Month one: The breaking in stage

July 10, 2008

This is my first month as the newly elected president of my local chamber of trade and commerce and so far, it’s been busy!

I served a year as the vice president, which in itself was a surprise as I only joined the chamber a few months before.

My initial fears when it was suggested I might step into the role was that I would be hard pushed to follow the act of our previous president. He was a member, and still is, of many, many associations, including a few he runs himself.

It was due to his association that he always had plenty to do and to report back on. He was on the steering groups for many major developments and initiatives and I was concerned that I would be much less active and therefore unable to have such influence.

Well, to put it bluntly, I was as far from the truth as could be estimated.

I may not have been busy before I became President, but I sure am now.

I would advise anyone who takes on the role of vice president in the future to get as involved as possible because you will only benefit from the head start. I became a member of thr NSIA, North Somerset Industrial Association as Vice and attended a few other meetings as both vice and representing the president himself and they helped me to meet the people I would be spending a lot more time with in the future.

So far in this first month of office I have attended roughly 8 meetings this last two weeks so far, I turned down or sent apologies to several others and will be attending many more before the month is out.

Those attended have included breakfast meetings, daytime meetings, lunches and evening seminars and awards presentations.

Had it not been for a very supportive and understanding employer, I would have missed the majority of those meetings, which may go some way towards explaining why these positions are traditionally seen as roles for the elder statesmen of business. Those who are either retired or business owners or leaders who can afford the time away from the job to commit to the role itself.

A lot of my peers are in business liaison roles or employed purely to represent an employer in the various legislative circles.

It always seemed to me to misrepresent what the chamber stood for, what it was when the leading members were all retired or from funded agencies but I can fully appreciate now why that was necessary and so common.

The other thing I have come to realise is that most meetings, regardless of subject or location , will be attended by mostly the same groups of people. Council representatives, by virtue of their job definition, will generally be the same faces. Those representing concerned industries again will attend the same meetings as other groups who are likely to be affected. You all move in similar cirles and will bump into each other frequently.

The one thing I am growing to understand is how two people can be so oppsed to one thing they almost come to blows and yet be allies in another meeting when they support the same side. No matter how fierce the battle may be, it is always respectful and professionally conducted. People respect a passionate argument and a forthright view. There is never any personal side.

My first chamber meeting as President of the Chamber comes up in 6 days.

If the nerves have anything to with it, I may be conducting it from a closed cubicle…..

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