The Next Level
Earlier this year, our chamber considered a drive to increase membership. When the idea was introduced by Sue, there was some enthusiasm and interest and many questions on how the campaign would occur. We looked around at other chambers throughout the country and based on previous results, we selected a firm who specialized in growing membership.
When Jimmy the facilitator arrived, he wore a red zoot suit and you could hear him when he entered the room. Needless to say, many of us were skeptical about his flamboyant approach and how it would go over. During the first team captain meeting, he caught someone reading an email instead of being attentive and asked the person next to him to do “push-ups” to compensate. There was a little laughter and much surprise. There was also increased apprehension on how he would treat our chamber volunteers in the two day event. Would he actually run members away instead of attracting them?
The big day soon came. Our membership showed up to participate. We hoped to gain 250 new members. Jimmy took center stage. We were anxious to see the event would unfold. His speech is one that I wish everyone in our community could hear. He told of how his hometown of Pecos, Texas is the fastest growing community in America. It’s not because citizens waited on their leaders or were antagonistic with them. It is due mainly to proactive citizen leaders and business owners across the spectrum who instead “raised their hand” to help instead of waiting on their neighbor. Those who daily run their businesses well and daily intentionally seek opportunities to tell the story of their growing, exciting community to those who can add to or multiply their market.
Then came the exciting part. He pointed to a picture on the wall of the old arcade building on the square where we held the event. The building was previously owned by several including T.H. Eatherly, (my grandfather) and others and now owned by Hal Bone and Mike Manous. This black and white photo showed a civic club which met in the arcade for many years. He reminded us that these citizens and others came before us in our community to accept the responsibility of making Lebanon a better place. They did so in very harsh economic times and with fewer resources. They looked for ways to make our location one that others would seek before the interstate came through Wilson County — before we had any real manufacturing or transportation industries. They weren’t looking for excuses or someone to blame. They were looking for answers and solutions – subtly offered by our Creator – and made them happen.
Our chamber responded with an increase in membership unlike any we’ve ever seen. The new member goal of 250 was shattered by reaching a total of 305. This increased our size to 1130, one of the largest in Tennessee. Our campaign outperformed similar efforts in Oak Ridge and Kingsport with larger populations and more resources. Jimmy credited the staff, team captains and members who worked hard. Many are owed a debt of gratitude for their efforts. The consensus is that we used the same approach our forefathers did – leave no stone unturned, keep thinking of opportunities, and cooperate to reach the goal. The results take us to another level.
This year we are on our way. Amazon is open here. A new Lebanon High School is welcoming students. Our community and our chamber are on the move. Come be a part of this exciting adventure. Let’s continue to make it happen here as we use this approach in our lives and take our community to the next level. We owe it to our forefathers – and the next generation.