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Rethinking business education events


December 14, 2019


Ironwood — The purpose of a chamber of commerce is to provide resources that will help members improve at what they do — but there needs to be interest and participation.

Business box lunches and the occasional professional event are all part of producing quality learning experiences that would benefit individual business owners, said Michael Meyer, director of the Ironwood Area Chamber of Commerce. The idea is to create a social networking experience among business owners with an expert speaker or brief class, he said.

“But when the same 10 to 15 people show all the time then it’s not cost effective,” Meyer said. “So we stopped doing that this year.”

The business box lunch events were great but it’s time to rethink how to approach chamber business education, he said. A group will meet over winter to think up what people will see as beneficial enough to attend something, he said.

“January is a re-thinking time about what we’re going to be doing in the year coming up,” Meyer said. “It’s a thinking time for everybody, with the new year and making resolutions.”

It’s time to think differently about how to approach things, he said. Perhaps the group will have a plan to improve the value of business education and how to do better outreach to the members, he said.

The business box lunches brought in speakers on topics ranging from building websites and social media and marketing to cyber and physical security. Other specialists talked about the importance of good customer service and its impact on the perception of the community by visitors.

The noon events work for some but don’t tend to bring in new people, he said. Evening events are also not heavilly attended by business owners, managers and staff who don’t find the end of the day a time turn on the brain, he said.

“People are not ready to think and engage when they’re tired,” Meyer said. “It might be nice to have something on Saturday morning when not all the businesses are open, or perhaps try monthly programs during the summer.”

There are some who like the idea of mixing activities such as a skating lunch or something outdoors, he said. Something will have to click to make it worth-while to bring in a speaker, he said.

“We have to have people wanting to learn and if they see no reason to change or feel it doesn’t benefit them then they won’t show up,” Meyer said.

The business department at Gogebic Community College has had success with developing leadership forums and one-day professional development courses, he said. The chamber doesn’t want to replicate those events but rather would provide a less formal and less intensive learning experience.

Beth Seiger put in a lot of time and effort with developing the leadership forums at Gogebic Community College, Meyer said.

“I sat on a few of the committees and saw the effort that she put in to that and the experience she has doing it,” he said.

There again it’s about business owners and professionals participating in a program provided by grants or subsidized business education, he said. Part of the process is determining the want or need for that type of inspiration or knowledge, he said.

“It’s a difficult thing to try to do in a smaller community,” Meyer said. “We will talk about what to try what we can do.”

There is enough new people in larger population centers that events will almost always find the percentage of general interest to hold new or repeat business education events, he said. With a smaller community the process is about identifying areas of need and building interest among people to attend.

For more information contact the chamber at 906-932-1122.


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