'YOUNG GUNS' ARE EMBRACING THE CHAMBER
From the Desk of the President & CEO Colleen C. DiPirro
Chambers of Commerce across the nation are forced to re-evaluate their relevance if they hope to remain viable in the future. Advances in technology, working parents, and families living far away from one another have all contributed to this paradigm shift. No longer do people call a Chamber for a map or a list of hotels - MapQuest, GPS and the Internet have solved that problem. When both parents work, discretionary time is limited and the ability for individuals to devote to non- essential professional organizations is a luxury not a mandate. With families spread across the country vs. the old days when you all lived in the same neighborhood, generational community engagement was diluted. Perception is that blogs and platforms like LinkedIn can replace good old fashion face-to-face networking.
Members need to believe that they are going to make a buck or save a buck if they are going to devote time and energy to an organization. Chambers, in return, must show businesses how we are going to help them do that if we want to retain members. And, we have to grow our membership with the next generation of leadership if we hope to sustain the organization. I am proud to say the Amherst Chamber of Commerce has been very successful in doing just that!
Our Emerging Business Leaders group continues to grow - in both size and relevance. These 'Young Guns' meet regularly to plan events, conduct strategic planning, to network, for professional development, to interface with current regional leaders and to party. We have been successful with this demographic because we empower them. We are encouraging them to create their own culture within our organizational structure. We don't dictate to them, we don't ask them to emulate our leadership style, but we do provide them with numerous opportunities to meet with the current veteran regional leaders. The outcomes from these meetings have been fascinating and equally beneficial to both demographics. The 'older' stakeholders (like me) are beginning to not only recognize the difference between the next generation's style and ours but we are also embracing some of their ideals. We realize that their challenges are different than ours were and they are adapting by mobilizing their own strategies - both personally and professionally. As a Suburban Chamber with a Regional Vision, we always tout collaboration across geographic boundaries. We have expanded that to include collaboration across generations.
When I started with the Amherst Chamber, I was one of the youngest people at the boardroom table. I was also in the minority as a female, but that is a different column for another day. Ten years ago, I was the median age at the table but still a minority female. Today, we enjoy a strong balance between the middle age and above and the Young Guns. That bodes well for the sustainability and future of our organization. If you are reading this and have members of your staff that could benefit from our Emerging Business Leaders initiative, reach out firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.
-Colleen C. DiPirro