Monday, August 24, 2015

Membership Data is your Friend!

There are some amazing data collection tools in the Association and Chamber Management space.  We research the options, we compare the choices, we sign a contract and get one installed.  Then what happens?  Frequently………..nothing! Maintaining, managing and mining your data is your most valuable engagement tool.  Why would you invest in an incredible tool and then not use it to keep up with your members? 

Follow these steps for effective collection:

  1. User training.  Everyone on your team should be able to navigate the system and use the data.  Make sure to provide training for new team members as part of their on- boarding.  Periodically do some updated training or refresher.
  2. Data collection.  Have a check list of exactly what you would like to capture.  Make it thorough and then make each collection consistent.  Don’t just gather half the information.  Lazy collection and management will not give you the key to success you need!
  3. Member profile updates.  As you are going over renewals several months out, this is a great time to review those member profiles and make sure you have everything, call for updates, change out contacts if necessary. This is just another opportunity to engage with your members.  Let them know that having accurate information for them is important to you AND them.
  4. Additional contacts.  More often than not only one contact is listed for each member. Depending on the business, the contact may not be the one who is engaged in the members and they may very well not be the one who writes the check.  The more contacts you have for each business the more opportunities you have to KEEP that business engaged and renewed.

DATA is a tool for understanding engagement.......

We know that participation is NOT engagement. By looking at the data for a member we can actually use participation (or more importantly NON-participation) as a means for understanding how a member engages. 
  • How long have they been a member?
  • How many employees do they have?
  • Do they have multiple contacts listed?
  • Are they participating on committees, BOD, Ambassadors, YP’s, Public Policy?
  • Have they completed their portion of the website listing?
  • Are they opening your emails and clicking the links?
  • Are they attending events?
  • Are they using your “deal” option (if you have one)?
  • Are they purchasing web products?
Remember that industry -wide we see an average of only 8-12% of members participating in events, so participation cannot be our only measurement for engagement.  If we take a cursory look at a member’s activity and there IS NO ACTIVITY then clearly this is a member that needs to be engaged in a different way.  We ONLY know that if we look at the data.  We then have an opportunity to go to them and determine just WHAT engagement means to them.

Data can help you identify trends for your organization.  

Digging deep into the data will help you target your challenging areas and expose opportunities for growth.  Here are a few segments that can give you a big picture view of your membership and show you where you have room to grow or regroup:
  • First year member renewals year on year.
  • Length of membership.
  • Geographic breakdown of members. Where could you grow?
  • Industry breakdown of members. What gaps do you see?
  • What events are the most popular?
If you go through a strategic planning process and then you set that lovely binder on a shelf to collect dust then what’s the point?  The same holds true for your CRM.  Don’t be an organization that makes a significant investment in the perfect data solution but NEVER uses it to their advantage! What “best-practices” have you put in place at your organization to track important information regarding your members? I would love to hear about them!!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Juggle or Struggle??

I had a conversation recently with a friend who has been in her current position for just over a year now. My first question was, as always, "so, how's it going?" She responded positively, she loves what she's doing, she has seen one success after the other, she has incredible support. I kept waiting for the but and of course it eventually came,
........."but the success seems so fleeting because there is so much to do. I want to do it all, I want it all done now, even yesterday!!"
I bet you've said this too. And so we juggle. We juggle time and project priority and our emotional attachment to both. We juggle patience and impatience. We juggle the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. We juggle being overwhelmed with being overjoyed. We can't soak up the satisfaction of success because another ball is already making it's way skyward and we fear we won't catch it on the way down. And all this doesn't even take into consideration our personal life balls getting into the mix. 
What's the answer?
Juggling is actually a game, a dance even. You won't ever stop juggling, but you can decide to accept that the juggle is life and stop making it a struggle. You can decide the challenge of the juggle is fun and smile about it instead of stressing over it. You can even try to enjoy those many, many balls you catch, even if it's fleeting, you still caught them!! And just like a good juggler you may decide to deliberately drop one you just don't need any longer making the game that much more enjoyable.
Play people, play!! Enjoy the juggle and forget the struggle! Keep throwing, keep catching and relax into the game of life!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Choosing conflict or finding solutions?

