Open… Together.

Last Sunday, our area retailers united together to be open for a “Shop 1st Sunday” promotion. It was a concept brought about by members of our retail committee and turned out to be a big success. The weather even seemed to hold out for this first attempt. It emerged because people were open. The business owners opened their stores, true, but first they opened their viewpoint. They were open to alternative ideas, open to change, open to trying something new. Now, they are more open for their customers. The success, however, was not simply because they were open, but because they worked together to accomplish this. I often write about the Chamber’s mission “The Champion of Williston’s United Business Community” not to tote the company line, if you will, but by virtue of my belief in its truth and our purpose. Especially the ‘united’ part, in as much as when businesses work together, united with one voice, we become stronger. I keep talking about it considering it critical to our success as a community. The first Shop 1st Sunday confirms this for me and is just the beginning.

Why support local businesses? Because they are your neighbors and friends, or they employ your neighbors and friends. Because they are here with important goods or services when you need them. Because they help support your way of life – with their taxes going towards the roads, police and firefighters, etc. When our local businesses thrive, we all benefit. Local businesses are the backbone of our economy and our community and we cannot survive without them.


Member Relations Manager, Rachel Lordemann, was excited to see so many people out shopping and enjoying Shop 1st Sunday. She reported our retailers were pleasantly surprised at the number of customers they saw on Sunday and is confident that participation in the event will only grow in the coming months. We plan to continue to add participating businesses and get more people shopping Williston Wide on Sundays.

The result of people being open in more ways than one is a win win…well, win. A trifecta: for the business owner, the shopper, and for the whole community. We are proud that the Chamber can be the driving force for this. As after all, it is our mission.




If I have seen you in the past few days, you’ve probably heard me lament how much I am over winter and ready for spring.  But the other day, I wasn’t expecting snow when a brief and light dusting caused me to pause.  I happened to be driving when those large flakes hit my windshield, you know the ones in which you can see the intricacies and details of the shapes of the snowflakes.  It made me smile and as I considered their uniqueness and beauty, I temporarily forgot how cold it was outside.  I recalled something I had heard as a child: no two snowflakes are alike.  In my google attempts to verify this as fact, however, I was inundated with the new slang definitions of snsnowflakeowflake – an insult actually – and some even broadening the insult to a whole generation.  How terrible.  To take something beautiful and unique and turn it to something negative.  While it is accurate that snowflakes can be fragile, it’s not the whole picture.  By themselves, snowflakes are still beautiful and together they can be both breathtaking and a force to be reckoned with.  Just think of those snowcapped mountains which artists and skiers love.  Or how about the flurries turned to inches turned into feet of snow which will literally stop peoples’ daily life for a bit.

So I say, forget the slang!  I will keep on believing that it is true: no two snowflakes are alike.  Just like people and just like businesses.  Each are unique, and they are strong when unified.

Small businesses make up over 70% of our Chamber membership.  They can be combined into categories as broad as retail or as focused as mortgage services.  They may have the same category, but they are all distinctive.  Add in the other 30% of larger businesses and you have the full Chamber membership – all businesses important to our local economy and united with one strong Chamber voice.


When you look at a field of dandelions, do you see a hundred weeds or a thousand wishes?

As creatures of habit, we can sometimes get stuck doing the same things and thinking the same thoughts.  This is not always a bad thing, depending on the habit.  But it could prove to be troublesome when our habits are keeping us in a constant place with the unchanged perspective.  It doesn’t allow us the chance to adjust, grow, or improve.  If you have been following my writing, you know that my personal tagline since I started at the Chamber is “always improving”.  It is something that I constantly keep in the back of my mind.  How can we improve upon what we do and why we do it?  How are we bringing value to our membership and the business community?  What else can we do?

They say you can change your life when you change your habits.  In fact, there are numerous books and YouTube videos on it.  Even a small change such as simply driving to work on a different road can open your eyes to things you don’t normally see or maybe even to what you didn’t even know was there.  Try it!  Seek out the new, changed, or different offerings in the community.

At the Chamber, we are adding new and improved possibilities: besides our new Network before 9 (next one is February 27th), another new opportunity we’ve identified is for consumers.  We’ve been preaching the importance of shopping local and now you’ll have more of an opportunity to do so.  Next month we will begin our ‘Shop First Sundays’ promotion – where our area retailers will open specific hours on the 1st Sunday of every month.  You can get out of the mindset that shopping must happen anywhere but here in your own town!   You get to save gas and time and find the great treasures that are here locally.

Perspective is defined as a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a way of considering something.  Do you see dandelions as weeds or as wishes?  I believe that changing your perspective can lead to a change in habit.

