The Human Equation – a Conversation with Randy Gordon
Part 5 of series on small business networking groups, Randy Gordon. This time, we dug deep into home-based businesses, networking groups and the hunger for human connection.
Randy: I want to go back to something you said about home-based businesses and tell you that we do have a pretty good share of home-based businesses. We probably have, out of a thousand members currently, at least 150 home-based businesses. They’re in a big pickle in those home-based businesses because many of them start their business on a shoestring, and they don’t have very deep funding, and they’re out of business before they even have a chance to renew. But we do have a special rate for those home-based businesses.
So we do cater to many of those through a group called Women’s Business Council — we have one of the few chambers of business that has a Women’s Business Council that is made up of mostly women. There’s a few men. But it’s for micro-business owners, home-based business owners. So that’s a great step for a home-based business person who’s doing some writing out of their home, or maybe they’re doing PR out of their home, or maybe they’re Mary Kay reps.
And so a lot of those home-based business ladies that are members that join — in our case, it’s $395 — they get plugged into Women’s Business Council, and that’s been pretty successful for us.
I think the home-based business movement has helped chambers, but not a lot of chambers are really aggressively going after those home-based businesses because they don’t really want them. Whether Seattle Chamber of Commerce has a special rate for home-based businesses, I doubt it.
But we feel there’s a niche there because we believe more and more people are going to work out of their home. Let’s face it: you could do work practically anywhere on the face of the earth and be successful if you’ve got the right electronic equipment.
Nate: Well…[laughs] Now, I can talk about that topic for hours and hours. The electronics is part of it, but I’ve spent a lot of time training my clients to handle my remote nature. It’s taken building up — I mean selling it when you’re remote is a lot harder. Building trust when you’re remote is a lot harder.
So I actually go on road trips and actually meet clients face to face so that the next time we do our remote training session or a remote meeting or doing work remotely, that they’re still feeling comfortable about it. That’s something for me: up until this past year, I’ve steered clear of most networking groups because of that home-based business aspect.
But understanding the community of networking groups and how they function together, I think that I have a lot to learn in that particular space. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that the chamber and Rotary—all these places—they’re actually businesses too, and they have business models, and they’re delivering a service that I’m paying for. I’m still trying to get my hands around that one.
Randy: Actually, the one thing about it is I’m sure there are people out there that are making a decent living working from their home remotely, and they maybe never see anybody. But I think that that is much more difficult. I think regardless of where we’re going in the future from the electronic age, I don’t think you can ever, ever take the human contact completely out of the equation.
I’ve been in Rotary 32 years, and I can tell you that the optometrist I go to, I met through Rotary. The guy who did my throat surgery was a Rotarian that I sat next to and had lunch with and got to know. So the guy operating on my throat, I knew through Rotary, and I was more comfortable with him doing that. Plus he had a stellar reputation.
And the kind of people that join Rotary are usually the best of the best in their industry. I remember when I decided not to have kids anymore, and I had my tubes tied. That was a Rotarian who did that. For the first time ever last week, I went to a podiatrist—first time ever. I’m 65 years old. I went to a guy who’s in Rotary.
So what happens is that just absolutely—that human contact and getting to know someone—maybe you knew them—like this podiatrist, I’ve known this guy for 20 years. Now, I don’t know him well, but I’ve sat next to him, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with him, and I’ve never used his services until I needed it. But when I needed it, the first thing I thought about was my Rotary roster, which is listed by classification, by medical groups, and we only have one podiatrist in the club. “Oh, I kind of forgot what the guy did.”
So that human contact is important. You can’t take that completely away. But I think what’s happening today is the chamber has got to be like 80% electronic and 20% human contact because we’ve become a society of skimmers and glancers.
I try to read three newspapers a day. I get hundreds of emails every day. I try to go through them every day. I’m responding from my phone that I’m talking to you now—my Samsung. I’ve got my iPad in the car, and sometimes, I’m responding to that or my laptop at home or my laptop sitting on my desk. We are just absolutely bombarded by electronic medium messages, not to mention the hundred texts that I get a day.
Our chamber’s on Twitter, but I’m not. I can just barely handle what I’m doing now from an email point of view, from a text point of view and try to read three newspapers a day. It’s a world that’s fuzzy and moving fast. I love this quote from a Putnam Investments commercial that says, “Just when you think you understand a situation, what you don’t understand is the situation just changed.” I’m just trying to keep up.
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.