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From the Desk of the CEO Jill Raycroft

Here we are just days away from Christmas and saying good-bye to 2018...  in case you don't read through to the end, let me start this week's "message" with my best wishes for you and yours through the holiday season and a heartfelt thank you for your continued support.  It's been a great year and you've been a part of making that happen!

We had our annual Jingle Mingle this Monday - graciously hosted by Shorelines Casino - and enjoyed the company of at least 80 of our members. If that number intrigues you, let me also tell you that we have new and different people coming every time.  And, during every event, at least two people will tell me about the new connection they've made or old acquaintance they've renewed.  It is an awesome feeling to know the Chamber is helping to make this happen. 

Last week, I talked about how the Chamber works at being "the Voice of Business" as your representative at all levels of government and within our community.  The other cornerstone of our mandate is to "connect" you to each other. I appreciate the small town feel of Belleville, how friendly people are and the way it seems everyone knows everyone but I am also reminded it's only been the last few years it has been like that for me.  The last couple of years with the Chamber have nurtured relationships and made me feel a part of this community.  And when I look back at old newsletters or talk to people who've been members a long time - that's why they say they joined.  They wanted to meet people and the Chamber was the way to do it.

Our mingles are the most obvious way to make this happen but I also understand walking into a room where you aren't sure who you'll know can be intimidating and even overwhelming.  It happened to me a couple of weeks ago, walking in to an Ontario Chamber event.  It was a closed/private function where we were going to have access to key government personnel and this was "connecting" on a whole new scale.  I was excited to be there and just a little bit curious about how the provincial chamber hosts an event.  As a Chamber Network representative of the OCC Board - I was attending as a Board Member - but without a "job" to do other than meet people, I felt pretty lost.  I gravitated to someone I recognized and ended up having good conversations with a few people but it left me wondering how we might make it easier at our events for people to start a conversation with someone new.

We do a few things already I believe help - the name tags are a must...  and if it's your first time at a mingle, you can wear a "newbie" sticker that signals our Board members and membership ambassadors to reach out, greet you and see if there is someone else you'd like to meet.

The business card draw for some pretty nice prizes is another opportunity we've created for the "winner" to come up and introduce themselves and tell everyone about their business.  I know some people hate the idea of getting up there but it's an introduction to the room and if someone likes what they're saying, they seek them out.  I also love the serendipity or karma that seems to play out with those draws - almost like we handpick the newest member in the room, or a first-timer, or two competitors back to back.  

Moving into 2019, we've been working on a Member 101 session to help you know more about what we do - in theory, for new members - but we also have new representatives who've essentially inherited the membership and don't really know what we're all about.

I've also come to realize the Chamber is a great connection to leaders of the community.  In fact, some Chambers set their rates based on how close they can get their members to certain people.  Of course, that wouldn't fly here because our MP, MPP and Mayor emphatically apply the concept of open door policies.  But our breakfasts with them and their attendance at our events is meaningful and important and fulfills part of our mandate to connect you to them.

In the past couple of months, I've also been asked AND been able to connect individual businesses owners to each other...  and that's when membership really has its advantages.  

If you're not sure about how that can work or have resisted attending an event because you're not sure who you'll know, please reach out - we'll welcome you with open arms!  Rosi is always at the door and easy to spot and our events are also open for your team/staff to join you!  We had a great time meeting some of the team from Donini at our last mingle - magicians that they are!  I've also had inquiries from other members wondering whether they can bring their people along...  to that, I say, "Please, do!"

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday and look forward to seeing you in 2019!