What in the World Does a Chamber of Commerce Do?
If you walked into a crowded room and asked the question in the title of this article, what would you expect to hear?
The chamber of commerce is like the government, right?
No, it keeps track of business complaints.
No, they’re like greeters for the community. Like the Welcome Wagon.
They’re a country club for businesspeople.
They’re the people with the big scissors.
While we can see why people would say all these things about the chamber, none of those comments are exactly right. And if you’ve ever been a member of a chamber of commerce in another town, that doesn’t mean your experience there will be anything like the one you would have with your next chamber. There are a lot of misconceptions about chambers but we’re here to set the record straight and help you understand exactly what they can do for your business’ and your professional growth.
15 Common Chamber Misconceptions
There’s often some confusion around what a chamber does. That’s likely because the chamber has evolved a lot over the past decades.
How many of these popular misconceptions did you think were true about the chamber?
- The chamber is part of the government. It has no affiliation with any government agencies or elected leaders. The chamber may work closely with these groups, but they are not government funded and they are not a government program.
- The chamber is for business complaints. It may hear a lot of them and may do its best to mediate the complaints if they involve waring members, but the chamber does not track business complaints in the same way the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General do.
- The chamber is the Welcome Wagon. The chamber is very welcoming, so it makes sense that people think it is the town greeter. But that’s not a title it holds officially (and another business owns that name).
- The chamber is a business country club or business fraternity. They both are dues organizations, but the similarities end there. Chamber membership is a great investment in your business. It’s an organization that advocates for you and helps you grow professionally, in addition to being a great place to meet community-minded people.
- The chamber has big scissors. Okay, this one is true but it’s not all they do. The chamber hosts ribbon cuttings and so much more.
- The chamber is only for big businesses: Chambers support businesses of all sizes, including startups and small enterprises. Their goal is to foster a diverse and thriving business community.
- The chamber is all about networking: While networking is a significant component of what most chambers offer (because it’s what many members are looking for when they join), chambers offer much more than just social gatherings. They provide resources, advocacy, educational opportunities, and community engagement initiatives to support businesses.
- The chamber only cares about local businesses: Chambers provide resources that can benefit businesses with local and global reach, such as international trade support and market insights. National chains, franchises, start-ups, long-standing businesses, and everything in between are welcome.
- The chamber is all about the membership fees: Some may think chambers exist solely to collect membership fees. While dues contribute to funding activities, chambers are committed to delivering value that surpasses the cost of membership through various services, programs, and benefits. They also advocate on behalf of the entire business community, whether the business is paying them to do so or not.
- The chamber is old-fashioned. There is nothing old-fashioned about a successful economy. Some people underestimate the influence of chambers in shaping local policies and advocating for business-friendly regulations. Chambers leverage their collective voice to address issues that impact the business community's growth and success.
- The chamber is only for business owners: It's not uncommon for professionals who work for companies to think that chambers are only meant for business owners or CEOs. However, chambers provide valuable resources and networking opportunities for employees at all levels, helping them enhance their skills and professional connections. Plus, if your employer is a member, you are a member and can attend all chamber events and programs.
- I’ll join the chamber, attend a breakfast mixer, and increase my business revenue exponentially in the time it takes me to drink a cup of coffee. Joining a chamber of commerce doesn't always result in instant financial gains. While networking and exposure opportunities can lead to business growth, the benefits chambers offer may have more long-term impacts, such as improved community relations, professional growth, and/or industry knowledge.
- Chamber membership is all the same. Each chamber tailors its offerings to its specific community's needs. Chambers aren’t part of a national chain. They don’t offer the same services. The programs, events, and advocacy efforts of each chamber are customized to the local business environment.
- If I can’t go to events, there’s no point in joining. Networking and event attendance can be fun but it’s not the only benefit of membership.
- Chamber membership does nothing for E-Commerce or online businesses: Many chambers actively support online businesses by offering digital marketing resources, e-commerce workshops, and guidance on navigating the virtual marketplace.
So how many of those things did you think were true that turned out not to be?
A chamber of commerce is a vibrant hub that brings the business community together. It's a membership organization composed of business professionals and entrepreneurs who collaborate to boost the economic and civic well-being of the community. Whether you're running a startup, leading a well-established enterprise, or just stepping into the business world, your local chamber is a partner in your success.
Christina Metcalf is a writer/ghostwriter who believes in the power of story. She works with small businesses, chambers of commerce, and business professionals who want to make an impression and grow a loyal customer/member base.