Originally published in the Winter 2022 edition of ACCE’s Chamber Executive Magazine.
Work Your “Core” and You’ll Be Ready for Action
Any personal trainer will tell you to work your core – your abdominal and lower back muscles – during every workout. Consistency is critical. Why? Because these muscles are required for any substantial movement and the stronger they are, the greater will be your physical capacity and resilience against injury.
For chamber executives, the strength of your relationships with your most important members, investors and strategic partners are analogous to physical core strength. These individuals are central to your chamber’s ability to thrive. With their input and support, you can quickly respond to opportunities and threats and stand strong in the face of political or other challenges. By contrast, a weak or uncertain “core” set of relationships will leave a chamber executive vulnerable.
Yet, many executives leave the development of relationships with their top 25+ to chance, or at best, make sporadic efforts. And it shows, especially when the time comes to mount a substantial fundraising campaign or other large efforts. As with building physical core strength, it takes sustained work to build productive relationships with “core” (top) investors and members. One consistent, structured approach is to schedule and conduct a one-hour progress report/input meeting at the same time on the same day (Friday is best) every other week (25/year) and preferably, every week (50/year).
Meet with these core individuals one by one about what the chamber is working on, where the chamber is going and what impact you intend to have. Then step back and ask for their advice regarding your plans.
At POWER 10, we conduct such meetings in the context of running capital campaigns to great effect. We have found that such meetings inevitably “move the ball” to increase engagement, strengthen the relationship and often uncover excellent advice because we are typically speaking with CEOs who are smart, highly capable and have sharp, business-minded recommendations.
Conduct the Meeting
Always use a formal agenda. Send it the day prior and provide a hard copy at the start of the meeting. Written agendas provide clarity about the focus of the discussion and the outcomes to be achieved. Follow the discussion flow mentioned earlier:
- Where we are (present)
- Where we are going (future)
- What do you think?
You can actually use the previous three bullets on your agenda but be sure to provide specific content under each category. For example, under “Where we are going,” you might write “Three Primary Initiatives” and then list them out. The agenda will function as a leave-behind document, as well, so be sure to include content you’d like the individual to remember. After the meeting, conduct any follow-up steps right away – send a thank you note highlighting key points from the conversation, add notes to your CRM system, etc.
In Between the Lines of the Agenda
The discussion should include you learning more about the member’s/investor’s/partner’s business and their personal life (family, pets, etc.). The better you understand their aspirations and their stake in the successful implementation of chamber initiatives and programs, the more easily you’ll understand how to develop or strengthen a mutually beneficial relationship.
Will one of these meetings “move the ball” for you and your chamber? The answer is somewhere between “maybe” and “probably.” But imagine the compound effect of doing 25-50 of these meetings over an entire year. Think of what you will learn, all of the help you can provide to the member/investor/partner and then add in all the subsequent, less formal contact you will have with this individual that will only further the relationship. If you take this proactive approach, when the next challenge or opportunity presents itself, your “core” strength – the strength of your chamber’s most important relationships – will no doubt be ready for action.