Category Archives: Membership

New year, new goals, new focus

It was easy as a National Guard photojournalist. Once per month, get an assignment, take some pics, write the story and by 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, hand it over to the editor. Taking on a writing project (like a blog, for instance) on your own brings an entirely new level of responsibility. Like actually doing it.

Image result for deadlines

Most of the last twenty entries came out of this keyboard with flowing grace, seemingly appearing effortlessly on my screen, like snow flakes floating down late some calm December afternoon.  The new year has brought on a flurry of new intensity, and focus on our Chamber’s core missions. So let’s get to it.

Banquet wrap up
The Programs & Services Committee started to work in earnest last summer planning the 2016 Annual Banquet, which culminated on January 22 in roaring fashion. We tweaked the event slightly untitled-50from 2015 including:

  • Separated the ‘business meeting’ portion from the banquet. This gave an opportunity to hear from staff and committee chairs about their efforts.
  • Incorporating a theme, encouraging attendees and sponsors to ‘dress up’ for the night. We heard most of our positive feedback surrounding this detail.
  • Reduced our sponsorship opportunities to create more value for those Members who partnered with us.
  • Re-arranged the room to fit more people in seats.
  • Pulled off a limited live auction to raise funds for The Friends and Veterans of The Old Armory.

In all, we could not be more pleased with the support, partnership with Red River Supply our presenting sponsor, and everyone who attended the wonderful evening. Standing ovation goes to the Chamber staff, June, Bekka and Shawna; and of course the Chamber’s Programs and Services Committee. Which by the way has already been scheming about next year’s annual festivities!

New website, new opportunities
As we promised last year, we delivered a Williston business directory for the first time; and launched the 2016 version of http://www.willistonchamber.com. With the help of DAWA Solutions Group, the Chamber’s website is now able to be mentioned in the same drop down menu as Williston Economic Development, Williston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Williams County and the the City of Williston.

The best part is that we’ll be able to have ALL events listed for members and non-members, making our website THE resource for tons of events, organizations and information. We look forward to working on fleshing that website out as we move forward.

Next week we’ll explore the political and issues of 2016 we’ll be following and influencing.

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Behind these walls

So much Chamber activity occurs behind the 58 year old walls of this building during the month, I thought I’d take some time to bring you up to speed on the things we are focusing on, the challenges we are tackling, and the direction we are heading.

Structure:
While I am a bit bummed about not being able to move into new office space with the City, we are turning our attention to this building, the Armory. We hope to become a downtown welcome and information center for the City, given our prime location. The Armory is a tremendous asset for the community and has an interesting history. My goal is to renovate the public spaces here to become another option for community meetings and gatherings, in the next 12-18 months.

The Chamber committees are showing a few cracks in their membership. Some of our volunteer leaders have stepped down, some have moved out of town, and we hope to replenish those important cogs in our chamber machinery. Additionally, there are some Board seats that have opened up, and filling them also takes some effort on our part to make sure we have the right mixture of leadership on our governing body.

Programs and Services:
The 2016 Business Directory project is heading into production phase. We’ve completely sold out of our allotted ad spaces thanks to June and the staff for an unbelievable effort for the first time. We’ve contracted with a local designer to help layout and print the publication. The book should be available by January to Members (it’s included with your membership), and purchase by non-members or the general public.

The 2016 Annual Banquet has been scheduled for January 22 at the Grand Williston. A standing ovation goes out to Red Red River Oilfield Services OvalRiver Oilfield Services for partnering with us as the Banquet’s presenting sponsor. We can’t think of a stronger local business to work with to kick off our new year. The staff and program committee is busy working on details of the banquet, including some 1920’s theme and appropriate music, chamber awards and other surprises. We made a formal invitation to Governor Jack Dalrymple to join us as the keynote speaker as he begins his final year in office. We won’t be able to confirm his attendance until about four weeks out from the event, but we are hopeful his office will think our event is the right venue for the Governor in January.

Another standing ovation goes out to KLJ Engineering, who along with DAWA Solutions Group will help theklj Chamber produce the 2016 Level UP Business Conference. The keynote speaker will be Norman Brodsky, noted Inc. Magazine columnist and author of the business savvy book “Street Smarts.” The program lined up will knock your socks off, as we continue to bring quality business programming to our community and our membership.


