As I settle in to this new role at the Chamber, I find that I’m learning something all the time. Now that I have a clearer understanding of the things that the Chamber does for its members and community, my mind turns to how we can improve on what we are doing.
Every new Chamber Board reviews the strategies and plans of its predecessors to see if we’re on track or if we can make improvements. This Board pulled out a previous strategy planning document that contained a number of productive and logical goals. These included increasing the number of new members, improving member retention statistics, managing event budgets more efficiently, and expanding our outreach and advocacy. These are recurring themes that help us to provide services to you, our members. Where things start to unravel a bit is in the execution and measurement of results.
One of this Board’s first priorities has been to identify how well we are meeting our member’s needs. Are the events and activities relevant and valuable to members? The only way we could find this out was to ask. Unfortunately, surveys are not popular and it is usually the same few people who offer any feedback. We wanted to hear from everyone. We wanted to know what people who DON’T come to our events were thinking. What could we do engage these members and help their businesses to be successful?
We decided against the survey and invited members to participate in some focus groups. We had a reasonably good response from people representing a cross section of industry and business. There were manufacturers and service providers, large and small businesses, and long time members plus some new ones. And they were all willing to share honest feedback and ideas with me to help to make the Chamber better. Thank you to all who were a part of that process.
The focus groups were engaging and informative. I learned a lot about what is really on the mind of local business owners and what they need. I also learned how they felt about what we as a Chamber are doing (overall, it’s pretty good). Yes, we can make some improvements and we plan to do so. The most exciting outcome of this exercise was the emergence of new ideas. These ideas include some clever ways for the Chamber to better communicate with the members (and potential new members) and some suggestions for new services that could be enormously helpful to you. Some of these ideas are already in the works because they are so awesome!
We followed up the focus groups with one final email request to members to have their say. We have gained a few additional nuggets of wisdom that I’ll include in my report to the Board. Your opinion and ideas are still important to us so we’ve left the link to the survey open just for you: Last Chance Survey What would make the Chamber invaluable to you?
So my job now is to compile that report, which we’ll also share with the membership so that you know what we learned and how it might guide our plans moving forward. Check out our Facebook or LinkedIn pages for news of the report’s release over the coming weeks.
Marnie Hughes, Board Chair, Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce