“Are you ready for this”?
“What are your plans for the chamber?”
These are the two most common questions I hear from friends and colleagues who hear that I’m assuming the reins at the Chamber board as the next chair. Below is a summary of how I usually respond.
Continuing a Legacy
Yes, the workload is tremendous. Yes, it’s time away from my business and family. But it’s also very fulfilling and satisfying to help lead such a fine organization that is the voice of business in Howard County.
So, yes, I’m ready. In fact, I’ve been deeply entrenched in Chamber business over the last six or seven years and learned a great deal from my predecessors, so I really don’t expect a lot of surprises. Each of the chairs during my chamber tenure, including Ron Meliker, Elizabeth Rendón, Joe Mezzanotte, Mark Cissell and Del Karfonta, have moved the ball quite a few yards farther down the field, so my task is actually very manageable; the chamber is in very good shape.
What I’ve enjoyed most about working with these leaders is experiencing their markedly different leadership styles, all of which fit perfectly with the issues, challenges and opportunities of the day. So I’m confident that my own style, preferences and biases will likewise be appropriate and well-matched to our current challenges. Here’s what you can expect during my tenure.
Unapologetic Advocacy for Business
The past year has witnessed a shocking prevalence of capitalism-bashing by national politicians on both sides of the aisle. Rather than espouse the undeniable benefits, efficiencies and equal opportunity afforded by the free market and the individuals and companies who operate within it, these aspiring office-holders have charted a different course. They’ve focused on our differences, fomenting class envy and making “profit” a four-letter word.
Let me give you an alternate view: Business owners are my heroes.
• They supply the vast majority of tax revenue that supports social programs.
• They donate their time and treasure to countless nonprofit organizations.
• They innovate, finding new, better, more efficient ways to use society’s finite resources.
• They are our neighbors, friends and family members.
• They create jobs.
I have the privilege of working for dozens of business owners as I operate my own company. Without exception, these folks make great sacrifices, putting their own capital at risk, often foregoing vacations, emptying retirement accounts to fund startups, taking paycuts — or no check at all — to protect their employees when things get tough, etc. The Gordon Gekko caricature of greed evangelist could not be further from the truth.
Therefore, the top priority of my tenure as chair of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce is to be an unapologetic advocate for our member businesses. From the sole proprietor to the Fortune 500 company, our membership is a truly awesome collection of businesses. We will boldly tell their stories to our fellow chamber members, citizens and elected officials. As business taxes continue their unending increase in both scope and number, we will be there to say enough is enough.
Of course, there’s much more on the docket than just advocacy. Your chamber has some incredible initiatives in place for government contractors, veterans, small businesses seeking educational opportunities, women business owners and the core chamber members who have been with us for decades. We will also continue to be the proven choice for business networking in Howard County and its environs.
It is truly an honor to serve as your board chair, and I’m excited by the challenges and opportunities ahead for our chamber. Please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback and input.