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The Chamber Is Not Government

During his keynote address at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM in Toronto, Len Crispino, President of the OCC reflected on what it means for the Chamber network to have been around for 100 years.As a member of a Chamber of Commerce or Board of Trade you have a voice at a municipal, regional, provincial and federal level. Membership gives you that voice; the “Brand” allows you to be heard. The Chamber is not Government, nor should it be. The Chamber advocates with you and for you when it comes to municipal, regional, provincial and federal issues. It is important to understand the power of the “Brand” and the prosperity it carries with it, so that you may use it to your advantage.

The Chamber “Brand” means as a member you and your business are part of a network that employs 2 million people and accounts for 17% of GDP in this province. The Chamber “Brand”—more than any other you will wear—symbolizes the prestige, integrity and intellectual honesty. It demonstrates your relevancy and value.

The Chamber of Commerce is a powerful “Brand”. It symbolizes innovation, prosperity, and forward thought. People want to be a part of that “Brand”. And we need to be more proud of that “Brand”, because it is so powerful.

“We must do all we can to protect and promote our network. That means putting forward the most professional, polished image of ourselves that we can,” stated Crispino, “and a strong “Brand” helps us promote, maintain and build on everything else we do.” The Chamber “Brand” attracts members; it gains access to political leaders—locally, provincially, nationally and even internationally. And a strong “Brand” builds upon itself. It gives us a sense of momentum—a force that drives us forward by building on our past victories.

There are 3 key elements of a “Brand”, its position, its promise and its personality. Position refers to the very essence of what a Chamber does. What is our unique value? What makes us different from our competition, from other chamber wannabes?

Part of the unique “Brand” is the Accreditation program. Being accredited allows Chambers and Boards to ‘wear that Brand’. We believe it lends credibility within your community—and beyond. The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, first accredited in 2005, was one of the first twelve Chambers in Canada to be “Accredited with Distinction”. It is currently in the re-accreditation process and will be re-accredited in September of this year.

The Canadian Chamber Accreditation program is designed to establish and recognize standards of excellence in local Chamber operations and member offerings. To achieve Accreditation with Distinction, the process looks at 19 separate core principles that indicate the Chamber applying for accreditation is operating on sound principles and good management. They form the groundwork of the accreditation process. To achieve accreditation, the Chamber adhered to the minimum national standards based on the Chamber’s size, in the nineteen core principles. A further 123 separate factors in five mandatory areas—membership programs and services, and policy and advocacy initiatives operations, governance and strategic planning—were also achieved. A similar process to the ISO initiatives, successful Chambers must reapply every two years to maintain its designation.

During the AGM, Crispino, announced a taskforce to resolve compliance issues and strengthen the registration rules for new Chamber and Board incorporations.

“I cannot lie. I have been growing more and more concerned by the rise of non-geographic, so called Chambers or Boards of Trade…those that may serve a niche target group but want to operate more as a business association and less as a true Chamber or Board,” stated Crispino, adding, “we cannot and will not allow this to risk our “Brand”. It undermines our position, our promise—and our relevancy.”