Random musings:

  • Major props to the veterans service office from Williston and Minot as they host the 2nd Williston Veterans Standdown today at the Armory. So many vets, homeless, a bit lost since returning or moving to Williston, unemployed, under cared for – need our attention and assistance. Thanks to everyone for this valuable service. God bless our vets.
  • Main Street is officially opening next week. It’s been a long two years, and we look forward to a vibrant, active, safe downtown Williston.
  • I hope the City, Hula Grill and its Main Street neighbors can come to a reasonable solution to the ordinance/venting flare up. Williston’s enforcing their code. Hula Grill is trying to run a business. Seems like there’s some room to make it work for everyone somehow.
  • The fall pheasant hunt is well underway, and ol’ dead eye here happened to thin a few birds out near Regent and Mott. Getting outdoors this time of year is good for the soul.

Enjoy the fall weather.

– Sjm

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Off season advocacy

The Greater North Dakota Chamber (state chamber of commerce) held its annual policy summit last week in Bismarck. It’s Greater North Dakota Chambervital we have a voice not only with state chamber advocacy efforts, but to demonstrate to legislative leaders our resolve to represent commerce in western North Dakota. From what I’ve been observing the past 18 months, the business community can help our elected officials in their efforts – if we step up and be counted. That’s where the Chamber can make an impact.

The event was organized into five issue panels, each one moderated by either Chris Berg, Valley News Life host, or Joel Heitkamp, KFGO “News & Views” radio host; and brother of current North Dakota US Senator, Heidi Heitkamp. The panels covered:

  • Corporate farming laws; how they affect family farms in ND;
  • Priorities of the Legacy Fund;
  • Political discussion from the Republican and Democrat viewpoints (mainly campaigns);
  • Higher education, aimed at accountability and cooperation among campuses, relationship with legislature; and
  • Taxes; focused on tax relief policies, property taxes, income taxes.

As voters across North Dakota roll their eyes facing another big election year in 2016, we in the chamber business must begin to prepare for how we will influence the process the next 18 months; in anticipation of the 2017 state legislative and congressional sessions. That behind the scenes work begins now.

Where does the Chamber play a role in this process?

While you are busy working on your business, our Government Affairs Committee is hard at work to make the Williston area relevant in our local, state and federal matters. The Chamber Eggs & Issues Policy Forums will bring state level policymakers and issues to you, the business community. Make sure you reserve a seat now.

The GAC will conduct another set of Eggs & Issues forums in the spring, and conduct the 2016 Candidate Forums in the fall of 2016. Initial planning has begun for a Washington DC fly-in in the spring, and potentially another Legislative Day in Bismarck. Believe me, it doesn’t happen by itself and not without Member input and participation.

Are you interested in making an impact with your fellow Chamber Members and the community? Step up and be an active member of the Government Affairs Committee. If you need more info, call or email the Chamber office.

2016 Business Directory Update

Draft coverThe intent with this project is to be a community resource, not just a Chamber directory. However, Chamber Members get first crack at the prime ad spots, and they are going fast. We have sought out local printers to do the job, and we’ve already had one drop out because they physically cannot print the product. Our aim is to go local on this awesome project, so we are hopeful one of the local print houses can accomplish the mission.

All Chamber members will be listed as part of their membership investment. We’re doing our best to reach non-Members to get them listed as well. Call June if you want to discuss your options to get in this great Chamber project.

2016 Annual Chamber Banquet

Image result for Roaring 20sMark your calendars for the 2016 “Roaring 20’s” Chamber Banquet for Friday, January 22, 2016. Programs and Services Committee member and KUMV-TV sales superman, Tim Pulliam is spearheading this project. We can always use some more input and hands to help, so call June here at the Chamber office to jump in on this short term project. Who knows who you will meet that will help your business?


