As you might know, I’m a member of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce.  An interesting conversation came up this morning, in a different group, about why a business would want to sign up.

It’s a good question.  Let’s start with the obvious:  It gives you something called a “trust mark” – you can put the logo on your storefront or website and it somehow gives the aura of being trustable, and engaged in the local community.

But, honestly, if that’s all you’re getting, it’s not very much.  Does anybody really look at your store window and make a decision on the basis of that logo?   It’s going to be rare.

The real value comes when you use the Chamber as a means to connect with other businesses in the area.  They might be your customers, partners, suppliers, or help you find future employees.  Whether it’s a networking event or one of the many groups, you can connect up with other business owners and leaders.

This particular Chamber also has leads groups and education opportunities.  They even take the lead on projects to benefit the community (fire victims, Habitat for Humanity, and so on).  And there’s a particular emphasis on connecting up with Colorado State issues which impact our region, such as transportation or environmental regulation.  If you have an interest in those areas, teaming up with the Chamber can be a way to get your voice heard down at the Capitol.

I’m involved with the Red Carpet Committee, which helps connect new businesses in the community up with the Chamber.  I find it’s valuable way to build trusted relationships with small businesses in the area, since that’s who my services are targeted for.

I’m not sure why it surprised me, but I guess I’d had the impression that there’s some strong master organization which sets the direction for Chambers across the country.  That’s not true.  Each Chamber has its own flavor and focus, which is entirely driven by the needs of its members and the community.  The result is that each Chamber does different things, so you have to evaluate each one separately.  Sometimes you’ll find connections between Chambers in adjacent communities, but that’s because the members saw a need to do it.

So check out your local Chamber of Commerce, and see if it could be a valuable investment for your business!