By Gerry Garcia:   I spent a moment remembering an article I read in 2015 by David Larson of the Pleasant Grove Chamber of Commerce that gave six reasons a business owner should join its local Chamber of Commerce, and during this pandemic, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the reasons and see how the McAllen Chamber has instilled the changes we’ve had to adapt to make it work.  And even though you might feel you are already busy with work, these six reasons give great benefits not only to your business but to your personal life as well. 

1. Relationships The article mentions how building relationships is not only about networking but about actually gaining friends, associates, and advocates. Not only will you gain friends, but you could gain lasting relationships. As you go on in the Chamber world, when our lives adapt to a new normal or return to our old attending meetings and events, you could interact with new people of different types who could improve your relationship making skills, which can also help you throughout your personal life.  Even when you interact with people in Zoom meetings, or on iPhone FaceTime or Google Duo, Instagram Direct Video, or WhatsApp you can get a better idea and “feel” for the people you are meeting.

2. Visibility Nothing is better for your business than being seen in person. Even with the situation our world is in with the pandemic, the McAllen Chamber continues to offer plenty of opportunities through Zoom meetings. You sometimes might feel you are not in the “swing of things” or feel left out because you do not have the visibility required to build relationships and business contacts. And although you might be active in the internet world, nothing gives you better potential than visible contacts. People are more likely to buy from someone they know so when they are looking for your product or service, they will contact the person they have had the opportunity to get to know at a Chamber business or social event, for example. The Chamber’s membership department offers virtual business power networks, orientations for new members, and other meetings as well. The Chamber Ambassadors also continue to meet through Zoom and participate in Chamber Curbside Pickup or Drive-thrus with Chamber member restaurants.  

3. Promotion Chamber members are eligible to participate in many advertising promotions.  Members can advertise in the Chamber’s monthly Newsletter Magazine, the yearly Chamber Magazine, or through our Visitors Guide for restaurants and hotels.  Some members can participate as a sponsor in many events offered by the Chamber. The Chamber is working on reorganizing many events so that members can decide if they would like to sponsor an event or program.  Currently, the Chamber is offering a general sponsor package to three members at a time. This advertising opportunity will give three non-competitive sponsors a three-month advertising sponsorship for an introductory low-cost promotion.  There are also non-payment methods a member can use to advertise for free with the Chamber.  Members are added to our database, of course, so anyone asking for information about a certain business will receive your information.  Virtual Business Power Networks are free, members can send us an email with anything they would like to promote about their business and we will add it to our Facebook page and Twitter, and website Member Briefs are absolutely free as well.  These are great free ways to advertise your company.  We will always share member news with our community.

4. Community connection  Another great way the Chamber works for our community is to lift our economy by working closely with our legislative partners and representatives so when our voice needs to be heard, it will.  The Chamber will also work to make sure we express our local legislative policy questions directly to our legislators to make sure that our business community is not missed or harmed.  And big businesses must be excellent “corporate sponsors.”  They must not think they are too big to be a part of the local economy and too big to need its local chamber of commerce, and the small business community expects the big corporations to be good community partners.  Some big corporate businesses have mentioned to me that they are so busy they do not need the Chamber as a partner, but I tell them, “Since you’re so busy and successful, you must make time to be a good corporate sponsor to make sure other businesses in our community can become as successful as you by helping your local chamber of commerce make sure those businesses get a chance.”  And they usually do join to help our local economy remain successful.

5. Ongoing training & education The Chamber has begun to plan our next business seminar trainings through Zoom.  It will run like the “Lunch & Learn” Business Seminars where members can attend for a low cost to learn the latest in technology, social media, sales expertise, and customer service all through other local chamber member experts or trainers who would like to help the Chamber help local businesses get a great low-budget training experience. The McAllen Chamber also stays on top of the latest in training to offer experts to our members.  

6. Programs and events  If your business has been a McAllen Chamber member for some time, you should know the programs and events the Chamber provides.  The Chamber made a list of every single program and event it offers and came up with a list of 88 things it offers its members.  Before the pandemic, the Chamber staff spent so much time organizing, planning, and holding events for the community, for visitors, and for businesses to gain relationships.  These events included business trainings, power networks, the wine classic, ribbon cuttings, golf tournament, networking events, awards banquets, BBQ Cook-off, and many others all to help you build your business and community service. As we take time for the pandemic to become a thing of the past, we are looking for ways to reinvent or modify how we can still offer the many great ways to stimulate not only your business-to-business commerce but your business-to-community relationships as well.  

Build your credibility with the Chamber, but most importantly, participate.  You will not only receive the great benefits of joining but you must also participate to get the most out of being a Chamber member.  Take advantage of the advertising opportunities, meeting new people, serving the community –  it’s all up to you.