What I learned from being on the board of my local Chamber of Commerce
I write this post on the last day of my 4 year term on the board of directors of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. I joined this board when I was 23 years old. At the time, I owned several businesses and was very active in networking and attending various chamber events, and my mentor suggested that I join the board as he once did. This was the first board that I joined, so it was a huge eye opener in many respects. First off, the roster of the board members was intimidating as they all were very well established while I was a noobie. Secondly, I learned quite quickly that much of what they were talking about was way over my head (partly because they had a much larger network, and have a greater sense of the history of business in Charlottetown whereas I was a learning as I went).
So for the first couple of years, I mainly spent the board meetings listening rather than speaking. And if I had an idea, I would be more likely to bring it up with someone one-on-one rather than share my idea in front of the whole group (going back to the intimidation factor). But as time went on, I found my place in the chamber by becoming the co-chair of the Biz Under 40 group and being involved in some of the Island Advance initiatives with my experience of being an entrepreneur. Once I found where I can add the most value to the board, I became less intimidated and began to contribute more.
It takes much less time than you think it will to get up to speed, but the learning lessons have been extremely valuable. I have learned a lot about governance and the role of a board for an organization. I have learned how to be a good contributor to the board, and this helped me progress as now I sit on a couple of other boards. I learned a lot about leadership, by seeing how other proven leaders react and think about various challenges that the board overcame. I also met a lot of great people and went to various events I otherwise wouldn’t have gone to because I was on the board, and this led to several great opportunities.
I am thankful to Kathy Hambly and the rest of the team at the chamber, and also to the fellow board members at the chamber for having me involved in such a great organization that provides leadership in helping businesses thrive in the community and the province. I will take my experiences with me to serve on other boards and to help me in my own career and businesses.
I encourage those that are looking for board volunteers to consider enlisting someone under the age of 25. They may not have a huge network or lots of money yet, but they will bring a different perspective that may add significant value to your organization. Keep in mind that they may be a little shy about speaking in front of the group, but with time they will likely find their knack.
By having younger people learning by partaking in these experiences, we are developing young leaders. I think this is a win/win situation. All those in favour, say “Aye”.