Many people join Chambers of Commerce expecting immediate return on investment (ROI). While there are many benefits to joining the Chamber, expecting immediate ROI is unrealistic. Like many investments, your investment in Chamber membership may take a while to fully accrue.

            Many membership benefits are obvious and immediate. Your listing on the website membership directory, access to member-only events, and placing your promotional materials in the Chamber reception area can all happen within a couple of days. Others take a while longer to develop and realize ROI. New members join the Chamber in hopes of building their network, generating new revenue streams, and taking advantage of educational opportunities.

            Setting reasonable goals for your Chamber membership is critical for ensuring your overall satisfaction as a member and realizing your long-term goals for your ROI. Where do you start in setting goals? Try starting with a set of SMART goals. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based.

            A specific goal may be to attend at least one Chamber event per month. The Henderson County Chamber is a very active Chamber. We have 12 – 18 events each month. The Chamber’s most popular event – Business After Hours - is usually held the 4th Thursday of each month (check our calendar for the next BAH). Around 125-150 Chamber members gather for hors d’oeuvres and refreshments while they network and share ideas.

            Focusing on measurable goals is one of the easier aspects of setting SMART goals. You might be tempted to set “meeting as many people as possible” as a goal when attending an event. A better course of action would be to plan to meet and engage two people at each networking event. With one to two hours for most events, meeting and getting to know two should be a minimal challenge for even the newest networker.

            If you set reasonable goals, attainability should be reachable. Don’t set a goal of exchanging 30 business cards during an hour-long event. Meeting someone new every two minutes isn’t going to yield very useful contacts. An attainable goal would be to join one of the Chamber’s Leads Group. We have two that meet every Thursday morning from 8 – 9 am. Leads North meets at Kostas Kitchen, 4055 Hendersonville Road in Fletcher and is facilitated by Steve Clark with United Federal Credit Union. Leads South meets at The Green Room Café and Coffeehouse, 536 N. Main Street in downtown Hendersonville and is facilitated by CPA Michelle Tracz.

            Trying to meet 30 people during an hour-long event is not only unattainable, it is also not very realistic. Even a seasoned networker would have trouble networking with more than 10 people in an hour-long event. If you are new to the networking game and need help getting introduced to your fellow Chamber members find a networking “wingman.” Make plans to come to the next Business After Hours. At the registration table ask for a yellow ribbon. The yellow ribbon indicates to the Chamber’s Ambassador Committee that you are a new member and/or this is your first time to Business After Hours. They can help introduce you to other Ambassadors, Chamber staff and long-time Chamber members. It is an opportunity to glean knowledge from someone with a more established network and also an effective way of boosting your networking effectiveness.

            The final element of SMART goals is time based. If one of your goals is to grow your contacts, aim to get 30 new ones in the first year. Joining a Chamber Leads Group will help. The Leads Groups are all about making strong connections with other professionals that will hopefully lead to referrals and additional business.

            So, no, it may not happen immediately but over time you will come to see how invaluable your Chamber membership will become. Many of our members will tell you that they have formed lasting business relationships through contacts established at Chamber events. We strive to be a community resource, an information source and link for our area. For more information on what the Chamber can do for you and your business stop by our office at 204 Kanuga Road or give us a call at 828-692-1413.