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Should the Chamber Consider a New Business Plan?

May 14, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
According to an e-mail sent out to the chamber membership, the organization appears to be looking for input.

I would encourage readers to provide comments or ideas.

In that spirit, I would offer the following:

A New Vision?

Is it possible for the chamber to consider a new vision that is tied into a business plan with clearly defined benchmarks for success?

Should the chamber consider a dual process of board review, focused community outreach with short-term action and long-term goals?

Would this take a long process? It does not have to.

Much could be done by the June Chamber Annual Dinner.


Part of the chamber dilemma is the diverse make-up of its membership. Depending on who you talk to, they have different opinions of what the chamber should be doing. Retailers may think the focus should be on downtown, lodging on visitors, professional businesses with networking.

Then of course you have your municipal partners with their needs.

The chamber response is they can’t do it all – and they cannot.

Diversity as an Asset?

But is what the chamber facing really that different than what our businesses and local governments are facing? Are we all not trying to do more with less? Do all of us not have a diverse customer base with differing needs?

So perhaps having a diverse membership base can be transformed into an asset.

Perhaps the question is not should we do one versus the other - but what should our role be in each?

Many of us do not have the luxury of turning away a customer. Depending on what that customer wants, we try to help them somehow. In some cases we provide the service they want, in others we partner and finally we may simply provide a referral.

Sometimes as the economy changes and our customer needs change, we may alter what we offer.

What was only a referral service becomes a core component of our business. What was once a core part of what we do may no longer be needed?

And that last one is a hard one. If a core service becomes extinct you may need to adapt. If you do not, you may not survive. A key part of any business is to provide a service that enough people need so that you can pay the bills.

Different Levels of Customer Service?

To offer services to its diverse members it could be said that the chamber offers 4 services:

1. Membership Services 2. Business Development 3. Events 4. Tourism

Is it possible for the chamber to provide different levels of “customer service”?

1. Referral This is the most limited role. In this role the chamber provides limited to no resources of its own but is a participant typically through a board member.

Example: Legislative breakfasts – could this be outsourced to the Plattsburgh Chamber?

2. Partner The chamber is more active here. Potential staff and board participation is required and the chamber may leverage its funds.

Example: Tourism Council – the chamber is looked upon as an integral resource along with Essex and Franklin County Tourism, the Village, etc.

3. Core Service Here the chamber has decided that there is a critical community need that is not being addressed. A major focus of chamber resources is directed to this effort.

Example: Business Development and Services – Municipalities are interested in business attraction. Is there a possibility for the Chamber to take a leadership role with these organizations to form for example, a Tri-lakes Chamber?

I don’t know if these examples make sense or in the proper order. That is for the chamber to decide in hopeful lock-step with the community. The point is though that needs are ranked through a business plan filter that is headlined by what the community has determined is the gap.

After all, that is what our businesses are constantly trying to determine – what are the needs, are we the best to address them, how we do so and will these services pay for themselves?

Community Meetings.

In determining the chamber’s role, could community meetings in the 4 areas of membership be held? A facilitated discussion on • Business services • business development • events • tourism

These focused meetings could occur within the next 30 days.

Perhaps a key question could be: Are there possible new ways to look at these services? For example:

• Tourism – ROOST to handle the day-to-day tourism function?

• Events – A new Chamber partnership with the Village for a joint events coordinator in collaboration with the Tourism Council?

• Business Development – A Tri-lakes Chamber?

Short & Long-Term Goals

While the chamber is conducting this new look, summer is coming upon us. Could the chamber create interim steps such as ROOST handling the tourism function?

If this process could begin now, should the Board not consider an Executive search until the direction of the organization is established as well as possible new linkages with partners?

Have historical needs changed and are there new opportunities and partnerships the chamber should consider? A key component may be to establish short and long-term goals, oversight and measures of success.

What are your ideas?


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