All chambers of commerce have the same purpose: to be a networking tool that allows businesses to thrive. But not all are able to successfully achieve that purpose. One struggling local chamber has seen a revitalization in the past year due to one man’s willingness to change a business model that wasn’t working.
When Nick Grounds, a Central Florida based financial advisor, returned to the British American Chamber of Commerce last May, he was one of just 17 members. In addition to a lack of corporate backing, he noticed that the mindset at networking events revolved around, “What can all these people do for me?”
As the chamber’s president and executive director, Grounds seeks to build the chamber into a community service with a social side, a business side and an educational side. At every breakfast meeting, luncheon and business after hours event, he encourages his fellow members to walk into the room thinking about what they can do for others rather than what others can do for them. His goal is for every table at every event to be a center of influence that builds solid relationships.
“I’m a big believer in reciprocity and authenticity,” he says. “By profession I’m a financial guy, but I leave that hat off when I do the chamber because if I took my chamber hat off and put my financial hat on, now I come off as disingenuous. I come across as I’m just using the chamber to benefit me, and I don’t’ think that’s the right way of doing it.”
Under his leadership, the chamber’s membership base soared to 11,000 in just five and a half months. By the end of 2018, he hopes to get to 100,000 members.
The British American Chamber of Commerce covers the eastern portion of Central Florida, from Daytona to Clermont, down to Melbourne and everything in between. This covers one of the state’s largest tourism districts that draws approximately 1.7 million British tourists each year. Grounds invites those tourists to join the chamber at no cost, offering them another resource during their visit.
“Basically, what I want to provide them is a community service to give them an extra layer of peace of mind when they come into Orlando,” he says.
Not only will they have access to special offers from attractions and restaurants that are business members, but they can call on the chamber if they get in a bind during their visit. Should they need a doctor or other specialty service, they don’t have to figure it out on their own.
Grounds is committed to growing the chamber into a strong business tool, and he plans to continue using new techniques to make it happen.
“We’re going to keep on building the layers but we’re building them properly,” he says. “I’m trying to build something that I can pass on to someone else to run.”