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Grow Your Business by Joining A Chamber of Commerce | #TheMoneyFactor EP11

On this episode of #TheMoneyFactor, I’m joined by Pamela Carnes, the CEO & President of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce to chat about the benefits of joining your local chamber of commerce for your business. We discuss how to find the right local chamber and get the most out of your membership.

Have you joined a Chamber of Commerce? What are your experiences? Leave them down in the comments below.

Why is it important to join the local chamber of commerce, and what are the benefits to help grow my business? 

That’s a great question. You know, if you’re a small business nowadays, you really can’t afford not to know your local chamber of commerce. They can connect you in so many different ways. At Eagle, we’re a member of the Cherokee Chamber. That’s our local county. And I have to say, they’ve connected our business in a lot more ways than I expected.

Pam, I remember coming to our first meeting, and it’s one of the things I’ve talked to you about today, I know. You went around the room, and you connected everybody in a way that just resonates with me. Tell me some of the things that you do for people.

[Pam] What the chamber does, first and foremost is provides a foundation for businesses to grow. – Yeah. – And to develop and to make those connections. And the meeting that you’re referring to was the Coffee and Connections that you came to. Learning kind of the Chamber 101 if you will. Learning more about the organization. And so that day it was trying to show everyone in the room that just because you don’t necessarily think that you need to do business with the person next to you at the given moment, the next day, the next week, six months from now you might need the services or the products that that particular business offers, and you have a connection back . So our mission, to give you the formal mission statement, is to, of course, be on the lookout for what businesses need. We’ll just say that. But the actual mission statement is to promote business and the community.

[Pam] So thinking about that. It’s very important to promote both sides. While expanding the economy and enhancing the quality of life. That’s really what all businesses are doing. They are promoting themselves. They want to promote the community where they are located. They want the economy to expand so that their business is economically viable. And then if the quality of life is also enhanced in your community, people wanna visit, they wanna relocate, and they wanna do business with you.

[Ian]: Well I think again the message has to be that you don’t know who is in your local community if you’re not a member of a chamber. And it’s not just being a member as well. You have to participate. You know, you can pay those dues, but really when you’re writing that check, be committed to it. Go to the meetings that they have. And Cherokee have impressed me with the range of different things that they do. And again, if you’re looking to grow your business and participate in the community like Pam said, there really is no substitute to finding out about your local chamber. They can enhance your business and help you grow it.

 How do I know if I’m joining a good organization?

Simply do your research. All chambers will have a website. You can go online and have a look at the range of services and meetings that they hold. But I think, again, a sign of a good chamber for me will be how they welcome new members. Pam, tell us some of the things that Cherokee did.

[Pam] Sure. I wanna go back to something you said a minute ago, too, about paying your, and my staff will not believe I’m gonna say this word, dues. – [Ian] Yes. – It’s an investment. [Pam]You’re investing in Cherokee County through the chamber. – [Ian] That’s true. – And you’re allowing us to take those funds and reinvest them on your behalf in programs, and services, and initiatives to help the entire community to become more prosperous. – Yeah, that’s a better way of looking at it. – Absolutely, and so that’s why, really, you will never hear me use that word, dues, because you can pay dues to be a part of many organizations. We want you to invest with us and feel like that you’re making a good investment. Now I completely understand, from the question that was raised. How does the person know that they are joining the right organization? Not necessarily the right organization for them, but a quality or high-caliber organization. I would think that if you ask most any chamber member, if not all chamber members, they would tell you that there’s been some benefit they’ve received from being a part of our organization. – There has to be. – Exactly. Or they’re not going to reinvest. If you ask our volunteers, who are those key volunteers, let’s say, from our board or our ambassadors known as our Chairman’s Council, they’re involved in multiple chambers, and so they typically can find those strengths about us that they want to add to the list of strengths that you’ve already identified. – To improve your offering overall, right? – Correct. So, from the standpoint of, what is it that we do? What do we give that new member? What did we do for our membership as a whole? New members are definitely important to the organization, and they help us continue to grow. But those returning members, those seasoned members, are also vital as well, because they know where we’ve been. They know what we’re doing. And they have that vision of where we’re going. And I think that’s important, too, that we bring back, just like you want returning customers, we want returning members. And so it’s important for those new members to have the opportunity to interact with those seasoned members as well. So, what can we give someone? The opportunity to network? Well, so do other organizations within that community, but not necessarily within the same audience that we provide. So, the opportunity to network, the opportunity to connect, and be engaged in what’s happening in the community. Our tagline, that accompanies our logo, is Connecting, Creating, and Cultivating. – Love it. – So we are connecting business and community. We are creating economic viability and value. And we’re cultivating member engagement. So if we can continue to connect and create and cultivate, our membership should continue to grow, because we’re providing, again, that foundation for businesses and organizations to plant the seed, for that seed to take root, and for them to grow and be strong and be a contender with other businesses and organizations within the community. – You couldn’t have said it better. I mean, that to me, to our viewers out there, if that doesn’t show you that Cherokee County is a quality chamber and why we’re a member, I don’t know what would. Go ask that question of your local chamber. See what the response is. If you get an engagement like Pam just gave us here, then you know you’ve got a good chamber. Again, look beyond your four walls of your business and see how you can get engaged with your local chamber. It can only help benefit your business.

