I spent most of 20 years as chamber CEO. It was an awesome ride. Chamber President/CEO…there has never been, nor will ever be, another “job” of its kind in your community.
So why does what I am about to say matter? In my current position I support chamber executives and their organizations. I have been out of the local practitioner seat for about six years. I now work with company executives that are involved in their local chambers of commerce, I am now, you might say, a volunteer on the side of the fence. After many discussions with corporate executives and business owners, as well as my own career reflections, I want to share a few observations that might help you.
#1 – For the sake of your image, please keep a clean desk and organized office. Be an example to your staff and encourage them to do the same. I was THE WORLD’S WORSE in this area of my life as a Chamber CEO. My desk would display piles of folders, papers, magazines, and notebooks. This ‘paperless’ world is awesome, if that is how your roll. However, I suspect there are many CEOs that are not paperless. The first time I visited a chamber executive’s office after leaving the chamber practitioner and saw the stacks I thought, “Wow, if they can’t manage their desk and office any better than this, how can they be an effective manager of this organization?”. And then. I remembered myself many years ago, dropped my head, and wondered what my former board chairs must have thought of me as their leading organization manager.
#2 – Your board will think as much of you if you work 45-50 hours a week than 70-80. Trust me on this one. In terms of work-life balance, we can learn much from the younger generations. Keep your priorities in order and doing so will pay great dividends. Doing so will not only affect your career, you mental and physical health will be stronger. Again, you will send a signal to your staff and board that you have your act together. Work hard, play hard! You should have fewer regrets.
#3 – The number one thing I would change in my chamber career journey is to have stayed longer in my positions to reap the benefits of my time and effort. I can justify each move I made, most driven by family issues. Fortunately, my leaving was always optional and not mandated. Stay put, Friends. Cultivate, train and lead your volunteers to develop and grow organization relevancy and stronger communities. It is very difficult to see the true impact of your exceptional expertise if you change jobs in less than five years.
#4 – Always re-invent yourself and your organization. If you are a seasoned professional lacking certain skill sets, think about hiring staff with those areas of expertise. Also, it is never too late to get training and more education. After all, we can do so with a click of a button! A chamber that operates today as they did 10 and 20 years ago will not likely exist in the next 10 years. Never have we needed Chamber CEOs to LEAD our communities and organizations more than today! If you are an I.O.M., C.C.E., congratulations! But those credentials won’t be enough to sustain your career alone. Staying involved in your state and national professional organizations as this is vitally important to your strength and longevity in one of the greatest professions on earth!