Thursday, February 26, 2009

5 Reasons to Join the Chamber

The following article by Glen Gould is, in our humble opinion, a great piece on why businesses need their chamber now more than ever...

Five Reasons This is the Best Time to Join the Chamber of Commerce
By Glen Gould

The signs are everywhere you turn. From inflated commodity prices to news reports of job losses, we're hard pressed to keep a good attitude about the economy. So if you're one of the many that have begun to see the impact of a struggling economy, I have extremely good news for you. Yep, there's an easy way to increase your business and be one of the haves in this have-not cycle.

Imagine arriving at a place where everyone (or at least nearly everyone) knows your name. You are welcomed by friends and acquaintances who are happy you're there. Better still, most of them are ready to help you build your business and are even referring you to their family and friends. And you experience this environment several times a month.

But there's more. This is a place where you can hone your skills as well. You'll have the opportunity to attend educational programming at a fraction of the cost available to the public. Often you meet people here who have experiences you can learn from. You're introduced to the movers and shakers. You can even demonstrate your commitment to the community by serving as a leader. Your only limit is you.

Sure, this may appear to be a thinly veined cover of a shameless plug for your local chamber of commerce. And it is. But here's why I've dedicated this article to the idea that you must be a member of the chamber in these challenging times.

1. You need to share your message with as many people as possible for the lowest investment of dollars. For a couple hundred bucks you'll be a member of a business organization where you can communicate to a closed group of hundreds, if not thousands of potential customers and networking partners.

2. You need to build a network of people who are thinking of you first when they are asked by their customers, friends, family and vendors who they would recommend to provide what you're selling. By the law of averages the best opportunity you have to fill your networking base is in a big crowd of business people. That is your local chamber of commerce.

3. You need to be in the know about current events and what changes may be coming that could affect future business. The chamber is the epicenter of business trends.

4. You need to be able to prove your worthiness to potential partners, vendors, customers and networking partners. The chamber affords you the opportunity to serve and thereby demonstrate your skills. What's more, a recent survey by the Atlanta-based Shapiro Group states:
  • Consumers are 63% more likely to buy goods and services in the future from a company that they believe is a member of the local chamber.
  • When consumers know that a business is a member of the local chamber they are 44% more likely to think favorably about it.
  • Consumers who are told that a business is a chamber member are 51% more likely to be highly aware of it and 57% more likely to think positively of its reputation.

5. You need to be in a supportive atmosphere where you can see that others are still doing well and you can too. Again, the chamber stands alone as a positive voice for business.

If you're not a member of the local chamber you owe it to yourself to join today. When you join, get involved. Volunteer to serve, attend meetings regularly and be willing to meet new people. Then you can begin to build your trusted resource network and soon you'll reap the benefit of being a part of the best business-building network in town.

Glen Gould is a business growth and networking expert who works with Fortune 100 companies and chambers of commerce to grow their business through effective systems and word of mouth marketing. Visit for more of his tips and tidbits. Article Source:

And, of course, we agree! If you're not a member, we'd love to visit with you about some exciting new tools for our members. Click the envelope link below to e-mail this article to a colleague looking to grow their business!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Chamber .COMmunity

Obviously, we’re pretty enthusiastic about our website,, but we always worry our members may not be aware of all the great tools at their fingertips. For your convenience (and also as a shameless plug), here’s are the top five tools on our (your) website:

1. The Business Directory is a quick connection to nearly 2,000 member businesses (+ addresses, phone numbers, websites and a protected e-mail link). Use categorical listings to find businesses in a snap (i.e. search "accountants" or "hotels"). Smart salespeople use this as a great prospecting source!

2. Use the Community Calendar to post upcoming events, and the Chamber Calendar to fill your planner with opportunities to generate sales leads and new customers by registering (and e-mailing yourself a reminder!) for business-building events such as Coffee Connection, Business After Hours, Fiesta de Negocios, Eggs & Issues... the list is endless!

3. You must check out the Members-Only section! First, these days it is easy to question expenses… of course, you know better than to think of the Chamber as an expense, but if you ever falter, this will set your mind at ease. Just start with the referral section to see all the people we send your way every single day, from phone inquiries to links directly to your website!

4. Use the “Find A Job” button to access a regional job bank powered by NationJob through a partnership with the Northwest Chambers. Members with fewer than 15 employees may post jobs at no charge, and it’s great for job seekers, new residents and trailing spouses. You can even sign up to receive jobs that suit you via e-mail once a day or once a week.

