Chambers of Commerce

Chambers of commerce (some times referred to as boards of trade) have been around forever. The first chamber of commerce was founded in 1599 in Marseille, France. The world’s oldest English-speaking chamber of commerce is that of New York City, which was established in 1768. They are generally defined as a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses.

Local is a relative term which can be defined as being a few businesses within a town or city all the way to an entire country or even continent with several hundred thousand members.

The goal of furthering the interests of business is also relative…relative to not only the type of business but perhaps even more important, relative to time. Time may be the most insidious and most important factor in measuring a chamber’s effectiveness, and I think it is paid the least amount of attention.

Keeping up with the Information

Time is relentlessly on the move at that means things are always changing. I saw a stunning set of facts the other day regarding the accumulation of knowledge. In Buckminster Fuller’s Knowledge Doubling Curve he noted that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months.  According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

If you are struggling to get your mind around that you are not alone. Something this big is incomprehensible to those of us who really do only use 10% of our brain.

Caught up in this rising tide of information are everybody, every business, and every chamber of commerce. So to cut to the chase, if you are doing business now the same way you did it 20, 15, 10, 5, or even 2 years ago, you are way behind the loop. The world has moved on and has left you behind.

That is not to say that many a the basic chamber products are no longer necessary, they are but if chambers are going to continue to be relevant they have got to recognize the importance of their place in time.

Many of the things a chamber does are good and relevant in their own way. The card exchanges, after hours meet ups, guide books, fund raiser golf tournaments, display boards, and events supported by a chamber do have their place, but they are not necessarily universally applicable and do not render the same value to every member.

Generally, the card exchanges and meet ups are attended by the usual suspects of bankers, insurance agents, Realtors, and other service providers. Many of the niche businesses do not attend these meetings as it is not advantageous to them. For example the hospitality industry members in a chamber would not go as there is very little chance that doing so would result in putting butts in beds at their property. The card exchanges and meet ups are more predator versus prey rather than a universal marketing tool.

The small hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast operators are too busy to attend these kind of events. It is in the job description of the service providers to “network” at such events. Again that’s great if those kind of things are productive for you.

motel sign

The needs of the niche member are more personal and specific such as the need for a small motel, hotel, or bed and breakfast to have an automated web based reservation booking system. These members would be unlikely to attend any chamber meet up of this type as it would generally be a waste of their time. If they need a service provider they will refer to the chamber membership list.

EZ BOOK! Web-based reservation booking system

On that same note, chambers are actually a niche in their own right and should always be in search of the most recent trends in not only the market place but the technical aspects of doing business. If a chamber really wants to assist its members in improving business they should be identifying business trends and educating the membership on current marketing tools particularly as they relate to the internet.

How Can Chambers Keep Up?

As an example of this kind of forward thinking responsiveness the Manasota SCORE chapter Chair Elect 2014, Mr. Dennis Zenk has implemented many new internet related initiatives into the SCORE program including creating a podcast series called, Been There, Done That! with Dennis Zink, available on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, the local SCORE website (http://manasota.score.org/) and CentreofInfluence.org. Business leaders are interviewed on topics of interest to mentors and businesses. SCORE national will soon boom the show to all SCORE offices and their clients. Sponsor advertising will soon be made available to our national partners.

Additionally, SCORE has a local MeetUp group called Success Strategies for Business Owners. This group meets monthly, usually at the Manatee Chamber (Lakewood Ranch) for 1 1/2 hours. Guest speakers are often SCORE mentors, teaching a specific topic in their area of expertise.

In that same regard chambers must always be cognizant of those tools they can provide to facilitate business. That brings us right back to the internet. The first thing a chamber must have is a state-of-the-industry website which is visually pleasing, easy for the visitor to navigate, and that can provide the visitor with instant gratification.

The site should provide all member contact information including a link to each business’ website. And for the niche market of the hotels, motels, B&B, and even the individual rental unit owner the chamber should provide live current information on room availabilities in the form of a hot sheet. The hot sheet is a valuable tool that can be used by chamber staff and volunteers to provide callers or chamber visitors with availability information. The hot sheet could also be available to visitors via the chamber website so visitors to the site can access accommodation member availability any time night or day.

Hot Sheet Information 

Chambers can not maximize their effectiveness if they are just satisfied to operate on yesteryear’s business model. We are in the information and technology age. Chambers must be ahead of the curve in utilizing technology. This means having a well trained staff that understands and uses the technology and can help efficiently facilitate transition into this ever-moving electronic world.

Hot Sheet Information

How Can YOU Keep Up?

It’s time to get started! In the time it took to read this the accumulation of human knowledge is well on its way to doubling. I and a friend have developed a complete and comprehensive set of workshops to help businesses better understand how the internet has changed in just the last year and how to better utilize all the tools available thereon. The workshops cover everything from Google+ to other social media, search engine optimization, blogging, digital marketing and much more.

The workshops cover more than just information on what each subject is but we also show people how to actually set up profiles, write and post blogs and much more in great detail. I would like to speak with you about offering a training series like this to your members.

This information is universally applicable and a must for any business that has an online presence.

For information on the internet training series, contact the author, Larry Bierman by email: ceo@accommodationssolutions.com or call 941-915-7172.

EZ BOOK! Web-based reservation booking system 

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Sources:

Wikipedia

http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

National SCORE website – SCORE.org

Mr. Dennis Zenk, Manasota Score – http://manasota.score.org/

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Larry Bierman

CEO Accommodations Solutions Inc at EZ Book!
Larry Bierman has spent many years in the hospitality industry and understands the needs of motel and hotel owners. Accommodations Solutions, Inc's EZ Book! Suite, a motel reservation booking system, was designed by Larry especially for the mom and pop motel owners. Visit Larry on Google+ and LinkedIn.