Anyone who has ever managed or worked for a Chamber of Commerce knows that there are no limits to the number of unrelated conversations that happen within those walls on a daily basis. They run from the mundane to the ridiculous. And the ridiculous are seriously RIDICULOUS!! I once made the mistake of answering the office phone on a Saturday (ever done that??) only to have a lengthy conversation with a clearly inebriated woman who wanted me to get her husband out of jail. He was "no good", but she "loved him" and needed to get him out and she didn't know who to call but thought the Chamber was a good start.
The image on this post is from the Sapulpa Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma (thanks Suzanne!). It was such a great example I just had to share. The store owner is not a Chamber member and has been pretty obstinate about that decision yet very comfortable sending people to the Chamber for the restroom. OK, it's frustrating. It's downright aggravating. It's kind of ridiculous. But when presented with something like this should you spend a lot of your precious time in conflict over these clearly non-mission focused occurrences that are prevalent in the industry? Or do you smile about it, weigh the positive options, look for a Chamber solution, present it and then get back to work regardless of the outcome? 
It is easy to become ensnared in a lot of activity that doesn't fall into your job description. The more you dig into these minor conflicts the more you detract from the really important things that need to be done, but you can't just ignore them either. I believe that fundamentally Chambers of Commerce are "solutions" providers. That doesn't mean the Chamber is ultimately the answer for everything, but they are connected and can FIND a solution. I used to tell my staff, if you don't know, find out, if you can't find out then at least connect them with someone who may be able to help. Situations like this provide an opportunity to show the community, visitors to the community and of course business (whether they are members or not!), that when it comes to finding an answer the Chamber will find one. 
I always say that Chambers of Commerce have four core functions. They convene, they collaborate, they coordinate and they connect. Don't you think that pretty much sums it up? Seize a conflict or a minor irritation and consider these four "Cs" in determining a solution that will end the conflict and amplify the value message for the Chamber. You do the "stuff" people think just happens. You won't get a headline for a lot of it, but you can walk away with the satisfaction that you are part of an organization that looks for a solution for every situation matter how "ridiculous"!!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Ambassadors. Club or Extension?

Ambassadors. Diplomats. Goodwill Ambassadors.
Is your group a club or a vital extension of Chamber staff and the Membership Team?
I’ve been doing a lot of work with ambassador groups in the last couple of months. These groups can be a lot of things, but what I’m finding pretty consistently is a club that meets once a month for lunch and walks away with a list they have been “voluntold” to accomplish by the next meeting.
  • Some will do it, some won’t.
  • Some will relish the activity, most won’t take it seriously.
  • Some want the free lunch and networking.
  • Some love showing up for all the ribbon cuttings and events.
  • Some do the work because they actually find an opportunity to promote their OWN business while out and about “representing” the Chamber.
This ambassador conversation is prevalent in the industry right now; in online groups, at conferences, among industry professionals. I get questions about it, requests to speak about it, phone calls and emails asking for help. My personal take away is that with the limited amount of time Chamber professionals have to do the work required of the job, managing a “club” of volunteers and not getting any real help from them is becoming an acute problem.
Ask yourself some questions about your Ambassador group:
  1. Are your Ambassadors really helping you with membership or just running errands, i.e. dropping off packets and decorating and making a show at events?
  2. Couldn’t you use some REAL help via extra hands and feet helping with engagement and retention? Meaningful work that produces results?
  3. Do you really need one more thing to manage if you end up doing all the work yourself?
There is real opportunity if you have the right people. Remember what Jim Collins said in Good to Great….
"Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats."
If you have been thinking about your Ambassadors and considering recreating or doing a total demolition and starting from scratch here are some steps to making sure you get something that will be valuable to the work of the organization:
  1. Decide what you need. What will actually relieve some of the work load for you on the membership front?
  2. Create a job description and handbook that reflects that work. Make it specific. Set very clear expectations. This should include ongoing education about what your organization is doing, is all about, the players, the impact. If they don’t know how can we expect them to be an extension of the organization’s work?
  3. Host a meeting with your current group. Present the materials. Walk through it with them. Get their feedback. If they can’t buy in or offer creative input then they aren’t on the “right bus”.
  4. Look for ownership. If volunteers own the process they will do the work. That’s the kind of volunteer you want at the table. Look for those “highly functioning” volunteers that will bring strategic thinking and leadership to the table.
  5. Clean house. Have them sign off on the job as a commitment. Keep the group small and manageable. Set term limits; one year is best. Build in accountability that is reviewed by a group leader.
There actually are some groups that are working extremely well and doing real work. Congratulations to those few! If you are one of those then please share your experience and structure with us. But, if your group is about points, jackets, lunch or being volunteer of the year then those are exactly the results you will get. Having a little lunch once a month, going over the new members and signing people up to drop off packets would never be a model for the Board of Directors. If that’s what you have then you are managing a lunch club and, well, doesn’t that ultimately just mean one more thing you have to plan, facilitate and manage?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Be Strong And Courageous!