Today’s random Chamber pic comes from Purity Oilfield Services 2nd Annual Truck Rodeo held in the heat and wind last Saturday. Truck drivers get a bad rap sometimes, but they are a very skilled and proud profession. Six teams competed in different events demonstrating just how hard it is to maneuver one of those 10 ton rigs. The proceeds from the event went to benefit Williston 4-H and the North Dakota Teen Challenge. Great Chamber Members doing great things in the community.

Truck Rodeos do not include horses

Truck Rodeos do not include horses

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The Race for Relevance

Last week we formally announced our 2016 Williston Area Business Directory project. The objective is to produce a directory of local businesses whether a Chamber Member or not; do some strategic advertising, and make it a relevant tool for the community. In the first four days of announcingDraft cover it, doing a little radio spot, and meeting with some businesses, our inboxes and phones have blown up! I think we might be on to something.

2015 Membership web badgeThe race for relevance is a phrase coined by nonprofit gurus and memorialized in print. That relevance is in the eye of the member. For some, Chamber membership is a stamp of loyalty and support of the business community – telling your customers and employees that you are here and part of the community. For other members it’s more of ‘what do I get for my investment’ mentality. Yet, for some they view their membership from a standpoint of ‘what can I accomplish by partnering with the Chamber, and how does that help my business.’ We’re looking to move our mindset more toward the latter.

The 2016 Business Directory is allowing us to partner with Chamber members by giving them exposure in a resource that everyone will want to have on their desk or in their truck. The project is also giving the Chamber exposure to non-Members (called future members) and demonstrating our relevance to the city and to the business community.

We’ve finally gotten on the road to relevance and are rapidly gaining ground; now we’re looking to win the race.

Today’s random pic comes from the 2015 Chokecherry Festival at Harmon Park last Friday.

North Dakota's own Tigirlily perform at Harmon Park for fans under a breezy Williston evening.

North Dakota’s own Tigirlily perform at Harmon Park for fans under a breezy Williston evening.

 

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Ctl-Alt-Del – Please Reboot 2015

I’m not sure what happened, but I came to the office and found that five months have somehow skirred through the calendar. However June 1 gives organizations and individuals a chance to restart fresh in case things haven’t gone as planned for 2015. In some ways the year so far has been a smashing success. In other areas, we need to hit ‘restart’ and refocus our energies a bit to hit the summer with momentum.

Our Chamber has made some incredible strides the past 12 months. We’ve hit high water marks for activity, attendance and momentum; the Annual2015 Membership web badge Banquet in January; our ‘Bus to Bismarck’ Lobby Day in February; the ShamRockin’ the Bakken Taste of Williston event in March; and the Level UP 2015 Business Conference in May were smash hits. Even our ‘normal’ Business After Hours events seemed to have taken on a flavor of energy, networking and even some fun. The theme for the year “Raising the Bar” has been our mantra, and we’ve lived up to that quite nicely. In most areas.

I would like to reboot our efforts concerning membership numbers, dues investment totals and member touches. It seems we’ve become extremely busy, with marginal results. There’s a difference between being busy and being productive. Let’s hit the restart button on that.

Our online presence is nearly imperceptible. That was one of the first ‘to-dos’ I had last year, and it’s still not acceptable. Let’s restart on that as well.

But while I can nitpick, I also am aware of how far we’ve come in just 15 months. It’s sort of like a team that made the playoffs for the first time in a while, but lost in the first round. We’ll get there…

The title of this post wasn’t meant to be a downer, it was meant as a sort of a wake up call. That we’re still operating, but a bit sluggish and stuck once in a while. So by hitting Ctl-Alt-Del we save all the progress we’ve made so far in 2015, but clean out the bugs and get a fresh start.

And the personal resolutions from January are also getting a fresh reboot today. We’ll see how that goes.

-Sjm

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You mean I actually have to GO to the gym to get healthy? But I’m a member…

What do I get for my membership?

Wow, that seems like a big investment!

What have you done for me lately?

Chamber executives and staff continually commiserate together to come up with creative and value added answers for these common three questions. One of the first expenses scrutinized in a for profit business are subscriptions and memberships. They are voluntary, and when it comes to belt-tightening, it’s very easy to ‘non-renew.’ Let’s compare a Chamber membership (completely voluntary) to a gym membership (also completely voluntary). Just for fun.

