By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
“I don’t have time.”
“Our organization doesn’t have a budget for that.”
“It’s too far away.”
These are some of the common reasons professionals in any industry give for not attending conferences.
Here are a few other reasons, which may not be as readily admitted:
“I’m an introvert and these events are out of my comfort zone.”
“I get overwhelmed with all the things shared at these events.”
“I/my organization isn’t in the same league as many who attend these.”
I am telling you that none of these excuses is good enough!
If you want to lead your organization successfully, here are my three pieces of advice:
Develop a growth mindset. Believe that talent and intelligence (and YOU) can grow with practice, effort, and experience. People with growth mindsets embrace challenges and view them as opportunities to grow. They work hard to develop and improve skills and abilities.
You can keep doing what has always been done at your organization and perhaps hold steady on revenue, retention, or whatever factors your business operates under, and for some that may be a win. But hopefully you aren’t one of those people who accepts “good enough.” Instead, start asking yourself, “How can we get better at what we do? How can we better serve our clients? How can we have a greater impact?” Ask questions, listen to others, seek out opportunities, attend conferences!
Reframe. This word has had a great impact on me, and I use it frequently in both personal and professional situations. You’ve probably learned the importance of “framing” issues, but I challenge you to spend more time “reframing.” This simply means looking at something through a different lens or perspective, playing Devil’s advocate in saying “but what if we did it this way,” etc.
This has been especially useful to me when I struggle to see the benefit of something, am challenged by something, or simply don’t understand something. It doesn’t come naturally for most of us, as we tend to lock in our first thought or reaction. We need to focus on reframing, but it is worth the time and effort. Whatever the first thing that pops into your mind for any given issue, acknowledge it, then try reframing.
Examples: Reframe “I don’t have time” to “what a great opportunity for me to work in a different environment and get advice from my peers.” Reframe “It’s too far away” to “what a great opportunity for me to explore and get ideas from other communities on the way” or “what a great opportunity for me to invite John to rideshare so we can talk shop the entire drive and I can get an abundance of one-to-one advice.” Reframe “I’m not in the same league as many of the people who attend these” to “what a great opportunity to learn and grow from those I admire.”
Step outside of your comfort zone. I saved the most important one for last. I first heard this statement more than 20 years ago and have repeated it hundreds of times since: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. You can sit on the sidelines and watch all the amazing things happening around you, the successes being realized by other people or other Chambers, the relationships being formed, or you can challenge yourself to grow and improve.
This may not be easy. I get it! I am an introvert! People exhaust me. I would always prefer to go home than to gather with a large group of people. But I also want our organization to be a shining star in our community, and I know I can’t accomplish that if I don’t get outside my comfort zone every single day.
Start by simply attending a conference. If you are an extreme introvert, sit quietly in the back by someone you already know and don’t actively participate if that’s too much. Just attend. You will still learn something, and it will be worth your investment of time and money.
Next time, sit further up by someone you don’t know, introduce yourself, strike up conversations. Now you will learn from the presenter as well as those you are conversing with, and you will be forming relationships.
Magically, every time you push the boundary of your comfort zone, it doesn’t snap back, but keeps expanding. Before you know it, you are doing things you never thought you’d be doing, you will have grown tremendously, and you will be sharing your experiences and advice with others to help them grow as well.
Larson Insurance is an independent insurance agency in the West Central Minnesota Lakes Area. It has been serving the area for over 40 years with a major dedication to customer service. Minnesota insurance services it offers include auto, businesses, farm, health, home, life, pet health, and more. It carries Auto-Owners, Allied, BlueCross Blue Shield of MN, IMT, Medica, NAU Country, North Star Mutual, Progressive, Ram Mutual, SECURA, and West Bend Insurances.
By Tyler Notch, President, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
Constant improvement is the most common term I hear when discussing my 2023 theme of Better Than Yesterday. However, I feel Better than Yesterday is a theme that can be used in a variety of diverse ways to bring focus to overall growth among a community of people.
For example, I recently spoke at the Creative Touch Boutique ribbon cutting and got to witness a crowd of close to 50 community members gather to support a local business open its doors. To take that even further, throughout the speeches during the ribbon cutting, there was no shortage of thank you’ s given to local contractors, businesses and individuals that helped make that dream a reality.
Moments like this give us an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come as a community over the last few years. Three years ago, our world was at a standstill, and we had no idea when we were going to be able to bounce back and start living our lives again. Fast forward to today and we are not just living, we are thriving as a community.
There are plenty of examples of communities that have not been able to rebound after what COVID put us through, but our community of Alexandria is a shining example of how we are able to persevere together, collaborate to support each other’s dreams and come out stronger on the other side.
I recently read an article from the Penn State Extension about a study done in 1986 by David McMillan and David Chavis. This study looked at the four factors that consistently showed up as attributes that we all look for in a good community. Those four factors are listed below.
How do you feel Alexandria and our surrounding lakes area communities are doing in these four aspects?
To me, we are providing our community members with opportunities to have each one of those needs fulfilled in one way or another. Sure, we have plenty to work on as a community but when you look at how we’ve been able to learn about the needs of each other and our community over the course of the last three plus years, we are building upon a foundation that continues to make us one of the best areas to live, work, play and prosper.
A lot of this foundation is built upon the collaboration we see among our community. Specifically, since the COVID era, I have seen more “shop local” focus in our community. Whether it’s buying that new pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on, trying some local cuisine or building a new building and choosing to use local contractors, builders, etc. that collaboration and focus on supporting each other has been the main reason we’ve become stronger as a community.
As we move forward through 2023 my challenge for all of you is to continue building upon the foundation, we’ve set for ourselves over the last few years. Use the theme of “Better Than Yesterday” as a source for your future but also a reminder to look back at how far we’ve come together.
We have a world ahead of us that will present all of us with challenges, obstacles, and difficulties, but if we lean on each other and focus on collaborating, we can build our community to be even better than it was yesterday.
Copper Trail Brewing Co. opened in 2016 in a small storefront and later moved to downtown Alexandria. It became the fifth brewery in Alexandria's history - 70 years after the fourth closed its door. It offers different craft brews on tap from sours and ciders to IPAs and stouts and more. In 2022 it added 205 Grill, a collaboration with Pike and Pint Grill, and offers a variety of poke bowls, soups, salads, tacos, sandwiches, and more.