Why Join the Chamber of Commerce?

After living out in the country for forty years, not that far removed from the proverbial 40 years in the wilderness, the experience of living in town wafts in like fresh spring breezes. Before my only community was my church and my neighborhood, but now I find myself part of a city, and I enjoy actually being part of the Chamber.

I joined the Chamber last month and attended my first luncheon today. First impressions: a sea of people representing businesses from every facet of the community, professionals who take time for the welfare of others, potential friends. Many of the attendees sat with friends and colleagues, so I was just a bit of a country mouse, but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting a few people and listening to discussions.

How do you make the most of the experience? If you own a business or work in a business or love the idea of a business, join. Go to meetings. (I am ordering business cards tonight, since for my writing, everything is online. Big mistake, lol. Take lots of business cards.) Initiate conversations. Ask questions. Find a way to be useful. The local Chamber is networking at its best and most basic level. You will find no other gathering with as much business experience, friendly sharing of information, and encouragement than this. constitutional convention

Most importantly, find a way to give back. One very primary goal of any local chamber is service to the community. Americans have grown accustomed to tax dollars paying for everything from education to road repair, and lost the compulsion to dig in to make things happen…but the lifeblood of the community runs on volunteerism. The chamber thrives on finding ways to enhance the well being of each and every citizen in the community. They need you to be part of that calling. Take some civic pride in being part of a community dating back to good old George Washington and the framers of Constitution, who might very well represent the first Chamber of Commerce in these United States.

Think of your membership in the Chamber of Commerce as your initiation into the inner workings of your community. Be a part of the heart. Be an arm or leg, helping or transporting. Be some rapid firing neurons, training others. I find no shortage of opportunities for service, so seeking the best niche is important. It is okay to take your time and find your place…but you’ll never find it if you never join. I encourage you to take that first step. Invest in yourself and in your community.

How To Become an Entrepreneur

Confession: I am a serial entrepreneur. Yes, I worked off and on through my adult years as an RN in various emergency rooms and operating rooms, and yes, I loved nursing. But a typical shift in any job often proved cumbersome. As a mom, I wanted to be at home and offer my children an idyllic childhood. What to do, what to do…I decided to hire myself!

My trek through the no man’s land of self-employment began innocently enough. I published a nonprofit newsletter for three years, and grew it into a 30+ page monthly magazine. Becoming a graphic designer and publishing corporate newsletters and brochures proved to be just a step forward. Call me crazy, but I was hooked. I loved the challenge of taking on a new enterprise and building it into a growing concern. Through the years I had several businesses: I was a bead artist and sold handmade beads at trade shows nationwide; I became a travel agent; I became a MLM rep for a leading skincare company; I co-owned an expo company promoting crafters an other entrepreneurs. Now I am publishing books for teens. Along the way I learned a thing or two.

passionReady to embark on this adventure of directing your own life? My number one tip is a simple one. Believe in the magic of the journey. Many a nurse when I worked part time in surgery would wistfully say, “It must be nice, traveling all over the country selling beads.” It was nice. But they never dared stepping out from the comfort of a 40 hour week into the uncertainties of adventure. You must believe in the magic of the journey. I worked hard at both nursing and building a bead business, often working much longer hours than any of my nursing buddies, and while they envied the glamour of my life, they never wanted to embrace the vagaries of life on the road.

Second, you must fuel your passion. Choose an endeavor you enjoy. You can’t sell hair extensions if you love short hair. I know. It sounds too mundane to warrant space on the page, but I see it over and over again: people selling themselves into a business for which there exists no spark of joie de vivre. The average client or customer has a built-in BS meter, and instinctively pulls away from a sales pitch. If you’re not in love with what you do, you’re embarking on a solo expedition, and it will prove lonely and disappointing in the long run.

working officeLearn, learn, learn. My third tip exists as a maxim for all of life. Learn your craft. Learn the tax laws. Learn how to sell effectively, saying just a little while saying all the right things. Accept that a lifelong date with trends and new skill sets exist as a part of the journey, a place to hang your hat each night. If you don’t learn and adapt, your journey will be cut short.

My fourth tip either lights your eyes or causes you to cringe. Connect with people. This is an age of instant communication and social platforms transforming the way business is conducted. Brick and mortar businesses struggle to compete with online entities. Support groups, conferences, other entrepreneurs form a nest from which you draw ideas and leads. If you see yourself as an introvert, pull up your big girl panties and join in. If you see yourself as an extrovert, be careful about overwhelming others. Establish an online presence and form connections.

Tip #5:  Read daily. Read classics. Read memoirs. Read nonfiction. Read great writers. Think about when you attended high school or college literature courses. You were assigned masters of their craft, and it sharpened your own communication. A steady diet of light reading as an adult dulls those instincts.

My next tip, number six, travels hand in hand with reading. Write daily. Keep a journal, write lists, work on your memoir, or just pen a missive to someone you know. Writing is a necessary complement in the process of growing your communication skills. Learn how to weed out the intransitive verbs, and insert words with a punch. Craft sentences an English teacher would want to read. Your verbal communication earns an overhaul in the process.

Last but not least: Grow your self-discipline. If you can’t make a list and force yourself to accomplish a day’s work, you cannot hire yourself and expect a living wage. Time management, organizing and prioritizing tasks, creating a product or offering a service all require putting the pedal to the medal. You have to make miles each day on this trip of a lifetime. Stay too long at an oasis along the way, and you’ll find yourself lost in a labyrinth of trying to catch up or rejuvenate your business. A strong work ethic is a hallmark of any entrepreneur.

If this resonates with you, share your experiences in the comments. If you want more encouragement, reach out. I freely admit I am old by some standards. My parent’s generation turned 70 and sat at home waiting to die. Instead, I’m starting yet another business and tickled pink to be on the road again. I absolutely love this journey of life, and expect my writing career to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Excuse the outdated pun. I’d love to share this journey with you.