I had a surprise phone call from a Chamber of Commerce friend a couple of weeks ago. To say she was frustrated would be a considerable understatement. Her Chamber is strong. It is recognized by members and the community as an organization of value. This Executive works hard, always looks for ways to partner with other community organizations and local leadership. She’s doing good work and she’s passionate about that work.
The community recently had a shift in leadership at the City level. Suddenly this Chamber professional is no longer invited to openings or asked to conduct ribbon cuttings for new industry. Not only that, the city purchased its own “big scissors” and has made it clear that the Chamber should not make an appearance at those events. The City is beginning to host some networking programs and educational forums. It appears as though this City leadership would like to assume the role of the Chamber and they are being quite visible about it.
The questions I got from this well-meaning Chamber pro were:
  • Why would they do this?
  • What have we done wrong?
  • I’m beginning to doubt myself……what have I done wrong?
She’s had a conversation with her Chair and Executive Committee. They don’t want to rock the political boat. So, what can she do………
Here were my responses:
  1. YOU haven’t done anything wrong and it’s time to trust yourself.
  2. The motivation of others is sometimes hard to understand. Without a direct conversation with that individual or group in which they explain their motivation we are only left with assumption and assumption will never give us the real truth.
  3. Believing we can change them is not a choice. Believing that we have to counter by defending ourselves for some reason is also not a solution.
  4. Since Chambers of Commerce are about far more than ribbon cuttings and programs it’s time to take a look at all the value that you are giving to the community.
  5. Let them do their ribbon cuttings. Meantime, sit down and bust out some strategic elements for your Chamber that are focused on workforce development, existing industry, knowledge formats like town hall meetings, door to door walk abouts that put you in front of businesses and ask what would help them with their challenges, large scale community projects that put the Chamber in the position of convener and coordinator. Things that really matter and for which a Chamber is in a position to provide leadership. Look for those opportunities they ARE there.
  6. Share the Chamber’s impact story in every possible medium. “Did you know” posts on social media, something at the top of every newsletter that shares your impact or something new you are doing that is valuable to local business (NOT just a constant focus on events), go to Council meetings and stand up at public comment to share something that is going on that affects the community, write a letter to the editor or better yet negotiate an ongoing Chamber space in the local paper to tell your stories. Be visible, be vocal and be powerful. You have all of this at your disposal.
  7. Schedule one on one meetings with council members just to get to know them and hear what’s going on from them. You may already have a strong relationship with them, if so, then it’s time to strengthen the relationship.
I completely understand this frustration. Chamber professionals frequently flow along smoothly for a while only to wake up one day and feel they are in front of the firing squad. Chamber work is not just a job; it’s personal. You are never separated from that identity. Because it’s personal it’s hard not to feel like there may have been something we could have done to avoid the current predicament. If you’ve done the soul searching and see absolutely nothing that could have brought this on, well then, leave it behind……’s time to dive deeper and find new solutions for new impact!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Silent Treatment

When is the last time you gave yourself the "silent" treatment?

Is there ever a moment in any given day where you just stop and sit in order to clear your head?

In the teachings of the Buddha he observed ‘Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night.’

I frequently tell people that my mind can be a dangerous neighborhood to walk around in. I've always been deliberate about taking silent retreats to get away from the confusion of life. It would always be great for that brief amount of time, but then I would return to "normal" life and straight back into the incessant chaos swirling around my head. I would muse over how amazing I felt when I was on retreat and why oh why can't I find that in my everyday routine. Well, that's just it, I wasn't making silence part of my routine. Taking the time every day to be silent produces incredible results. Not just verbal silence but mental silence. Finding that still place daily is a significant step toward success and your general ability to get things done! There is a rhythm and flow that occur when you give yourself the "silent" treatment routinely!

You may try to convince yourself that work is work and life is life, but there is no distinction of that in your head. In the middle of a meeting you may mentally wander to what's for dinner, wondering if your child felt better after you dropped them off at school that morning, are you going to get a raise as promised, is your phone call later today to that vendor going to go well, is your new client going to take way more time than the investment they are making.............I need to mow the grass, I need to take that webinar on Tuesday, did I take my meds?......did I mail my Mother's birthday card?........could this meeting PLEASE get to the point.......