How do I get the most out of my membership?

[Ian] How do you get the most out of your membership? You have to be involved. You have to know what activities they have. Try and bring it down to what you think will benefit your business directly, and if you’re not sure, talk to the chamber, and they can guide you. Do you get that question very often? – We get that question all the time. – All the time, right? – We get that question from somebody that walks in the door and is curious about what a chamber is. Maybe perhaps they had a family member that when they were growing up was involved in a chamber in the community that they were from, but they don’t know what that chamber did or what a chamber does today. So, we get that question from the folks that just walk in off the street into our office. We get that question via phone, email, you name it. We’ve been asked that question. – You must get all sorts of questions, right? – Absolutely, the phone rings all the time. The emails are forever coming in. But what we want the person to think about is how to make that membership individualized for them. Just because you find benefit in a particular activity or initiative, say through committee activity, whether that’s education, workforce development, governmental affairs, our Going Green initiative, which is the only grass roots, environmentally friendly initiative of any chamber of commerce in Georgia. – Wow. – So whether you find your place through committee activity or you prefer simply networking, which is, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and me using the word, “simply networking,” networking is not easy. – It’s powerful. – When you come to our events, whether you’re a morning person and you want to come to Good Morning, Cherokee at 7:00 a.m., or you come to Power Hour at 10:00 a.m., or a Meet and Eat at 11:30 a.m., or Business After Hours at 4:30 in the afternoon– – You have choices. – You have choices, because you might not be that morning person. You don’t want to be there – Not everybody is. – at seven. You wanna be there in the afternoon. So you find your place. So whether that’s through committee activity, whether that is through networking, whether that’s through initiatives that are specific to having that connection back to the community, things like education in the workforce, you have to find what works for you. – Right, exactly. – Also thinking about the size and type of business. If it’s a smaller business, you’re not necessarily going to be able to leave your shop, or leave your storefront. Where you have a team here at Eagle that enables you to be out. – Right, I can do it. – Exactly. Not everyone has that. – No, you’re right. – So you have to find what’s right and is the right fit for your business based on how much you can be involved. What we also remind people is, even those volunteers I mentioned from our board and our ambassadors, the Chairman’s Council? We don’t pay them. So they need to go to work. – Yes, exactly. – They have to go to their offices at some point. You can’t always be at chamber events, or the employer might begin to look at that as, you’re doing more for the chamber – What are you doing? – Exactly. But really, you are working. You’re working on behalf of your business. We just benefit from that volunteerism. But you also have to think about it from that perspective, that you can’t be away from your office or your company all the time. So you find that balance. That’s why events are at different times of day. That’s why committees meet on a quarterly basis, not a weekly or a monthly basis. That’s why the initiatives that our board of directors chooses for the given year or, for example, in our 2020 Vision, our strategic plan. So they might be visioned, or planned for more than a year. Why they choose those is specific to what Cherokee County is about. What creates that synergy in our community, what Cherokee County is looking for from a growth perspective, and how we can be a part of that. The chamber is going to celebrate 50 years of existence in 2021. – That’s awesome. – Fifty years is a long time to play a role in the growth of our business community. Businesses like yours get to be a part of that. So no matter if it’s a one-person show or an industry with a thousand employees, there’s a place for everyone at the table, not to mention non-profits, retired individuals. There is somewhere that everyone in this community can connect with the Cherokee County Chamber. – I love it. Yeah. Well, Eagle is blessed to be in Cherokee County and have access to all of these wonderful things that Pam and her team at the chamber can deliver for us. But again, if your business doesn’t have such a strong chamber, look around. Maybe you have counties next door that have people that are more involved like the Cherokee Chamber. Again, we’re very fortunate. There are so many ways you can get involved with your local chamber. Do investigate it, because it will only help grow your business. Well, I think that’s all the questions that we have time for today. Pam, thank you once again. Always good to see you. – Thanks for having me. Very good to see you as well. Thanks, Ian. – And thanks to everybody who’s been online and looked up #themoneyfactor.

Keep sending in your questions. You can find us on a range of platforms now, and we’ll see you on the next episode of The Money Factor.