5. The relocation information on our site is not to be missed – from the 9 minute video to the digital copy of our magazine, The Good Life. Use the business directory to find childcare centers, churches or community businesses ready to serve new residents. It's all helpful whether recruiting new employees or as a longtime resident looking for something new to try!

Again, the point of the post is partially to get your wheels turning on ways to use the site to your advantage, but we’d also love your feedback and comments. What else would make part of your daily routine? As we continue to improve all our tools for growing business and building community, we may borrow your ideas!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Back to Basics: 2009 Strategy

We've been holding an interesting ongoing discussion among the executive committee and chamber management over the past few weeks, fueled by our efforts to align our 2009 strategy with the needs of our members in the new world economy.

Consensus is building that the current economic environment, partially fueled by the exuberance and excess of the last few years and a recession-proof attitude in Northwest Arkansas, is essentially permanent. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last, was recently quoted in Fortune magazine on the thought that today's economy is the new normal, and we might as well get accustomed to it. ( Some economists suggest that the effect of a recession can be as cleansing to the economy as a forest fire, clearing the underbrush and providing clarity.

In times of growth and prosperity, it is typical for businesses, organizations, small businesses and even individuals to strive to squeeze every dime out of every dollar. The new business model may make all of react just like our parents and grandparents who lived through or were impacted by the Great Depression and World War II, and who are often referred to as "the greatest generation." (

In fact, we've found this term as well as Tom Brokaw's 1998 book The Greatest Generation, provides us excellent insight as we consider how best to serve our businesses in the current economy. As we all begin to look for two cents out of every penny, another great role model would be the corporate example in our own back yard: from day one, Wal-Mart has pushed efficiency and low prices to the consumer.

As we consider all of these things, we believe that a back to basics approach, a renewed call to community service and the desire of the general public for a personal touch will steer all of our business decisions in the coming months and years. This means that we will get back to true "chamber of commerce basics," which are essentially job creation (economic development), protecting business (government affairs) and business building for our members, which may mean sales leads, networking, marketing and affordable resources for businesses of every size. We'd welcome your input on what works for your business!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

NWA Business Conference & Expo

We are so excited to announce an "arranged marriage" between two of our previous successful events, creating the Northwest Arkansas Business Conference & Expo to be held on August 6, 2009.

The Arkansas World Trade Center and the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal have joined the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce as event partners, bringing significant resources and cutting edge ideas to the table.

For example, the team at the Arkansas World Trade Center ( led by Dan Hendrix is helping us to bring national caliber presenters on topics that may include the benefits of importing and exporting for businesses large and small, as well as pitfalls to doing business globally and international finance seminars.

Similarly, our pals Darin Gray, Jeff Wood and the team at the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal ( are working on sessions related to niche marketing, sales and emerging technologies. By the way, "team" is an understatement... Ronie Sparkman and Wende Willbanks truly make that ship float!

On our team at the Chamber, Gretchen Laffoon and Stacey Calhoun are working fast and furiously along with our Small Business Council conference planning committee to tackle the small business track as well as all the event day logistics. And here's the fun news: our keynote speaker is Clyde Fessler (, former VP of Business Development for the Harley Davidson Motor Company. His message will resonate with everyone, from potential entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 team leaders!

The event is presented by Sam's Club and Your Community Phone Book, and it will definitely be a can't miss event - mark your calendars now and stay tuned for details! We'll hold a press conference announcing the event on February 11, and all the specifics on the event will be at The NWA Business Conference & Expo is definitely going to knock your socks off!

Banquet Time!

At the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, we're primed for our biggest membership event of the year - the annual banquet - tomorrow night at 6 p.m. (reception) at the John Q. Hammons Center.

Our entire staff (24!) will be there, and we anticipate around 950 of our members and friends. A number of state legislators are driving home from the 87th Arkansas General Assembly in Little Rock on Friday afternoon to join us, as well as special guests such as Becky Thompson, Deputy Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

We're particularly excited about our keynote speaker this year (who promises to keep us on time!) - Don Soderquist, former COO of Wal-Mart Stores. Don is something of a local legend as well as the founder of the Soderquist Center (, and is known as the "keeper of the culture - continuing Sam Walton's legacy." Don is an inspiring and engaging speaker.

At a recent staff meeting, our team discussed the fact that because Don has been retired from Wal-Mart Stores for more than 10 years, many younger consumer product company team members and others new to the community may not be aware of his legacy and impact on Northwest Arkansas and the world. We're looking forward to hearing him as well as seeing everyone at tomorrow night's banquet!