Before you know it you have completely lost control over what's going on in there. Right then, as soon as you extricate yourself from whatever is going on at the time, it would improve immediately if you would step away and clear it out.

I have recently embraced meditation. I had dabbled in it off and on over the years with varying degrees of acceptance or cynicism depending on my stage at the time. This time I decided I would make it a habit and I have been blown away by the results. Every morning before I start my work day, I just sit quietly and clear everything out. It's remarkable and I don't see myself ever falling back on the habit.

Finding the Sounds of Silence!!
Start small; two to five minutes.
Find a place with No distractions. A quiet room, your car, a bench outside.....
Sit comfortably.
Close your eyes, breathe and focus intently on empty space.
The minute the "head talk" starts, shut it down.

It will be difficult at first. Keep at it! Some days will be easier than others so the routine is important.
Make this a non-negotiable habit EVERY day.

You are NOT Required.....
To sit on the floor in a full lotus position with your hands on your knees, to light candles and burn incense, hum or know, the stuff that some would have you associate with meditation. You don't even have to call it that. Just HUSH!!!

What happens??
Your breathing slows down.
You relax.
When you open your eyes you feel rested and refreshed.
Your concentration is improved.
There is a rhythm to your day.
You are likely to feel more happy, generous and kind.
Things seem easier even when they are challenging.

Once you have the routine down and know what to expect, you can use it to your advantage at other points during your day when you feel overwhelmed. The practice will instantly put you back on track after whatever challenge you have just experienced. You don't have to take my word for it there is a massive amount of research and science to back up the power of quieting your mind. My experience is that the habit is worth the effort. The results are unquestionable. Make time to take time and clean up the mental "neighborhood"!!


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Step Into the Sunshine, Get Out of the Shade

I've had this blog post in my head for days and then at least three posts popped up on my Face Book feed that totally aligned with my thoughts.

Is your life really such a bleak dark hole of misery that you can’t look around and find something…..even one thing that makes you feel thankful? It’s not; I KNOW it’s not. Even in my darkest most desperate moments, and I have definitely had some….. I have always been able to look around and spot the things that would brighten my way, that filled my heart with joy and that made me glad and grateful.

So why, why, WHY do we spend so much time talking and drawing others into conversations about the negative? Because it’s easy. It’s an automatic default and once we give in to it the spiral begins. If we routinely give in then it becomes our natural response to everything in our lives.

Darkness is just the absence of light. The light is always there, but we put our hand over our eyes and block it out. Our thoughts create whatever space we dwell in and those very thoughts are something we have absolute control over if we are willing to make the effort.

We can spend our time talking about terrible traffic, fear, lack, the sniffles we woke up with, pollen, riots and confusion, pouring rain, being busy and overwhelmed……..


We can spend our time noticing the sunshine, seeing beautiful patterns in the rain, being aware of the people who are doing good in the world and helping others, grateful that we have work, a home, people in our lives, just plain glad to have two arms that do the work, two legs that take us where we are going, a voice to speak with, a smile to offer others……..

Getting control over where you focus your energy and your thoughts is just like taking charge of your diet, your exercise and your direction. It’s a discipline and one that we have to stay on top of. Developing mental muscle takes work and consistency. You have to be deliberate about it. When you decide to take charge of those thoughts and shift to the bright side, just like exercise, the more you do it the better you feel. The more you do it the stronger you become. The more you do it the easier it gets because you grow comfortable with the new pattern.

Negative patterns of behavior are all around us. Reading our feeds on social media, watching or reading the news, listening to conversations around us; all are weighted on the negative side. I’m not denying the existence of challenge or negative things, but I am acknowledging our choice to dwell there or move on. Being positive often gets judged as “Polly Anna” or lacking in substance, even inauthentic. Those positive people just need to “get real”. Absolutely not…….show me a positive person and I see someone who is very intentional about where they place their energy. That’s a person who knows from experience that there is greater reward gained from taking note of the sky than in dwelling on the car that just cut them off in traffic. That’s a person who has experienced living in a negative world and CHOOSES to live differently.

All you have to do is shift, then shift again. Become aware of when you are moving into that negative space and replace it instantly with something else.  Go into active mental muscle training and start watching the light around you get brighter and brighter. Work becomes easier, relationships become easier, dealing with issues or challenging situations becomes easier……..