I also believe our area is in a unique position to take advantage of the growth and utilize the possibilities…the ‘thousands of wishes’ out there.  With the right perspective, hard work, good strategies, and input from our members, our community will reach its great potential.  The Chamber is here to drive our business community to that potential, to serve you and your needs and to help us all have a more unified business community.  It is my vision, my mission as I see it in this role, and I am determined to use a new perspective to allow us all to ‘be better than yesterday’.


Looking forward while remembering the past

They say you can’t change the past.  Look ahead.  Move forward.  And I agree.  However, every now and again, it is good to stop and look backward to see how far you have come.  Just a few short years ago, the Eagle Ridge golf course (Williston Country Club as it was called back then) was only a 9-hole course and one of the few places for fine dining in town but ended up in financial trouble.  Our 2014 Western Star Awardee, Dr. Salem Shahin, stepped in to help.  Dr. Shahin purchased the golf course and worked with the Corps of Engineers to turn it into an 18-hole golf course.  Additionally, at the time, there was a full-sized kitchen, but no one to run the restaurant.  He worked with potential clients and got a full-time chef in the restaurant.  This filled a big void for fine dining in Williston at the time.  This goes to prove again, the many people in this community who have stepped up to make it a better place – hence our long list of Western Star Awardees.  It’s why I love our awards banquet so much because we get to honor them and recognize their contributions.

This example also shows how far we as a city have come when it relates to the quality of life and what we have to offer our citizens.  In a town where there was only a handful of places to eat out, we now have an abundance of really great restaurants both fast food, for the quick meal or sit down places to enjoy a meal with friends or family.  We have chains and specialty restaurants in addition to the numerous caterers!  Our Chamber membership directory lists over 40 places to get food and that doesn’t include many of the bars in town.  This is where our annual Taste of Williston event came to exist.  It is a night where people from the community can come to one place and sample food from various restaurants and caterers in town.  Our local businesses will offer samples of their specialty food & drink items.

Our Taste of Williston event is a great way for them to gain exposure for their business, but also a great way for people in the community to see and ‘taste’ all that Williston currently has to offer!  I am still surprised when I talk to people in town and they do not realize that (for example) there is now an Italian restaurant in town – one that has been open for over a year!  This applies to people who have recently made Williston their home, but also for those who have been here for decades!  Williston has so much to offer in the sphere of dining, so make plans to attend our 2018 Taste of Williston.  Attendees get to vote for their favorite food/drink and there is a band for entertainment as well.  It falls near the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, when everyone is Irish for a day.  It is a fun and delicious night!  We look forward to seeing you there!


Ask the right question, Get the right answers

The thing about asking questions is that you will get answers.  Not always the answers you are looking for, however.  My kids have taught me this precisely because their usual answer is “I don’t know”.  Why did you leave the toothpaste open?  Why didn’t you clear your plate after supper?  What were you thinking when you tried to ____? (paint the dogs toenails, create a twister with your spaghetti… You can fill in the blank!)  Kids have a fantastic way of keeping you grounded and in the moment.  I find that they are very literal.  And inquisitive.  Mostly because they are still learning about the world and the English language in all its intricacies.  My kids inspire me daily to stay focused on the here and now.  And to ask questions.

The trick is to ask the right question.  My new question to them is “what do you think I am going to say?”  It works famously!  I get their attention focused on the situation (example: the kitchen table) and ask, “what do you think I am going to say?”  Often there is no other words that I have to say, they know and fix the situation (example: clearing their plate) often with a grunt or a groan of course, but nonetheless, I got the right result

In my job, I enjoy asking questions and feel it is extremely important.  Why are we doing this?  Why are we doing it that way?  How can we partner?  What else can we do for our members?

Fourth quarter of 2017 as we were looking to update our strategic plan, we sent a survey to our membership and asked for feedback.  A good solid strategic focus for 2018 was determined by our staff and our board of directors out of that survey and additional member feedback.  It prompted us to start a new networking opportunity:  Network before 9!  We had our first meeting this morning at Gramma Sharon’s and we had a good turnout and even better connections.

Network Before Nine

We plan to continue this monthly – the 4th Tuesday of the month.  Our attendees got to make contacts, exchange cards, introduce themselves, their businesses and other things they are involved in and flat out just interact over coffee and caramel rolls.  Good old-fashioned face to face interaction.  What the Chamber does best – making connections happen.

I mentioned it at the meeting this morning but want to reiterate – the chamber is here for you, our members.  Any and all feedback is not only welcomed but requested and vital to our continuing to serve the business community.

So, some questions I have for you are:  What was the last Chamber event you attended?  If you haven’t attended any in a while, why not?  What can we add, change, or do differently that will help you?  What are your needs/frustrations?  What do you think the Chamber can do differently?

