Chamber’s Accreditation Goals Mirror Small Business Objectives
It’s amazing how fast the last five years have flown by! It seems like it was just the summer of 2014 when the Columbia County Chamber last applied for accreditation through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Not only did the Chamber apply, but we were awarded the top level of 5 Stars! In 2009, the Chamber was awarded 4 stars! This was amazing for a 15-year-old organization.
To give you a feel of what a huge accomplishment this was, currently there are approximately 7,000 Chambers of Commerce in the United States, and only 211 Chambers have been bestowed the honor. These Chambers represent the top 3% being recognized as Accredited, or Accredited with 3 Stars, 4 Stars or 5 Stars. Georgia is the second-highest state with the most accredited chambers. Glad to say we are one of the 14 in the state.
It’s now time to once again reapply for Accreditation. This task is not taken lightly. It is the decision of the Board of Directors to invest in the energy, time and expense to go through the process.
This process is a living, breathing document that the entire board and staff work on for several months. The board of 25 is broken down into eight groups along with one staff member. Each group works on a section to answer the questions, including essays, and to provide the backup documentation needed to support the answers.
After the four months of working on its section, each group presents to the entire board. The goal is for everyone to know, operate and uphold the standards that we stated. Although the process is tedious, it gives everyone a greater appreciation of the organization and the successes that are accomplished each year.
Obviously, by looking at the numbers, not every chamber even applies, so why do it? According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by earning Accreditation, a chamber shows its dedication to:
- Reviewing, improving and promoting strong business practices
- Recognizing leadership and outstanding contributions to the community
- Supporting the principles of free enterprise and promoting pro-growth policies
- Establishing best practices and staying in step with industry changes
As the Board and staff, we want our community and business members to know that they are investing in an organization whose standards of operation have been reviewed and measured to the best in the industry.
Since the Chamber is operated much like a small business, the nine areas of our Accreditation process can be applied to most any business. Here’s a high-level view of some of the documents reviewed. Various trade industries have accreditation processes of their own. Take a few minutes and ask yourself about these items for your business!
Governance / Organizational Structure
- Articles of incorporation
- Organizational charts
- Handbooks for Board of Directors and volunteers
- Agenda and minutes
- Purpose and goals of committees
- Review of profit and loss, balance sheets for a five-year period
- Financial policy and procedure manual to include cash flow, investments and operating reserves
- Annual audit and tax returns
- Job descriptions
- Personnel policies
- Orientation process
- Employee benefits and training
Government Affairs: Although this is a key role of the Chamber, for a business, it would suggest becoming aware and engaged in legislative process.
- Legislative policies: Where does the company stand on legislative issues?
- Communications with industry relative to legislative initiatives
- Relationship and communications with elected officials
- Working with resource groups to make your voice be heard
Program and Product Development
- Strategic plan
- Annual report
- Description of current products, programs and services
- Environmental scan
- Communication equipment plan
- Computer hardware and software guidelines
- Technology plan
- Written communications and marketing plan with clear annual goals
- Style guide
- Projects appropriate business image and is accessible to customers
- Interior and exterior facility
- Office safety
- Properly maintained office equipment
- Has a crisis plan in place
Well, how did your company or organization do? Are most of these documents used on a daily basis, or do they just sit on a shelf?
As we make reapplying for the U.S. Chamber’s Accreditation program our top priority of the summer, I would encourage you to ask the questions and make sure your company is striving for operational excellence, too!