Give it a shot!! It’s so worth the effort and once you find that pattern and consistently live it, you won’t want to retreat to the dark side again!!



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Digital Distraction Disorder, ok I made that up but……..

I am an active user of social platforms. I believe in their remarkable ability to connect us to ideas, people and issues. But I recently found myself living on that line between something I really enjoy and compulsion or even addiction.

So in the last few hours of my three-week solitary travel adventure, I decided to "unplug" from social for two weeks. My conclusion was that I had a really unhealthy relationship, particularly with FaceBook. My self-analysis during that break revealed some truths about my obsession.

I love FaceBook. Truly.

·        It allows me to celebrate moments in the lives of people I care about; as they are happening. Even though I can’t be there, I feel that I am!

·         It gives me the opportunity to cry with and console people when they are struggling or in pain.

·         It provides a space for market research for ideas I am considering.

·         It introduces new ideas and issues to me that I might not have discovered for some time otherwise.

·         And ok, although I try not to do it too often, it lets me cry out in rage or pain or vulnerability and sends back virtual hugs and support and validation and consolation.

But......without boundaries it is absolutely a barrier to my completion of projects and other goals, taking care of myself in some pretty important ways and ultimately to my overall daily success. Then when you combine social with the other distractions, email and text it's no wonder we are constantly overwhelmed and feel like we aren't accomplishing anything.

So I don’t sit in judgement on this "disorder", but I believe that finding balance is IN order!

Recognizing the symptoms:

·         Your first thought is “I have to post this to FaceBook”, check my email and text messages.

·         Your location, your food, your thoughts, your pictures, what you’re doing…… NEED to share that somewhere, right now, while.its.happening.

·         You check in constantly because you’re afraid you might miss something. (Folks this frequently includes in the CAR and in the bathroom?? Seriously?? What have we become?)

·         You absolutely HAVE to chime in on this discussion and then continue following the thread.

·         The first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning and the last thing you do before you close them at night is “check in”, respond to everything outstanding and then tell everyone you are up or going to bed.

So the question I started seriously contemplating for myself in those last few hours on the road was……… Am I checking in on FB and email and text more than I am checking in on me?? Has the distraction become so significant that I’m missing things, moments, miracles, opportunities that will pass me by while I am sharing it with my social world? Are there things, projects, tasks even goals that I am delaying because of this “distraction disorder”? My answer was YES!!!!

So I spent two weeks in careful consideration of that relationship, established some boundaries that I believe are healthy and I’m back, here, today to begin again under that agreement with myself.
Are you a victim of “digital distraction disorder”? What are you missing or putting off because you just can’t unplug? It's a relationship just like all your other relationships to work, people, money, yourself. You have to find a healthy balance for this relationship and stop compromising yourself and your daily success. Start checking in on YOU more than you check in everywhere else!!


Friday, March 13, 2015

Lessons From Rock Climbing

So this is me scaling that rock face. The creative, music geek, NON-athletic, "I love the outdoors but on MY terms" person. To say this is NOT my thing is an understatement. Then several years ago I find myself with an Outward Bound requirement for my year in the Waccamaw American Leadership Forum (WALF). It was not an option, so I powered through 5 days in the woods, sans tents, showers or toilets, with the top leaders in our region.

Guess what?

It was one of the most profound experiences of my life! The opportunities for learning about myself presented themselves with every rock I climbed, every pass I navigated, every group rehash session, every knot I tied, and on and on.......

The lessons from the mountain were endurance and strength and recovery and stamina and courage and cooperation and communion and self-reliance and adaptability and most of all......letting go.......
That moment in this picture, captured for perpetuity, was the exact moment when a friend on the ground shouted "come on Annette, get your ass off the wall, stop clinging"!! I pushed away and made it to the top. It hurt, I was bruised and battered and crying (sobbing really), but I did it and that sense of personal achievement, the euphoria of knowing you made it through something that was very, very difficult IS empowerment.

Have YOU scaled a rock and arrived bruised and battered but in one piece knowing that you did it and absolutely NO ONE can take that away??

We shall not cease from exploration, 
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Goo Goo for Gaga.....A Few of My Favorite Things!

The Monday following the Academy Awards my social channels were a “twitter” with reactions to Lady Gaga’s performance. They ranged from incredulity to awe. I even did a little market research and asked my friends to weigh in on whether they loved it or hated it.