I cannot wait to hear some answers…


Mission & Meeting

Reflecting back to my first blog as Chamber President, I talked a lot about being excited and overwhelmed, which I suppose is appropriate for starting a new job.  A year and a half later, however, I still find myself excited and overwhelmed, only with a slightly different twist.  I am still excited to be working at the chamber, facilitating the programs and events that connect and engage our members.  I enjoy building those relationships in the community and connecting people.  As our area continues to grow, there are even more occasions to do so.  I am excited at the numerous and increasing opportunities to advocate and serve the business community.  Yet, I am still overwhelmed at the scope of this as more and more issues come across my desk.  I am overwhelmed at the generous volunteers and committee members, which give of their time and abilities which enable us to do so much more that would be impossible with just our small but dedicated staff.  As we prepare for our Annual Awards Banquet (in 10 DAYS!!), I wish we could give out more awards and recognize more people – we had over 28 nominations this year!  It is a testament to the quality of people living and working in this community.

Back in July of 2016 I wrote: “As I continue on the weeks ahead, I invite any and all feedback from our members…stop by, call or email me.  Keep an eye out for all the great things you are used to as well as the new things to come… I trust that I’ll continue to be excited and overwhelmed.”

True.  I always welcome feedback.  One of my biggest challenges is finding the time to meet with members.  There are still some I have not yet gotten the chance to visit.  I also titled the blog: Same mission.  Also true.  Our focus remains on our mission:  the Champion of the Williston Area United Business Community.  For over 110 years, the Chamber has been in the Williston area advocating for business interests, promoting prosperity for the businesses and likewise promoting the general welfare of the area.  One of the common misconceptions I have heard out there is that we are division of the city.  We of course have a very close working relationship with the city and county, however, at our core, the Chamber distinguishes itself in order to advocate for the businesses.  While often we have the same objective as the city, other times, we do not.  And likely, if something is impacting you, it is impacting others.  As a membership organization, the Chamber has a strong voice – it is the over 500 businesses united verses one person or business.  The Chamber is working on your behalf while you are working on your business.  We keep your interests near and dear to our heart and constantly work so that you don’t have to, especially alone.  We know how busy you are.

Reflecting on where we go from here, it is all about our focus.  The backbone of all that we do is our mission.  In 2018, our strategic focus, while tweaked a bit, continues to be focused on improving in a few key areas: Advocacy, programs and services, strategic partnerships, and organizational excellence.  Plan to attend our Annual Meeting on January 23rd to find out more.  And as always, please reach out – email, call or stop by!  We will continue to visit you, and of course, advocate for the united business community.


The secrets of a good resolution

The impending new year usually gets people talking about resolutions. Personally, I am not one for the typical new year’s resolutions…I mean why wait for January 1st to make the changes in your life that you feel are important? There is something to be said about having a deadline to get started on a goal, however. Especially a deadline that is only days away.

For many, the new year seems like a fresh start and so often they decide on a ‘lose weight’ or ‘get healthy’ sort of resolution. It’s why the number of gym memberships spike in January. Those are great resolutions, so why is it that within a few weeks, those same gyms see a drop in people attending?

Besides having a start date, the trick to a good resolution is that it is not just a wish. It should be measurable. Specific. Resolutions are firm decisions, to do or not to do something; the action of solving a problem. Just like other goals you may have for yourself, you have to know HOW you are going to get there. It is the difference between saying ‘In 2018, I am going to go to the gym more’ and saying ‘For the next 4 weeks, I will be going to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays for 30 minutes over the lunch hour’. Measurable. Specific.

One also has to have the right attitude toward them. Resolutions are only as good as the belief that they will be successful. Believing that you can and reminding yourself of the concrete steps you are taking can be powerful in overcoming the cynicism that the change is too overwhelming. Baby steps. Continuing daily. Abraham Lincoln has said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” Have faith in yourself. Celebrate the small successes. Remind yourself where you are headed and that you are progressing.

Another trick to resolutions is to have the disposition that they are life changing. The desired result of a resolution is usually permanent. If your resolution was to lose 10 pounds and you achieved it, you will not likely say to yourself “Well great! I did it. Now, I can just gain those right back.” I think the reasons most new years resolutions fail, is because people don’t view them as the long-term changes that they need to be.

“How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them” Benjamin Franklin said. If we are honest, most of us know what it is that we lack or need to change in our lives. Take time to consider and make a specific, measurable resolution this year to prove my theories correct. Don’t quit because it gets hard and don’t be afraid to enjoy the small good right now. When you look back over the year, you will see the journey was worth it.


