I was struggling this year with whether or not to renew my dues to the local chamber of commerce.
Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve been a chamber supporter. In a prior life in a different town and different career, I served on the board of directors of the local chamber.
A common question small business owners — including me — face is whether a chamber membership is worth it.
From my days on a chamber board of directors, the standard answer that chambers give is: you get out of it what you put into it. In other words, if you are active and attend events, you’ll probably find it to be worth it.
And that’s what I was wrestling with when I was deciding whether to renew.
I am busy running my business. And when I’m not running my business, I have a wife and 2 little kids who deserve my time. That leaves very little time to go running around to events.
In my opinion, if you can’t consistently go to chamber events, it’s almost better to go to none at all.
This is because, on the rare occasion when you do attend an event, you’ll likely find that everyone else knows each other and they have their cliques where they stand around drinking, guffawing and slapping each other on the back while you stand there as the outsider. And all chambers that I’ve ever been a part of do a terrible job of making newcomers feel welcome at those type of events.
If you’re the type of person who can walk into a room and instantly win over strangers, this might be okay. But I am not that type of person, so sporadically attending networking events where I don’t know anyone is downright painful.
(I suppose there’s some deep psychological profile about me that can be drawn from the last 2 paragraphs.)
Ultimately, I decided to renew my membership, even though I’m in no position to be an active member.
I renewed because as a service provider who’s hoping to help more business clients, I think it lends credibility to me to say I’m a chamber member. Each business owner should review the pros and cons of chamber membership, because what’s true for me may not be true for other businesses.
Dawn Mentzer covered this topic on her “Instatiable Solopreneur” blog back in November.