Some of the reactions were:
She's no Julie Andrews.
She keeps reinventing herself.
There is nothing she can't do.
Great job but the tattoos were a distraction.
She can ACTUALLY sing!
So glad she kept it simple. I was worried she would do something outrageous.

It was so much fun to read the diversity of reactions. So much so that I wanted to share a few of my own take aways from this performance that created such a stir!!

Be Audacious!

By definition the word audacious means "showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks". When LG agreed to do this performance there was certainly risk because I mean, really, she was going to sing some of the most beloved repertoire in American music history. Not only that, but she was the segue to Julie Andrews for goodness sake. That's like introducing the Queen or something. But it was obviously a risk worth taking. It was bold and she took it on with the same passion she has approached everything in her career.

In business or in life, what risks have you taken lately? Are you stuck in the same old rut? Are you comfortable staying where you are or are you willing to make a surprising, bold move? What would it take for you to be audacious???  

Be Surprising.

I said surprising, not shocking. We all know that LG can be shocking, but in the case of this performance she was delightfully surprising. We sat still for 5 minutes waiting for it and it never came. Maybe THAT was her "shock" for the evening. So why would you settle for being formulaic when you can be surprising. Just when someone thinks they have you or your organization figured out that's the time to step out and shine in a new and brilliant way. Have them watching you closely just wondering what you will surprise them with next!

Be Authentic.

Let's talk about tattoos. LG has loads of them. Anyone who has followed her work has seen the tats. A lot of the reactions I heard were complimentary and then.........but those tattoos. Well, they are a part of her right? She made a commitment to making them part of her appearance. She is certainly not ashamed about that choice. If she was afraid of who she is then the gown would have not only been tasteful (which it was), but would have covered the skin art. So she combined both in an effort that was at the same time tasteful AND real. It worked!!

What are you covering up because you are afraid others might not accept you? What are the things about your work or your organization that you fear may be perceived as flaws? Take a long look. If you are trying to cover up because you are concerned about acceptance then maybe there are things that need to be revised or changed. First know who you are and then BE who you are!!

Embrace Challenge.

LG is actually so much more than what people know. She studied classical piano, did musical theatre in high school, went to NYU to continue that study, is an accomplished song writer. But this. This was a challenge that not every singer, even of such star magnitude or ability, would ever agree to take on. Once having accepted the challenge she studied every day with a vocal coach for six months in preparation for the event. She took the challenge, owned her capacity for the performance and then applied herself with will, determination and hard work. She didn't work hard to BE Julie Andrews (NO ONE could do that). But she did take on the challenge to offer the best possible version of herself in a unique opportunity to pay tribute to an industry icon.

When you are presented with something that will stretch you professionally, first understand your capacity, then understand the relevance of the challenge, then know that you are able to expand into the challenge and grow from the experience. Be ready to say "challenge accepted"!

Use Your Influence.

So let's talk about marketing genius. LG is 28 years old and she has created a brand that everyone knows. That is pretty darn remarkable. Now let's talk about the fact that she has recently paired her brand with the iconic balladeer Tony Bennett to bring standards to her fan base. And NOW she has used her brand influence to showcase a genre to a generation that might care less about the living art that is American musical theater. There were a lot of reactions that included the notion that she was "reinventing" herself with this performance. It seems to me more a case of having "invented" a brand that is so strong that it has created a space for her to emerge fully and completely as who she is AND a brand that is so recognizable that it allows her to bring musical diversity into her circle of influence!! 

When is the last time you reflected on your brand and just what opportunities you may have to influence a group that wouldn't know otherwise. What do others look to you for and how could you use that space to introduce something new or innovative or important to a group that might not otherwise listen? Have you created a solid space in your circle of influence that allows you, your business or your organization to become or BE exactly who you wish to be? 

I am a classically trained singer. That was my career for 18 years. I am a lover of all music from Monteverdi to Motown and happen to be a big Lady Gaga fan. All that aside, I am a HUGE fan of people who are willing to be themselves, to take risks and to present a passion for their work that is unapologetic and palpable.

Bravissimo Gaga! Thanks for the business and life tips!! 
Keep on climbing mountains and fording streams!!!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Membership Monday, March 2, 2015

Membership Monday! Your weekly tip for living the life of a membership management professional!!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

How's your heart??