One Month to Go…

The Chamber Annual Banquet is only one month away and if you are not already getting excited for it, you should be!  This semi-formal event is our yearly time to get together as a full membership:  to celebrate the year, to recognize community leaders, to enjoy fellowship, a delicious meal, and of course some entertainment to round out the evening!   A change in venue is just the beginning…we have a great evening planned for you.

January 19, 2018, at McCody Concrete, the VIP Reception for our sponsors and special guests will be held in the upstairs of McCody Concrete at 5:30pm.  Doors downstairs to the bays will open at 6pm for cocktail hour and the silent auction begins.

It is a tradition that while we fundraise for the Chamber’s yearly efforts, we also give back a portion of our silent auction proceeds to one of our non-profits.  This year, the Fred & Clara Eckert Foundation for Children (Eckert Youth Homes) is our recipient, so come prepared to be generous!  If your business would like to donate something for the silent auction – please let us know!

Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford and Miss North Dakota, Lizzie Jensen, are our special guests this year and our entertainment for the evening is Humorist Devin Henderson.  But my favorite part of the evening is giving out the awards.  The Chamber has a long history of recognizing community and business leaders for the admirable work they have done.  While we only give out six awards each year, the 28 nominations we received this year are a testament to the quality of people living and working in this community.   Not to mention the vast list of past winners, many of whom are still contributing to the community to this day.

And you can’t forget about the meal!  This year, we will have three different Chamber members providing the appetizers, main course and dessert.  Just another chance for our members to highlight how remarkable they are!  It is going to be a great night!

So now that you are thoroughly excited for the banquet this year, please make sure you get your tickets! If your business want to sponsor a table, contact us today as we have only 3 table sponsors left!

I cannot wait to see you all there!


I’m not crazy…

I realize that last week I was talking about 2018 already, however, I don’t want to overlook the last few weeks of 2017!  The older I get the faster this time of year seems to go.  With all that needs to be done (decorations, presents, baking, holiday parties and more) the handful of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas just seem to fly by!

Don’t let 2017 go quietly into the dark night without connecting one last time.  Networking.  Connections.  It’s what we do best at the Chamber!  Next Thursday, December 14th will be our last Business after Hours for 2017.   No doubt, it will be just as fun as usual – if not more so as everyone gets in the holiday spirit!  Networking coupled with a little friendly competition, conversation, food, and prizes are sure to warm you up in this cold month.  Remember to bring all the networking cards you have collected this year.  We will have our drawing for $100 in Chamber Bucks that you can use locally for your Christmas shopping!

Networking Card.JPG

Some synonyms for crazy are: silly, wild, fanatical, outrageous, ridiculous, passionate, enthusiastic, devoted.  Ok.  Well then maybe I am a little crazy…but the good kind of crazy.  And while our networking events may not be crazy, they are fun – ask anyone who came last month!

So, even though December is a hectic time of year, please plan to come out and join us next week at our after hours.  I hope to see you all one more time in 2017!


Who’s ready for 2018?!?!

I know, I know.  Thanksgiving was just last week and it’s not even December yet, but here at the Chamber we’ve been gearing up for 2018 for a few weeks now.  Hopefully you’ve saved the date for our Annual Banquet (1/19) and Annual Meeting (1/23) – two very important events within the Chamber calendar year.

December is such a busy month for most – Company Christmas parties and/or get-togethers with friends, holiday shopping (locally!) for both food and presents, traveling to or hosting family.  For us at the Chamber, December will be busy, but busy working on things to come in the new year:

  • Awards Banquet: my favorite part of the Chamber world where we honor people in the community for all that they have done, plus enjoy have an evening of entertainment and socializing.
  • Annual Meeting: see what our focus in 2018 will be, some new things, and some classics.
  • Membership Investment: keep an eye out for your 2018 investment in the Chamber.  We depend upon your support to continue to do all that we can for the business community!  We’re so grateful for you!
  • Sponsor guides: Bekka, Laura, Rachel and I have been busy trying to get these out to all our past sponsors. Again, we are so grateful for your support!  Please contact the Chamber if you haven’t gotten one.  We have so many great opportunities all year round!

The Chamber’s tagline “where connections happen” is so fitting.  We have so many ways for you to be involved.  And if you haven’t found one that fits for you or your business – I’d love to hear from you!   Part of my focus is always improving what we offer to our members which includes changing things up and offering new things.  I plan to continue to do that in the new year.  Keep your eye out for those new things.  Additionally, we aim to make our signature events even better!  Plan to Connect, Engage, Grow, and Lead with the Chamber in a new way in the new year.

It has been said, “whether we want them or not, the new year will bring new challenges; whether we seize them or not, the new year will bring new opportunities”

May we embrace all the challenges and opportunities that the new year brings.  The Chamber is getting ready, are you?


%d bloggers like this: