At the conception of everyone’s journey into the business world, you might as well consider yourself as graceful as a newborn giraffe. You reach out to mentors, friends, and family members that you trust in order to get an unfair advantage to jumpstart your career. Your local Chamber of Commerce is of the many resources that may be recommended to help you on your journey. Yet, I believe that your Chamber of Commerce is teaching you to do business the wrong way.
Now, back in the day, the Chamber of Commerce was one of the most effective ways to grow your business. It allowed people to come together, form a community, and make the connections needed in order to live the American dream. Despite older generations making the recommendation for you to join your local Chamber of Commerce, I truly believe that you will start picking up bad business practices.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. Everyone is Too Professional.
I’ve been to several Chamber events and they are way too professional. In order to succeed in business, you can’t be one person at the office and another on the weekends. Being genuine is the ONLY way to act when you’re growing your brand. Otherwise, you’re going to start attracting the wrong customers and when you’re older, you will regret it.
A great example of someone who is successful, genuine, and not too professional is Gary Vaynerchuk. You can see him all over the internet wearing jeans, a beanie, and sneakers. This is the persona someone who is worth over $100 million is portraying, being himself, despite what his net worth may be. Compare this to a Chamber event. Everyone is wearing their Sunday best, displaying fake smiles, and don’t really care about you.
Here’s a video of Gary talking about building your brand with no budget:
2. Shallow Questions.
The most common question you will hear at any networking event is, “What do you do?” In my opinion, this phrase needs to be banned from ALL networking events. Why? Well, it’s super shallow. Back when towns didn’t have a population of millions of people, this question was relevant. You would ask someone, “What do you do?” and they would reply, “I’m the town’s doctor, insurance agent, attorney, barber, etc.”
Nowadays competition is fierce. We have several choices of where to spend our hard earned money. So, the only way you’re going to win business is by differentiating yourself from the competition. My favorite book that will help you understand this concept is Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. His famous YouTube video of talking about people buy your WHY, not your WHAT is as relevant as ever.
Here’s a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA
3. Big Faceless Organizations.
A majority of the professionals who attend Chamber events belong to Big Faceless Organizations. These are companies that have deep pockets, they’re able to make large contributions to the Chamber, and unfortunately these folks are stuck in corporate America.
As a new business owner, you’re not in this crowd. You’re running the show. You’re the janitor, the secretary, the CEO. Your income is dependent on how you perform at work versus a corporation where you can just show up and receive a paycheck. Regardless of how you execute your business strategy.
It’s vital to your success that you identify people, groups, and organizations who will actually be able to help you succeed. Speaking from experience, most large businesses aren’t going to help you achieve your dreams.
4. Not Fun.
A wise man by the name of Joe Dirt once said, “Life’s a garden, dig it.” Starting a business is a huge undertaking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. The only Chamber Event I enjoyed was one that I ran into an old friend and we ended up leaving early.
I’m thankful that I reestablished our connection due to the fact the Chamber was hosting an event. However, there hasn’t been one time that I attended a Chamber of event and said to myself, “Wow that was so much fun, I can’t wait for the next one!”
5. Bad Business Practices.
Philosopher Eric Hoffer once said that, “In times of change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Being that COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the global economy, this quote is as relevant as ever.
Learning how to work from home, learning how to use Zoom, learning how to deal with social distancing, learning how to wear a masking properly, this list can go on in perpetuity. The business practices taught by the Chamber, is outdated.
By being overly professional it doesn’t allow your true character to shine through to those you’re looking to make connections with. This leads to asking shallow questions, which more times than not ends up with someone handing you a business card, just to never have them return your e-mail or phone calls. The big faceless organizations that dominate the Chamber, are the root cause for this behavior which then leads to wasting a few hours of your day, and having ZERO fun.
Life’s too short to waste time on activities that will lead you nowhere, but it’s important to remember it’s all about the journey, not the destination.