Creating Connections for Success: Chamber Focusing on Interactions

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Today’s business environment is more fluid than ever. As Rupert Murdoch said, “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”

A few months ago, the Columbus Chamber began its own dramatic transformation. Its team’s goal: to move at the “speed of business.” To provide new and innovative ways in which it can support its members and help grow the Columbus Region economy.

The new chamber has an even better handle on the needs of the business community. Now, it has the structure in place to reach out to businesses with a focus on one-on-one interactions. This enables the team to better understand businesses’ needs and create connections to the people, resources, services and information they need to get to the next level.

In fact, in 2011, the chamber’s team—including professionals in member services, business development, research, workforce, advocacy and existing business solutions—conducted more than 1,500 meetings. Throughout these interactions, chamber representatives learn about opportunities and challenges facing the region’s businesses. And with this business intelligence, the team can make those all-important connections.

How are those connections translating into value for businesses? Here are a few examples.

• Knowing the Columbus Chamber’s reputation as a leader in efforts to retain educated young people in the Columbus Region, and the chamber’s experience helping connect local businesses to college students seeking internships, a local retailer sought out the chamber to consult on a nationwide internship program for associate and assistant managers. These positions are a vital pipeline for future leadership in the stores. To improve its pipeline for well-trained managers, the company expects to launch an internship program later this spring that targets students attending community colleges and other adult training programs. The chamber provided advice regarding best practices, suggestions for taking the program to scale, and thoughts on additional populations to target.

  • Recently, a new member joined the chamber. He is a Six Sigma expert who helps organizations improve their processes. He was working on projects around the country, but he wanted to increase business locally. Another member reached out to the chamber because she wanted to streamline her business’s processes, but didn’t know where to turn to find someone who could help. A chamber member services representative was able to connect the two, and they have begun a successful working relationship.
  • Sometimes an introduction is all that is needed. One of the many possible benefits of chamber membership is the opportunity to have the chamber send letters of introduction to a small, targeted prospect list on the member’s behalf. This helps the member get a foot in the door with an organization to which they might not otherwise have a strong connection. For example, one member, an insurance agency, leveraged this benefit and was able to enroll a large group because of it. Another member secured a new $30,000 contract thanks to connections created through the chamber.
  • A local manufacturer was experiencing hiring and turnover challenges. Knowing the chamber has a significant network of human resources executives to leverage for benchmarking and identifying best practices, the company requested that the chamber conduct an informal survey of employers to determine their work schedules and whether schedules have implications on talent attraction and retention. Within hours of sending the request, most of the human resources representatives contacted had responded, and the chamber compiled the information and provided it to the company for review. Based on this information, the company can adjust its scheduling to better accommodate its employees to reduce turnover and absenteeism.

The list could go on and on. And the chamber pledges to keep adding to these success stories in 2012 and beyond.

The chamber has received positive feedback about its new approach, demonstrating that regional connections can make a big difference. Whether it’s helping a company secure new business contacts, navigate local government, find the right talent for its workforce or leverage business intelligence to make strategic decisions, the chamber can help facilitate connections. Its staff members do not claim to be experts at everything, but they do know who the experts are and how to find them. There is virtually no question they cannot answer or connection they can’t make.

So what is the bottom line? The value proposition of the new Columbus Chamber is that businesses who work with this organization will be empowered with the tools and resources they need to improve and prosper.

Working together, nothing can stop this community on its quest for unprecedented economic growth.

Michael Dalby is president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber. He can be reached at (614) 225-6917 or

Reprinted from theApril 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.