By Tara Bitzan, Executive Director, Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
When I first started my job as executive director of the Alexandria Chamber, it was requested by my board that I attend Institute for Organizational Management (IOM). This professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation was designed to enhance individual performance, elevate professional standards, and recognize association, chamber of commerce, and other nonprofit professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of nonprofit management. The curriculum, comprised of four week-long sessions, is taught by university professors and chamber and association industry professionals.
Because I have always been eager to learn and grow through quality training opportunities, I easily agreed with this request and I’m happy to report I just graduated from IOM this month!
One thing I learned is that the Alexandria Chamber is governed by a pretty smart board. While I came into this job with extensive knowledge of the Alexandria Lakes area, I knew basically nothing about leading a Chamber. They did their homework and knew that this program could not only help me be successful in this job, but also have a positive impact on this organization and our community.
I’ve urged many of my colleagues at Chambers around the state to attend. Sadly, their boards aren’t as smart as that of the Alexandria Chamber. Other directors have alluded to the fact that their boards don’t support the expense or the amount of time the director would need to be away from the office.
I can tell you that what I learned in the past 3.5 years from this program has already paid off for the Alexandria Chamber through substantial savings in finances and time.
That’s what good training programs do. They teach people how to do things better, be more efficient, work smarter, and improve on what’s already in place.
This message can be directed by Chamber boards, but my target audience is really all businesses and organizations of any size or make up. If you do the proper research to ensure a training or conference is reputable and is a good fit for your company or for members of your team, it will never be a waste of time or money. Investment in yourself, invest in your team, invest in your business/organization, and make sure you never stop learning.