Membership Associations in the Time of COVID-19

Before I started my business, I was the communications director for a local then for a statewide membership association. Both were invaluable experiences for me. I learned about board leadership, volunteer structure, the power and importance of bylaws and their companion standing rules or policies and procedures. And I learned about independent businesses in two different industries. All of these skills I have used in my business to help both nonprofits and businesses. When I started my consulting business, the first thing I did after getting my business license was join the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. There was a weekly networking breakfast that I attended religiously. Long after that was gone, I miss having a regular anchor appointment to anchor my week. Chambers of Commerce are the most basic business associations around. Anyone can be a member—global corporations who want to be good corporate citizens down to the independent direct sales associates. There is a Chamber serving just about every city in America. If you are considering joining an association, now is an excellent time to benefit from synergy created with other people in your geographic area or industry niche. Keep reading so you’ll know what to look for.   Align with positivity As COVID-19 stay-at-home options continue across the country, I’ve noticed two distinct paths for membership associations, including service organizations. They are either afraid to bill for dues as it seems insulting or insensitive when their members are struggling to operate or they are adding value with increased virtual opportunities for their members. Of course, adding value is the way to go! Instead of not asking for dues at all, create a payment plan so members can pay something that fits with their situation. Make that investment easy and obvious by ADDING VALUE! Hold some online networking meetings. I recently took part in the Greater San Fernando Valley’s Chamber of Commerce Thirsty Thursday event. They welcomed members from other chambers to this one-hour “speed-networking” Zoom extravaganza that they have been holding every week since the stay-at-home orders began. They were introducing new members. Wow! At a time when it’s easy to assume that businesses wouldn’t consider spending any money, the value they have been able to offer has helped them recruit members. It was such a great model Long Beach is now going to host Thirsty Thursdays as well, in addition to their Good Afternoon...
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Reset Your Vertical Clearance

As we re-set and recalibrate, watch your vertical clearance. I’m all for a full plate—literally and metaphorically. The problem for many of us is that once the plate is full, we start loading it up vertically. As it gets taller and taller, it is harder to manage, like a tower of ice cream scoops on a cone, and as filling and rich as a tall stack of pancakes. Trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 gave us a forced intermission in our lives. Even if your job continued as you worked at home, and even if you were painfully reminded why you never wanted to home-school, your social calendar was lighter. For some of us, this has been a complete timeout. Business stopped. Volunteer engagements halted. Social activity banished to virtual sessions. People post regularly on social media their wishes for a re-set on 2020. As much as there has been disappointment in my household—one child home from her semester abroad in Grenoble, France, one child’s senior year obliterated—I think THIS is the re-set. This is what a re-set looks like.   We are forced to look at things differently. We are faced with deciding what matters most. As my 88-year-old mother shared, “Six feet apart is better than six feet under.” Grim but true. We’ve slowed down. We’ve re-evaluated. That’s a good thing. I would hope that all of us consider making changes as the world opens up again. For those of us in cities experiencing social unrest, newness will rise up like a phoenix and it could be painful. It’s a different place and our perspective has been altered radically and unexpectedly.   Mind your vertical clearance Above all, don’t go back to an irrationally stacked plate. Don’t return to dizzying multi-tasking that seemed normal. I say this to myself as much as I say this to anyone. I once blew a contact off my finger with my blow-dryer because I was unconsciously multi-tasking on overdrive. There was no rational thinking in that moment, no presence of mind. Wow! I was desperately over-scheduled.   The remedy is a calendar diet Instill some portion control strategies so you don’t consume too much of what you don’t need like gorging on empty calories. Say no to things you really don’t want to commit to doing. Damn ‘duty’ and ‘shoulds’! Get on the phone or a video-chat instead of traveling so...
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The Belief Factor – Believe In Your Business or Else

Do you believe in your business? I ask this because I think it is the most important element determining your success. Do you believe in your business? Do you believe it will succeed? That it will supply a needed product or service to the marketplace? Do you believe it will support you financially (even if it won’t at first)? When you believe in your business If you think this is a silly question, that it’s obvious that every business owner must believe in his or her business, then you are lucky! Steer clear of business owners who hold expectations that others owe them. When you believe in your business, you will nurture it and guide it like it’s your child. You will pay attention to its growth and get some help when it isn’t meeting the prescribed milestones. Think about a successful business that you know. Likely the owner is passionate about its success and cares very much that it survives and thrives. This applies to founders of nonprofit organizations too—the business model is beside the point. The owner who believes does not hesitate to invest their time, effort, and money to give buoyancy to their business. These owners take responsibility for their success or failure. They figure out why something isn’t working—where’s the disconnect? The misconception? The opportunity?—then they fix it. They are clear, intentional, and deliberate. Believers ask for help from experts and then they listen and follow the advice with an objective detachment. Successful businesspeople are open for business, literally.   Believe you can and you’re halfway there.     – Theodore Roosevelt   When you don’t believe in your business I’ve encountered and even worked with people who flat out don’t believe in their businesses. I didn’t realize this fact when I agreed to work with or for them, but after 25 years as a consultant I can identify the very clear red flags. Their attitude is “never enough,” and they treat everyone like that. They say things like, “If only you would have/could have [fill in the blank].” They complain about customers, they complain about the vendors, they complain about their foiled efforts. One bad review and they explode with reasons that the criticism is not warranted! It’s self-centered and it comes across as rigid and closed off. It’s not attractive and the customers repel them instead of coming to them. They search for a...
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Open for Business

Both my husband and I are self-employed and have endured super slow cycles in our businesses as well as having almost more business than we can handle. One thing is certain for a successful business of any kind: you have to be OPEN FOR BUSINESS to get any business. Whether you have a retail establishment, offer a professional service or run a nonprofit your mentality needs to be “open for business.” You can sell more, work more, or serve more with a goal of growth. On the contrary, if you really feel like you can’t take on any more customers, clients or constituents, you or your organization will eventually become closed for business. That mentality becomes unfriendly, unwelcoming, and self-defeating. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. Sometimes executives become so fatigued they feel their only option is to stop the flow. Likely, it is time to grow and a strategy needs to be developed to accommodate that growth. A common expression in this household is, “Gotta make hay while the sun is shining!” Be grateful for what comes your way when it does and seize the good fortune. Recently my family and I were in Seattle, Washington. We were visiting the craft vendors in Pike’s Place Farmer’s Market. My daughters and I love to look at the crafts. And by “look,” I mean touch, browse, feel, ask questions, come up with our own ways to make the same thing, or appreciatively buy that which is beyond our skill set. There was one booth with some stunning scarves pinned up on a board. She incorporated satin ribbon, tassels, some sort of a silky yarn and something sparkly. I zeroed-in on a specimen of deep garnet that I thought was the prettiest and walked right up to it and touched it. Was it knitted or crocheted? She had it pinned already folded to show how it would look on your neck so I wondered what shape it was—was it a rectangle, a triangle? Where did she attach the tassels? Before I could discover any of those answers, the vendor shot around from her side of the table and asked me in a stern voice, “Where do I need to put that sign so you’d read it?” Was this the vendor yelling at me? My eyes quickly searched the display board until I saw her handwritten note: NO...
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