I’ve had experiences with several different local Chambers of Commerce recently, which is one of the reasons why I’ve been so &@)(% busy.  Busy in a good way – I’m generating all kinds of great conversations with people in the community.  But it also means I’m spending a lot of time in coffee shops.

Most companies don’t bother with their local Chamber of Commerce.  If you look at it as a way to get a little logo on your website and a sticker on your front door, then it probably is a waste of money.  I’m finding that the best value I get is from making connections with people.

And it’s not just about selling my services, either.  Other reasons to interact with people in other businesses:

  • They give you support and encouragement
  • You might find your next great employee
  • You could make some key partnerships which make YOUR job easier
  • It’s neat to get your brain out of your business for a little while and think about where you’re going
  • Some people like to buy from businesses that they trust, and this can help make that happen
  • You could influence what the state or federal government is doing in your community

That said, it’s absolutely true that the CofC reflects the culture of its community.  For instance, I’ve sampled some Chambers in other cities, and noticed that there can be a reluctance to let me talk about my business, being more of an “outsider.”  But like in any small town, if you invest in creating relationships over a long period of time, you’ll create some deeper friendships.

I also notice that each group has its own unique priorities and activities.  Price structures vary radically (to become a member or attend an event).  I don’t know why I expected it to be a little more standardized, but each Chamber is a unique entity unto itself.  So if you’ve had a bad experience with one, you might be pleasantly surprised in another.

But like any group of people, it’s all about what you contribute to the whole.  Don’t expect just to sit back and have the Chamber improve your business if you’re not doing more than just paying dues.  It doesn’t work that way.