My "space" for February has been heart. It's been a wonderful month of exploring just what that space means to me. I have learned and observed a lot about "heart" in work, in relationships, in my life and most importantly when I look in my mirror. That look, the one in the mirror, is one that most of us avoid at all costs. Because I find myself at a time when it is just me most days, I have forced myself to look in that mirror more than I ever have and I have decided I like what I see. 
That girl has heart!! 
My sister recently took a new head shot for me; it is my current profile picture. I had a really quiet moment when she shared it on Facebook. Honestly, it took my breath away. 
Because I recognized her! I actually, finally, KNEW the girl in that picture. She's strong and confident. She believes in the best in people and in herself. She has been vulnerable and survived. She has loved and lost and revels in the lessons and memories of both. She is living in this moment, now, but she has complete confidence in the path she is on to the future. She believes in her gifts and celebrates the gifts of others. She has absolutely no fear. She has seen success and failure. Neither slows her down. She works hard and believes in her ability to help others through her work. She has amazing family and friends. She is on an adventurous journey and loving every minute of it. She laughs and she cries. She is blessed and grateful. 
She is human and owns it. 
She is real and not ashamed.
Who are YOU? Do you recognize yourself when you look in the mirror? Until you do, no one else will. On this last day of February, how do you find your heart??

Monday, February 23, 2015

Membership Monday February 23, 2015

Your weekly tip for living the life of a Membership Management Professional!!

Friday, February 20, 2015

It’s not for you, it’s for your community!

(re-posted from February 4, 2014)

Our travel experiences over the last two months have taught us many things. They have opened our eyes to the many gifts that are given on behalf of community and sustainable growth and how closely linked the success of these endeavors is to the individuals engaged in the process. We had the opportunity to be surprised, yet again, by one of those very individuals last week in Kenya.

We took a bucket list vacation to Kenya and the Masai Mara Reserve. Our safari driver and guide was Tom Ogilo. He was an amazing guide; very knowledgeable and informative about our surroundings, the wildlife, their environment and habits. But, when we had time to just sit and talk, what we discovered about Tom was that he is, at the very core, a benevolent entrepreneur.

Tom is a Luo from the small village of Abimbo in Kenya near the edge of Lake Victoria and the Tanzania and Uganda borders. His heart became entangled with the problems that arose from an epic AIDS crisis in his village. He saw a community that was deprived of whole families. A community filled with single Mothers and orphans. A community that needed a plan. Tom could have just lived in Nairobi and left this little town to it’s own devices. He chose instead to invest; his time, his intelligence, his business acumen AND his finances. He decided to invest in the sustainable growth of a community into a future that he sees as very hopeful.

Tom is building on the innate capacity of this community. They had come to depend on what the government provided them and he was determined to show them there was more to their future than that limited dependence. He sought to help them develop skills that could be used to provide for their needs and once the needs were met the surplus would ultimately provide a source for revenue that would sustain them. He has installed water systems that they can tap into, but they have to do that work themselves. He has purchased seeds for planting and developing an agriculture industry for them, but they have to do the work of planting, nurturing and harvesting. He is now looking into a press for turning seeds to oil using native grown nuts and seeds and producing again for their own sustenance and for a product to be sold. We have brought back that task with us; locating a press that he can purchase for the village.

The dictionary definition of entrepreneur is this: “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so”. No one asked Tom to do this, but he is compelled to make a difference for his people. To have them stand on their own and to have the children see a promising future. So you see how I would be drawn to the similarities. You are doing this in your pursuits for business every day through the work of Chambers of Commerce. It’s not for you, it’s for your people. You take risks, you have vision, you pursue development for the greater good, you work to empower others to take ownership of their destiny. You aren't that different from Tom, although your resources are far greater. In all my years in this business it is THIS that I am so fundamentally attached to. It is the need of people to make the world a better place by giving and working and always without seeking personal glorification and often with the knowledge that no one will even know it is we who started the movement in the first place!

We have decided to send Tom a contribution to help him reach his goals; to honor his efforts and to try to make a little passionate difference of our own. If you want to help us in some small way please let us know and we will connect you with Tom. Even a very small investment in the work he has started will go a long way toward the ultimate sustainability of this small community. And ultimately…….an investment in passionate, benevolent entrepreneurs is an investment in a bright future for the world.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015


My Mother will tell you that I was a ridiculously inquisitive child. The phone would ring, I would listen intently to her side of the conversation; the call would end and the inquisition would begin. A six year old Annette would say “Who was that? What did they want? Are you going to do it? Why?” Why, why, why. I always have to ask why, I always have, and that’s not going to change. Unless I know why then how can I possibly know what comes next?

