Tag Archives: value

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.

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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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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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With wind filling our sails, Chamber continues moving forward

Following our successful Rockin’ Ribfest community event, the Chamber has taken the past three weeks to reassess our program offerings for Members; both revenue generating events and educational programs that may or may not benefit the bottom line.

Successful event momentum is like a warm shower; it feels good for a while, but at some point you have to get dressed and get back to work. Eventually you have to decide to either cruise for a while in the humid summer breeze, or grab an oar and start rowing. For the Chamber, we’ve studied the charts and adjusted our heading a bit as we look to the last half of 2015.

Beginning in August the Chamber will begin to assemble the first ever (I’ve used that term a lot this year) Williston Area Business Directory. Using our staff, the Chamber’s position as a resource for businesses in the area, and our momentum we’ve built up the past seven months, we’ll be able to produce a community resource that’s sorely needed. While all Williston area businesses will be invited to be listed, the advertising spots and most visible placements will be offered to Chamber members first. I can’t wait to see how this turns out. Several local printers are bidding on the project, so I’m confident it will be a valuable local business guide. The goal is to expand the Chamber’s reach and visibility while providing a needed service and product for the business community in the area. Watch for more news and information about the directory in the next week.

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In September, we are launching the Chamber’s Eggs & Issues policy forums. A common program offering by chambers around the country, our Chamber is just picking up the pace in the public advocacy arena. This members-only event will be held the morning after the Chamber Business After Hours – enticing some high level state officials to make a two day visit to Williston. We’ll run three of these in the fall and three next spring.

The LevelUP Leadership Series will kick off in November and feature the hottest topics from our LevelUP 2015 Business Conference last May. The three part lunch series will feature one of our presenters from the May conference, exploring in depth one of the session topics like sales and marketing, human resources issues, or personal growth and development. All of this leads up to the LevelUP 2016 Conference in May 2016, which is already shaping up nicely.

Our monthly Business After Hours events, which traditionally garner between 80-110 attendees, have continued to be quality opportunities for Chamber Members to network, learn, and market to grow their business. Many of the 2016 hosting slots are filling up already.

Please take 30 seconds to take our one minute issue survey this week. The Board of Directors and the Government Affairs Committee thanks you as we start to shape our advocacy action plan for 2016.

The 21st Century (now 15 years old) technology revolution driven by the “millennial” workforce has forced nonprofit organizations such as chambers Image result for millennials technologyof commerce, trade associations and professional societies to rethink their business model and strategic plans. No longer are they the sole source of information, networking, marketing, support and advocacy for their members. It’s crucial to review programs and services, communications and advocacy plans and to ask and listen to members’ issues and interests.

As we continue in our own ‘race for relevance’ with our Members, in the community and in our region, I marvel in the fact that it’s already (or only) been 17 months since I’ve taken the helm at the Williston Chamber. As we chart our course and continue to crew this Chamber ship through both calm and choppy waters, I hope the wind continues to fill our sails and push us forward.

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Summertime is about community

Some observers say Williston is seven months of winter and one month of summer sandwiched in the middle of four months of construction season. Be that as it may, there is a real possibility of snow in late April or early May, so many of the city’s summertime events and activities take a while to get going. I sort of feel like this guy in the Kingsford spot…

There isn’t enough space to list all the community events and activities, groups and organizations that make Williston a great city. For anyone to say ‘there’s nothing to do in Williston’ is just pure balderdash. But one day last week felt a little different to me. A feeling I hadn’t experienced since I landed sixteen months ago.

Ribfest and Summer Nights on Main kicked off July in a way that gave me a familiar sensation; even though it was technically a ‘new event’ and aRibfest departure from the previous two decades of summer celebrations in Williston. Maybe it was the weather, where it rose to 90, then downpoured for 15 minutes and then was 90 degrees again. Maybe it was the heritage downtown businesses who opened up their doors and held welcoming sidewalk sales to eager shoppers who dodged the construction cages (anyone heard of Maxwell Street Days?). Maybe it was the smells, the smiles, the families gathered around the picnic tables talking to each other without the distraction of XBox controllers. Maybe it was the band and the flowing beverages after the last ribs were scarfed down, I’m really not sure.

Looking over the parking lot scene of summer fun, watching the band unload gear, seeing the interaction between the rib teams, sponsors, volunteers and families, I got the sense that I don’t just work in Williston – I live in Williston.

