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Chambers look toward 21st Century face-lift

Sally J. Taylor

Chambers of commerce from the east and west ends of El Dorado County gathered Monday for a glimpse into the 21st century.

“Don’t screw it up” is a new chamber slogan proposed by keynote speaker Keith Woods, the executive director of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce and a popular business speaker.

“Problems are racing by and chambers are lumbering along later,” Woods told those attending the joint chamber gathering in El Dorado Hills that included representatives of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce.

“Chambers are either masters of what they do, or victims of it.”

Instead of being leaders for change, chambers are like “Little Johnny Chamberseeds” passing out city maps and not changing the way they do things themselves, Woods said.

“Bring in the smarts you use in the business world.”

Woods encouraged chambers to get rid of the events and activities that no longer serve a purpose.

“Chambers are better at addition than subtraction,” he said.

Consider what the critical issues facing the community are in the next one to five years and which of these the chamber can help solve.

Woods compared chambers of commerce to Lenny in “Of Mice and Men,” unable to constructively wield their own strength.

Chambers also should change their attitude toward members.

“Don’t talk about members, talk about clients,” Woods said.

Chamber clients want everything better, cheaper, faster and just for me, he said. The chamber’s activities should be high quality, cost efficient, speedy and flexible.

“Everything you do should be filtered through these seven words: ‘And here’s what it means for you,'” Woods said. “We don’t have member problems at chambers in the United States, we have marketing problems.”

Chambers that have successfully become more than the “place with the maps” often fail to communicate all the benefits they provide businesses.

Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, felt the local chambers were successfully “doing the things most people think just happen,” he said, quoting Woods regarding the role of chambers.

“But we need to do a better job at letting people know,” Wallace said. “We need to make sure the people who invest in the chamber see how much we’re doing and that we’re doing the things they want us to do.”

Kathleen Farrell, executive director of the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce which has many members from California, also attended the workshop. She was especially interested in Woods’ encouragement to take care of long-term members.

“Chambers spend more time on members who are leaving the organization than those who are in it,” Woods said. “They’re better off quitting and rejoining.”

Farrell felt extra discounts for long-term members and other recognitions were applicable here.

Farrell and Wallace both said they felt they had a few ideas to work on.


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