Image result for membership

…but only if you use it.

Chamber memberships are paid annually and if not, you are dropped from the list, website, newsletter, etc. (don’t get benefits)
Gym memberships are paid annually and if not, access to the benefits (gym, classes, information) is denied.

Chambers offer various opportunities to network with leaders, become involved in community activities, work with other businesses on events and programs through committees and advocacy.
Gym memberships offers a chance to learn a healthy lifestyle by working with others who want the same goals.

Chambers offer specialized events and learning opportunities, not all of which apply to your particular business.
Gyms and fitness centers offer specialized classes and fitness opportunities, not all of which apply to your particular goals.

Most common reason given for not attending Chamber events (and taking advantage of your membership) – Too busy.
Most common reason for not attending gym (and taking advantage of your membership) – Too busy.

Chambers care if you start to miss events, or decide to let your membership lapse.
The gym doesn’t care if you don’t attend, and will survive without you.

You went into business because you either had a new product or service, or you could do something better that was already being done. That’s your core business. The Chamber’s core business is representing YOUR business, helping you grow, network, learn new things, contribute to the betterment of the community. The way a nonprofit does that is through members collaborating together and having professional staff work on your behalf. Staying up to date with your membership investment allows the Chamber to conduct core business activities, which in turn allows you to do your core business function. Yet we are all working together.

Image result for Chamber membership graphicI could change the oil in my car on my own, but I lack the tools, the time and the talent to do it efficiently. You could hire a lobbyist, event coordinator, community relations coordinator, meeting planner, education planner as well to help grow your business and watch out for your best interests. Wouldn’t it make more sense to be a part of something bigger? Something that has been around since 1907, and does these things as a core business? Of course it does.

But just like your gym membership…you have to use it to get the benefits.

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Level UP 2015 – Leap of faith or filling a void?

Shortly after taking the reins of the Williston Area Chamber of Commerce, and after buying an engine block heater, I took assessment of which programs and services were bringing value to our members, and which ones were left over as relics of chamber days gone by. The second part of that process is to ascertain what is missing in our program offerings that other chambers execute as a part of their program of work. Then it hit me like a Duncan Keith body check (Stanley Cup playoffs always invoke a hockey reference or two). We don’t have a business conference! About business stuff. In the fastest growing city in the US.

Jeff and Scott during the ‘Aha!’ moment

I contacted Jeff Zarling at DAWA Solutions Group ,who produces quality seminars as part of his business, and started talking to him about what the Chamber should be offering its Members regarding management, networking. and leadership information. One “Mad Men” thought led to another and poof, Level UP 2015 was hatched. “Take Your Business and Career to the Next Level – Level UP!”

We needed a top notch keynote speaker to kick it off. The new Culver’s Frozen Custard store broke ground last November, and CEO and co-founder of Culver’s, Craig Culver, was in Williston to participate. I was bold enough to ask, and lucky that he had May 20 open on his schedule. The list of sessions was way longer than we had time alotted, so we narrowed it to some big topics that hit every business in the Williston area:

  • KEYNOTE: Craig Culver, “Seizing Opportunity While Maintaining Your Corporate Values”
  • Human Resources – Addressing the People Problem
  • Training & Education – Positioning Your People for Success
  • Personal and Professional Development – Lifelong Learning & Growth
  • Healthy, Wealthy & Wise – How Your Health Impacts Your Success
  • Guts, Growth & Glory – Business Development in the Bakken
  • Critical Connections – Networking in the 21st Century

Then we needed to assemble a panel of experts on each topic, which was fairly easy since both Jeff and I make it a priority to network and get to know people and companies in Williston who are making things happen. One day, six hot topics here in the region, 23 sponsorship opportunities, and 300 people.

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value

— Albert Einstein

The value of this business conference is pretty simple. Bring together peer experts to discuss and solve problems we all face doing business in an emerging market, make attendance and sponsorship affordable, and provide more value than is expected. We partnered with someone who does this for a living (DAWA Solutions), project modest revenues, and believe our timing is perfect.

Is our Chamber overreaching on something like this – at this particular moment in our economic cycle?

We’ll find out on May 20…

  — Sjm

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