The Chamber of Commerce? What’s In It For Me?
I vividly remember when the doors to Cornerstone opened on a shoe string budget in early 2000. Money was tight, but within a month we found a way to cough up the investment to join the Chamber of Commerce. At that time, we just knew it was the thing to do, and hey, we got a free ribbon cutting out of it, attended by the mayor! Our fledgling business needed all the credibility we could muster and it was the only benefit we saw at the time.
Most people who have started a business know how tough it can be at times. Hours before the ribbon cutting I used a good portion of our rapidly dwindling funds to purchase a cake and punch for the event. As I was going over our books and seeing our projected income and obligations I was struck by an observation! “Here we’ve invited the most important people in town for our ribbon cutting today, and we’re not even going to be in business a month from now!” I said to myself!
Fortunately I was wrong. I met a dear friend, Beverly Edgerton that was an ambassador for the McLean County Chamber of Commerce. She convinced me to maximize my investment in the organization. I soon learned that it wasn’t about what the Chamber could do for me, but how I could contribute to the business community. Bev encouraged and mentored me and I soon was privileged to become an ambassador for the McLean County Chamber of Commerce as well. When I look back at the early years in business, I believe it was defined by the relationships I made through my association with the MCC. Of course my merchant services business grew dramatically as a result, but it’s the friendships and solid business relationships that were established that I’ll never forget. To this day, my career highlight that has meant the most to me was being publicly honored at the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Gala event in January 2002. I was surprised with the Chamber’s President’s Award for being the volunteer of the year in 2001.
Lately, I’ve seen more and more from the Chamber of Commerce working in many areas to continue to improve the community and the business climate. What has particularly impressed me is their campaign to promote local businesses, “Make Your Money Mean More”. That is particularly dear to my heart, as it’s the local small and medium sized business that are the foundation of my business. Personally, one of my core values is to give back and support them.
What has particularly impressed me by the current McLean County Chamber of Commerce administration is that they aren’t just giving lip service to buying local. Earlier this year MCC President, Charlie Moore contacted me to give me an opportunity to earn their business. Working with their finance and operations manager, Scott Heape I was able to provide a better solution. All things being equal, they chose Cornerstone Business Solutions over a much larger national competitor. I don’t believe they knew how much it meant to me to have the MCC as a credit card processing client.
Ultimately my fourteen year journey with the MCC wasn’t about one client, however important. What I learned along the way was what Bev Edgerton has said all along, “Givers gain!” It’s up to the business men and women to contribute to the success of the Chamber as an advocate for the local business community. As we’ve seen from the recent growth, when that investment of energy is made, all parties benefit!