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Entrepreneurship + Innovation: A Minute with Marcel

By Marcel F. Schaerer, deputy director of programs Nevada Department of Business and Industry’s Office of Business Finance and Planning
Networking is an essential part of entrepreneurship.
Courtesy Nevada Department of Business and Industry
When people ask me if their business should join a local chamber of commerce, I immediately say yes for three reasons:
  • Chambers offer great networking opportunities;
  • Chambers exist solely to help their local businesses prosper
  • Participating in a chamber is a practical way to work on your business, instead of only working in your business.

But don’t take my word for it. A 2015 article* by David Larson from the Pleasant Grove Chamber of Commerce in Utah effectively describes six ways in which chamber participation can help you and your business:

1) Relationships. This isn’t about networking – it’s about gaining friends, associates and even advocates. The people you get to know may or may not do business with you, but the social and emotional return in building meaningful, lasting relationships can be more meaningful than the financial return you seek. As you attend events and serve on committees, you will have the opportunity to interact with all types of people. Doing so will create better relationship building skills that cross over to improve non-business aspects of your life as well.
2) Visibility. The age-old adage “out of sight, out of mind” applies here. While many companies are looking to be seen in the cyber-world and are doing a very good job, nothing sells your business better than face-to-face interaction. You are the business; the business is you. The client is more likely to buy when they know you are behind the operation and have seen you regularly participating in non-transactional interactions.
3) Promotion. Chambers offer a wide-range of advertising options and sponsorship packages. A business can sponsor entire programs or events. Beyond paid advertising options, there are other opportunities for free business promotion through monthly and annual awards, social media, newsletter mentions and even printed materials. Chambers are always looking for member-
related news to share with the community through their own advertising networks, newsletters and social media.
4) Community connection. Some business leaders in large companies think they are too big or not local enough to need local chambers of commerce. The flaw in that thinking is that they and their  employees are very much a part of the local economy, regardless of the number of franchise locations they have in other states.
Chambers work to improve the business climate for all members. Through government relations officials, chambers work to provide a representative business voice. Participating in a chamber provides businesses with an avenue to express their legislative policy questions directly to the lawmakers. Sometimes being a good “corporate citizen” means being the community partner that all the “little guys” expect you to be. If a major player in the local economy isn’t involved in discussions about the local economy, then the conversations (and potentially decisions) are missing a key point of view.
5) Ongoing training and education. For companies that do not have a large training budget, getting to national conferences or bringing in experts is out of the question. Chambers provide an inexpensive way to bridge the gap between no training and topic-expert training by providing relevant speakers and guest trainers locally. Based on member surveys and ongoing member communication, chambers can provide speakers at events or links to expert articles through emails and newsletters that members specifically request. Business leaders are essentially enrolled in a continuing education course in business management provided through the chamber – they simply need to attend.
6) Programs and events. Membership in a chamber of commerce provides access to all of their programs and events. Chamber events include business-training luncheons, networking specific events, award banquets, golf tournaments, city celebration events and many others specific to each chamber. All of these events are designed to build your business in some fashion, whether through training, promotion, networking or community service and can be the perfect addition to the other methods a business employs for building their business.
There you have it. Joining a local chamber will help you market your business in many different ways and allow you to build more connections to expand your opportunities. Here in Nevada, nearly every county has some sort of local chamber of commerce, so there’s no excuse not to do it. But membership only works when you actively participate. If you join a chamber, invest quality time into it. You and your business will be better off for the effort.
* Excerpted from Larson, D. (2015, May 5). “6 Reasons Why Businesses Should Join a Local Chamber of Commerce.” Daily Herald. Retrieved from http://www.heraldextra.com/.

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