It felt like a community ought to feel on a downtown July summer day. If felt like…home.

I’m not trying to be over dramatic, but there was a true sense of coming together that day between organizations, people, businesses and families. The best part is that there are more of these types of opportunities every weekend and even on weeknights to learn, grow, share, work and play in more ways that anyone thought would happen in Williston. All you have to do is ask, or look around.

The small agriculture hub of Western North Dakota is turning into a thriving economic engine of the energy industry. While those changes are sometimes difficult to swallow, there is no denying that we are in the front row to history. But it’s also nice to know that we can maintain that sense of small-town-ishness when friends and neighbors come together in the summertime.

Just like any hometown should.

 

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What did you do last weekend?

When I signed up for this tour of duty, I understood exactly what it meant. Dinner meetings, evening speaking engagements, late night business socials, official Chamber Business After Hours events, day long community activities, and working some weekend days. Running a Chamber of Commerce means you are never quite “off duty” in your community. I get that. And I love it.

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This past weekend began on Thursday evening with our monthly Business After Hours, which was not a normal BAH event. The Chamber Member had a street closed, hired a motorcycle stunt team and had a major cookout. Networking, business cards exchanged, introductions of new members, handshaking, taking pictures and raffle drawings make a brief 2.5 hour after work event seem like a full day.

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Saturday we kicked off Lemonade Day 2015, with the best tasting contest as part of the Miss North Dakota social event at the local art museum.  Blue sky June weather always makes a Chamber event better. The Miss ND contestants sampled and interacted with our young, budding business owners, and a great time was had by all. It was truly a treat to have the 2014 Miss ND Jacky Arness visit, along with her southern colleague, Miss South Dakota, Meredith Gould.

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I did manage some ‘non-chamber’ time by helping a friend, Jeff, learn to fly cast. On the spur of the moment, he asked if I would like to go for a ride before the Miss North Dakota pageant. I said, “Sure, who will drive?” He replied, “No, not drive…a ride…in my plane.” So the newest licensed pilot in Williston, ND skillfully treated me a spectacular plane ride over Teddy Roosevelt National Park and part of the North Dakota badlands. My new Nikon D7000 got quite a workout at 3,500 feet above the Bakken. Congrats to Jeff on your accomplishment, and thanks for allowing me to tag along.

After a pinpoint landing in a cross-wind, I had a quick bite to eat, put on a jacket and slid into Row L, Seat 5 for the next 3 plus hours to take in the Miss North Dakota Pageant final evening of competition. I was a bit forlorn about missing Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals (those who have read me before, know I’m a hockey junkie) while sitting in the Williston High School auditorium on Saturday night. Last year, as a new Chamber President I attended the social, the breakfast for the contestants, and we hosted a VIP reception to help raise money for the scholarship organization when Miss ND 2014 Jacky Arness, spoke at our 2015 Annual Banquet in January. The Chamber’s ties to the organization are solid, but I still had not attended the actual pageant, so Saturday night was my first.

I left the auditorium around 10:40 pm very much inspired and encouraged, and convinced that of the 24 women who came to Williston to vie for the title of Miss North Dakota, there are future business and political leaders among them.  The evening was a very humbling and warming experience.

Sunday came sooner than I expected, but right on time by the clock. After five plus months of planning, we launched Williston Lemonade Day 2015. It was a  new program, with new volunteers, the first one in North Dakota, and major sponsors looking to us for their return on investment. The day went spectacular, with more than 150 youth entrepreneurs signed up, likely more than 50 lemonade stands in town, and yellow volunteer tee shirts everywhere. We called it a success after the awards ceremony and a great picnic cookout by the Williston Community Builders. Media, local officials and sponsors had big smiles as the lemonade stand owners came forward to get their certificates, or to be recognized with an achievement medal.

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Newly crowned Miss North Dakota 2015 Delanie Weidrich, made her first official public appearance at the picnic and enjoyed the interaction with the young business owners and their families.

By 7:15 pm Sunday evening I think I had only driven about 6 miles all weekend (not counting those nautical knots in the air!) but I felt like I drove across the country. Wiped and sun beaten, I enjoyed a cold beverage at home. And while my weekend could have been considered ‘work’ by some, I view it as just doing our job. Being a volunteer or a staff member of a nonprofit organization like a Chamber of Commerce brings some extra commitments, and certainly can’t be viewed as a ‘normal’ job by any stretch.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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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.

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…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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