Part 3 of our series on small business networking groups, Randy Gordon discusses which types of businesses benefit most from the Chamber of Commerce.

Nate:     What category of business is the best fit for chamber membership? Who gets the most value out of it if they attend? And what category of business might not be a good fit for chamber membership?

Randy:     That’s a very good question. Okay. First of all, every small business retail person or restaurant should be a good fit because they should be able to take advantage of our services more than anybody else if they get out and go to events and networking.

For example, if a restaurant owner hosted events at the restaurant for chamber members, if they hosted an after-five mixer — something like that — or they hosted a lunch, the restaurant owner should really be a good fit. The challenge is getting a restaurant owner out of his restaurant for a breakfast, lunch or dinner at another place.

Nate:     [laughs]

Randy:     That’s the challenge. Most of our events revolve around a meal. Almost all of them revolve around a meal unless there is something like a mixer where there’s alcohol and hors d’oeuvres. So it’s what we call “time poverty.”

This happened to us probably ten years ago, to give you an example. There used to be a lot of board micromanagement — there still is some board micromanagement in chambers today. But the board micromanagement is pretty much extinct because of time poverty. Board members don’t have the time to micromanage the organization like they used to because of time poverty.

But that time poverty is not only hurting us as far as volunteer support and getting more volunteers and having board members say yes to being on the board.

For example, today, more and more people want to go home and run or go home and walk, go to the gym. They go to the gym in the morning, or they walk in the morning, and it’s very difficult to do all that and make breakfast. Well, at night, it’s difficult to go to a chamber mixer and have hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine or something, and then go home and run or walk. Or they’ve got to go get the kids from school.

But the bottom line is the larger companies have more choices in sending people. They send different people to different events, whereas the small businesses can’t. Restaurants should be a good fit, but they have this time poverty problem. I think any retail kind of organization or startup professional services — a startup CPA, a startup attorney, a startup veterinarian — those kinds of professional services, especially when they first hang out their shingle. And if you’re new in the business, and you’re not well established, then I think the chamber is a good fit for you.

But retail in particular — I think retail and small professionals in the accounting/financial world is good. That’s a good fit.


About Randy Gordon

 Randy Gordon was named President/CEO of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in April 1994. He is a 1988 graduate of the U.S Chamber Western Institute for Organization Management at San Jose State University, former instructor at the Stanford Institute, a past member of the Board of Regents of Western Institute, a 1993 graduate from the U.S. Chamber’s Academy at Notre Dame and is currently a trustee for the National Board of the Institute.He is a 1995 graduate of Leadership Long Beach. He is a past president of the 330 member Rotary Club of Long Beach and has 29 years of perfect attendance.