During my tenure as CEO of one of Pinellas County’s largest chambers of commerce, I am often asked by business owners why there are so many business organizations. They frequently seem to meet the same needs and the cost and time to join them all is unrealistic. Wouldn’t consolidating the organizations that are duplicative help us to be better served and create stronger groups?
Lately these questions seem to resonate with me more and more. For 10 years, I have had conversations with leaders who belong to multiple business associations across our Tampa Bay region. This could be a chamber of commerce, a merchant association and/or a vertical line association. As a model, we see local municipal services utilizing consolidation and outsourcing efforts in order to reduce inefficiency and cost. Some examples I have seen are small understaffed police departments shifting their responsibilities to county sheriff’s or cities outsourcing garbage collection. These examples show us another way we can fulfill our mission to serve the business community by putting their best interests first.
A more coherent and effective organization are just two positive outcomes of a successful consolidation. In turn, they are better able to serve the business community. When chambers of commerce work collaboratively, the members can benefit from the strength in numbers and additional resources. Advocacy, economic development and networking opportunities are multiplied which also increases the effectiveness of the organization. The need to pick and choose one group over another no longer exists, and the business owners are now able to engage in the stronger offerings of a cohesive business community.
The landscape for business has dramatically changed over the last decade. In 2018, total engagement at all times is a must. The focus on ROI is stronger than ever. Resources are becoming scarcer. We live in an ever-changing environment as it relates to communication and how our membership receives and interprets the messaging. In a consolidated business organization, the customer messaging is streamlined and therefore is more effective and engagement rises. Over half of Americans own or work for a small business; yet most small businesses do not survive past four years.
As associations whose mission it is to help create consumer-to-member transactions, and to support the economy in which our businesses reside, we need to continue moving in the direction of streamlining, eliminate the redundancy and fortify the offerings we have.
Now is the time as leaders to be an agent of change and stand true to the missions we work tirelessly for. Now is the time to help the business community have a stronger, more united business voice through our associations.
Let’s think of who we represent and work for and give our economic community less options — but stronger options. Our business community should continue to ask for fewer options.
Consolidation of business associations means what to businesses? It means more time, more resources, less choices, a louder voice, and being a member of a more cohesive group.
Now is the time for consolidation.
Robin Miller is the CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.
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