Treml: Local chamber offers business advantages

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? If so, are you getting your money’s worth? If not, what are you missing out on?

Chambers exist to serve members and help them to be more successful. The chamber is businesspeople collaborating to shape today’s business environment and our community’s future. We are a nonprofit, member-based organization. We are supported by businesses that want to invest in their community. The investment is paid annually and may be based on the size of the business. Dues are tax-deductible as a business expense.

The power of the Sycamore Chamber lies in the synergy of the business leaders who generate and conduct business daily with more than 500 member companies. Most businesses benefit from membership, and small business owners often benefit dramatically from the power of joining together with their peers. Here are some of the things that local chambers do for the business community, along with a few suggestions for getting the most from your membership.

Government relations

Chambers represent the viewpoints of their members in front of governments and advocate for their business interests when necessary. Your dues support the chamber’s efforts on your behalf to make your community a better place to do business. This alone is a reason to become a member! If you’re interested in getting more involved, most chambers have a Business Advocacy or Governmental Affairs Committee that members can join.

Be sure to attend chamber forums and events featuring political candidates and elected officials. You’ll often have an opportunity to meet them, ask questions, and perhaps share your opinion about important decisions that impact your business.

Networking

For many of us, it’s important to be visible. Chambers sponsor social events and networking groups that are designed for members to meet and do business together. If your business depends on local-business generation, this is an opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. Even if your customer base is not local, the connections you make can be an invaluable source of local goods and services for your business needs. Also, check out your Chamber’s leads groups and ambassador committees if you’d like to have a built-in opportunity to welcome and meet new members.

Advertising

When you’re a member, you’ll be listed in the chamber directory, but your opportunities for promoting your business don’t stop there. Chambers have websites, newsletters, newspapers, brochures and more. They sell advertising in most of these. The costs may be modest, and if your target market includes other Chamber members, the return on investment can be fantastic.

Education

Many chambers really shine in this department. Training yourself and your staff can be expensive, but it’s important to keep up with new developments and continue improving everyone’s business skills. Chambers collaborate with other educational institutions, like Kishwaukee College and Northern Illinois University. They offer classes, workshops, and seminars, taught by member professionals, at a low cost to members.

These professionals go out of their way to do a great job because their community reputation is at stake. Recent topics include social media training, human resource issues, patents and trademarks, OSHA regulations, credit card processing do’s and don’ts, tax law changes and more.

Referrals

Businesses and residents who are new to a community frequently call the local chamber of commerce for referrals for the goods and services they need. Guess what? If you’re not a member, Chamber staff can’t refer you. Take the time to get to know the staff of your local Chamber, and make sure that they have the information they need to send business your way.

Committee membership

Volunteering to serve on a chamber committee that fits your interests or expertise creates leadership opportunities, helps you become better known in the community, and can help position you as an expert in your field. In addition to the board of directors, business advocacy, ambassador and leads groups, many chambers have education committees, and if you’re interested in your local schools, many chambers are forming partnerships with the local educational institutions to preserve the strength of our greatest economic resource, our children and our future workforce.

Every chamber is different, and there may be other opportunities that I haven’t mentioned here. If you’re not already a member, I encourage you to find out more.

To those of you who are already a member of your local Chamber, I applaud you. Your expertise, energy, creativity, and involvement will continue to shape today’s business environment and our future. Thank you for your investment.

• Rose Treml is executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce.

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