If you aren't questioning things then do you really know what you believe or what’s behind your actions? If you can’t answer why then how can you expect others to understand and believe in you or what you do?

In business, in our personal lives, in our interactions with complete strangers. What motivates you, what do you believe what is the answer to your questions of why?

I am a huge fan of Simon Sinek and recommend his Start With Why to everyone. Sinek says “people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it!” If you don’t believe or understand your inspiration, motivation or need to do something then you can hardly expect anyone else to be eager to join you.

Before you begin a project.
Before you take on new volunteer work.
Before you make a significant life change.
Before you open a new business.
Before you enter a conversation with someone in the hope of engaging them with “what” you need, want or ask.
Before going into a meeting.
Before dealing with conflict or potential conflict.
Before walking out your front door to greet the new day.

Ask yourself why and make absolutely sure you can answer the question. Then when entering any of those situations listed above or others make sure that you can answer the question why with “because I……. or I believe……”.  If you can’t provide the answer then there is more work to do on your part.

One three letter word with incredible power. One three letter word that will make the difference in your ability to lead or to find resolution. One three letter word that will provide the foundation for you to really succeed.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Snowed Under?

I'm home today and like much of the country waiting for the snow storm. It's always been amazing to me that something so light and clean and beautiful can literally bring a community to a complete halt. It comes down slowly and delicately or swiftly and fiercely. I lived in Rochester, NY back in the day. I got up and went to class early one morning and when I got out of class my car was completely buried under snow. The southern girl in me was totally unprepared, no shovels or sand in the car, no experience dealing with suddenly being dumped with feet of snow. I panicked; I was literally snowed under and didn't know what to do. I figured it out of course and thinking about that experience today reminded me of what it feels like to be figuratively "snowed under". It is something we frequently experience and for which we are often unprepared. It may be from beautiful things in our life or fierce ones, but either way we are buried and looking for a way out from under the weight and burden of that storm. These circumstances can indeed bring us to a complete halt! So, if a storm comes your way and you are suddenly buried and unprepared there IS a way out. Stay warm with feelings of gratitude and the love in your life, look for the tools you need to dig through and remember that the world is still moving around you and the sun will indeed shine through and clear the remains of the storm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Does Business Have a Heart??

It's the month of warm fuzzies. It's the month that all the cynics in the world soften up a little and "allow" us to be occasionally mushy. But I'm spending time this month not on the romantic notion of "heart" and not on the word "love" but on allied heart words like....


Is there room in the hard work world for these soft words?  Is it unrealistic to believe that a person who is driving a hard bargain, negotiating a huge deal, advocating for a major issue can also exhibit "heart" words?

Absolutely NOT!!

In fact, I think that creating a business culture that emphasizes these "heart" words would open up greater success, better member, employee and customer retention, smoother negotiations, new business, new opportunities.

I'm not suggesting you become weak, or unprofessional, or ineffective or a push-over. I'm just suggesting that if you have a "heart" the world becomes your oyster and your ROI will be many pearls!!

Come on lighten up........have a heart!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Engaged Listening

Every single day I am challenged because I have not been effectively listening. It’s unnecessary, it’s unproductive, and it can actually cause discord. Here’s the scene; you are there, you’re in the room, you are standing right in front of someone, you smile, you nod, but what’s going on inside your head?

·         I really need to be doing something else……
·         Is this person for real…..?
·         I know exactly what I’m going to say next, if I can just get a word in…!!!

Membership organizations are struggling to provide relevance that will keep their members engaged in whatever way is valuable to them. Each member is different. Each member has a different voice. Each member WANTS TO BE HEARD. If we come at them insistent on telling them what WE do, then how do we expect to hear what they NEED?

In the race relevance, I submit to you that your best shot is to reverse that scene above. Walk into the room and DELETE everything you THINK you should say; silence the conversation in your head. 

Engage in a personal visit or a personal phone call with this platform:
·         I’m coming to you to see how you are.
·         What is it that you need to succeed?
·         What is keeping you up at night?

Ask the question and then SHUT UP and LISTEN. Engaging in listening WILL tell you exactly how you can be relevant to your members or clients.

Listening is an art and one that MUST be incorporated into your organizational culture. The words SILENT and LISTEN have the very same letters. You have to BE silent in order to LISTEN so it’s time to hush strategically and see the instant benefit for your organization AND for your partners!!

Shhhhhhh…….. J