but you're a voice that they directly represent. Programs like the ICEA Day at the Statehouse are critical opportunities to meet with your legislators on their turf. It can make all the difference in the world.
ICEA is hosting it’s 5th Annual Day at the Statehouse on Tuesday, February 11. Please make plans to attend! It’s an easy way to share your member’s and community’s story, in a way only you can tell it. And you’ll be surrounded by numerous other chamber members from around the state. It’s a great way to meet with your legislators and network with chamber members from all corners of Indiana. Get registered and find out more about Chamber Day on the ICEA website.
Submitted by Shelli Williams, IOM - ICEA President
Chances are great that the November election results will mean big changes for the local elected leadership in your community. What a great opportunity for chamber staff members to really make a bigger impact for the business community.
Over the months ahead, the chief staff rep at your chamber should make an effort to sit down individually with newly elected leaders. (It doesn't hurt to also sit down with returning leaders as well to listen and remind them of what the chamber is all about.) Take time to meet for coffee or lunch. Even if you know the person, still make the effort to meet during typical business hours to talk specifics about community issues. Find out what the core issues are that persuaded each rep to run for local office. Listen about community concerns and align how the chamber plays a key roll in tackling these problems. Ask if he/she knows what the chamber is all about. What does he/she think about the chamber? Do the new elected officials even know what business leaders want & need?
Yes, meeting individually with elected officials can be time consuming. When you ask what they think about the Chamber, some of the answers may be hard to hear depending on the past history of your organization. But the results can pay big dividends. Local officials will know more about the chamber and you will know more about the elected reps. Establishing a relationship now will help to communicate the concerns of the business community to get results and that can be a win/win for both the local officials and the chamber leadership team.