Is the Chamber of Commerce irrelevant?

We often talk on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about the importance of social networking. How getting to know other business owners in your area can help your business grow. However what I have noticed is very few lawn care business owners I have talked to are members of their local Chamber of Commerce. A few had brought up in the past that they joined the group but ultimately left it. Either it didn’t perform the function they were looking for or they just didn’t have the time.

Chamber of Commerce

Chamber of Commerce

But why are new business owners not turning to this organization to learn about business and grow? There are probably a multitude of reasons but I think the biggie is price! Let me jump to a discussion I was having with a business owner from England who summed his view on such organizations when he wrote “I am looking at the local business link organizations, there are others but their fees are prohibitive for me at the moment. I also went along to a BNI meeting the other month and I’m still not sure what to make of them as I found them a bit clique and were more financial investment types who thought they were the muts nuts. Also think the joining price of ¬£900 is a bit of a joke!”

I felt he hit on a topic that drives me nuts. We may have a few differences in our business organizations, in the U.S. as compared to England, but here the big one is the Chamber of Commerce. I think they charge hundreds of dollars to join even when you are just getting started.

I was looking around at different Chamber of Commerce group websites to see how much they charge and I couldn’t find one that offered a price until you filled out a form that included the number of employees you have. You know when they hide the price, it’s going to be high.

I finally found the U.S. Chamber of Commerce site and the cost for the basic membership is $300!!!

It’s ludicrous. This is why I think these groups fail. They need to make the group free for new members for 1 or 2 years if you are a start up. They need to open the doors and welcome the new entrepreneurs and get them started. Teach them, get them networking and help them succeed.

Very few start ups are going to see the value in spending hundreds of dollars to join and when they do join, they don’t find the group full of other start up business owners.

Ideally I think you want to join a group and feel like the members are your brothers in arms. You want to feel you are all united in this goal of ours to see if we can make this work. You want to be around others who are experiencing ups and downs so you can feel you relate to them. Then you can share your own ups and downs with them and not feel out of place.

Ultimately I think it’s this kind of frustration that leads to the creation of business forums such as the Gopher Forum. Where there is no fee to join and you can read and learn or simply vent.

It’s a shame too because the Chamber of Commerce turns it’s back on those it should be welcoming and ultimately makes itself irrelevant. When the world finds itself in a situation where the economy is in the dumps, it is the small business that has the power to turn things around. Ideally it should be the Chambers of Commerce that should nurture small business. I don’t think it has a chance to accomplish this goal with a $300 a year minimum fee. Thank god libraries¬† don’t charge a fee to join and get a library card or we would all be illiterate!

What’s your view on this? Let me know in this post on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

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