If Being Involved Leads to Business, How Involved Should I Be?

“You’ve got to be in it to win it.” May actually be bad advice.  This will require some explaining.

Here’s the Problem

There are advisors who join the Chamber or a local community organization, stop there and wonder why they aren’t getting any business.  During live trainings I would ask “How many of you have joined a Chamber of Commerce?”  Many hands go up.  Then I ask: “Who has gotten a really big piece of business through their Chamber involvement?”  Maybe one hand goes up.

Here’s the problem:  There are advisors who feel the act of joining is the criteria for getting business.  They’ve seen movies where the flight attendant rushes down the aisle of the aircraft asking: “Can anyone fly a plane?”  They’ve seen other movies where a Broadway play suddenly stops and a disembodied voice asks; “Is there a doctor in the house?”  Put another way, they think business comes to you.

Community involvement is about meeting people and raising your visibility.    How fast it happens and the return you get often depends on your level of involvement.  As a Chamber official once explained: “You get out of the Chamber what you put in.”  Restating it differently, if you join and never attend anything, why would you expect to get any business?

What Does Involvement Mean?

There are usually five tiers to involvement in a local community organization:

1. General membership.  This is the entry level.  You pay the annual membership dues.  This allows you to show up at meetings and events.

Involvement:  Attend as many events as you can.  Make it a point to meet six new people.  Sayn hello to people you met previously.  If there is a formal program, ask intelligent questions, identifying yourself by name and professional affiliation. (Why you are qualified to have an opinion.)

2. Committees.  Now the time commitment increases.  You join with the intent of making a difference through the skills you bring to the table.  Your successes get you noticed.  You get closer to people because you are in a small group, meeting more often.

Involvement:  Pick a committee that showcases your strengths.  Membership and fundraising are forms of sales.  The investment committee might be a good fit, but check if your firm has rules about that committee.

3. Chair a committee.  You’ve avoided joining a committee where you are the only member!  Over time, you’ve learned about the issues, gotten to know the major players and thought up a strategy to get results.  You might be approached to chair, once the higher ups see you are willing to make an effort.

Involvement:  Membership and fundraising put you on the revenue side of the equation.  Many in organizations can think of many ways to spend money, but don’t know how to bring it in.  Suddenly you are a star when you report at regular meetings.

4. Board membership.  Your committee chair position might have brought you onto the board.  Maybe not.  At some point, you were tapped on the shoulder and sounded out about being a director.  Your workload has been steadily increasing, but now you are among the movers and shakers, the people who know everyone.

Involvement:  You may be adding board meetings to your list of committee meetings, but you might have shed those and become a board member at large.  Ideally you are still connected to the revenue side of the equation.  Your fellow board members should be community leaders.

5.The executive committee.  There is a board within the board.  It’s often the elected officers, maybe one or two key committee heads.  Often this small group makes the big decisions, then puts it before the board for approval.

Involvement:  It’s not much more time.  Sometimes the Executive Committee meets an hour before the board meeting.  It might be on a different day.  By now, you have become indispensable and are representing the organization in the community, as an ambassador.  You should also know key players who can provide introductions to almost anyone.

You might wonder if it’s worth the effort.  First of all, you are giving back to the community.  You are affiliated with an organization with a positive image.  People get to know you as a successful professional who gives back.  You get to know the influencers, people who get things done.  You may get invited to their homes and parties.  You might choose the right moment to bring up business with certain individuals, but they should also start approaching you.

Related: How to Ask Clients for More Money