In 2007, after conducting an exhaustive research and after experiencing a negative relationship with the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I decided to engage in a task that could lead to build a business association that could be 100% results-driven. My business partners and I held extensive meetings to try to figure out the best way to define a business association that could avoid most of the mistakes and weaknesses of the traditional Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.
After several weeks of work, we decided to found the “Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce”. The first difficult decision that we had to make was to choose the legal status of the organization. A non-profit was the natural way to go but that would have lead the Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce to fail on its mission in the long term and we didn’t want that to happen so we moved forward with a private business association at the time. That decision had implications of its own, that meant that we were willing to invest our private resources into a concept that had a very strong social focus. A private organization with a business model that was going to demand a lot of hard work to get to the break-even point and profitability in the mid-term. Thanks to the support of my business partners, we moved forward with the plan. Six years later, after lots of ups and downs, we don’t regret a single bit about the decision we made. Specially now, after seen so many Hispanic Chambers of Commerce go through tougher times than the Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce and our organization growing by the month.
The Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce is now incorporated as a Benefit Corporation and its mid-term future is very attractive. I’ll write a post to specifically address that topic soon. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.
Many Hispanic Chambers of Commerce in the country are currently struggling, not just financially but also in terms of credibility and reputation. It is not because of the marketplace conditions or the lack of Hispanic-owned businesses, it is because of the lack of leadership at the Board level. A lot of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce have great staff that can’t move the agenda forward just because at the Board level the leaders can’t get things done. In some locations the members of the Board divided over no good reasons and then ended up creating a new “Hispanic Chamber of Commerce” or “Latino Business Association” or whatever just fuel their egos and to have another lousy business organization in the market. In some situations it has actually worked for the better because the new organization started to get things done.
Many Boards put all of their attention in the Chamber’s bank account. They measure a President’s and staff performance based on how much money they can collect from sponsors, events, membership and grants not by how many programs and/or initiative they roll out to help the business community or anything that positively impacts the growth and development of the members that they represent. Because of that, many Hispanic business owners are not interested in join their local Hispanic Chamber or participate with them at any level. That’s one of the reason why some of the top Hispanic markets in the country have Hispanic Chambers of Commerce with less than 1,000 members and Hispanic Chambers with 1,000+ members but with very low membership engagement.
This is a situation that has to change sooner than later because the Hispanic business community is growing at a fast pace, 3.2+ million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. depend a lot on their local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to address a lot of the issues that have a negative impact on their performance.
Let’s not forget that a chamber of commerce is an organization of businesses seeking to further their collective interests, while advancing their community, region, state or nation. Business owners voluntarily form these local societies/networks to advocate on behalf of the community at large, economic prosperity and business interests.
A Chamber of Commerce is not an entity that can’t be controlled by a small group of folks, in many Hispanic Chambers of Commerce that’s the case. They always select a staff that it is going to play their little game, they don’t care about the business community at large but themselves, they play their cards the best way they can to benefit their personal agendas and they do everything they can to keep political control even when they are not directly serving on the Board. That’s for me weak leadership, business people with no business values and a real shame to the Hispanic business community at large.
If you belong to a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that it is not representing the interest of the membership at large, take action! Read the by-laws of the organization to learn about the different ways that you can make a change. You can play a real leadership role in your community by questioning the performance of your local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and staff. It’s not fare that large Hispanic business communities look nonexistent just because the leaders of the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are just focused on themselves and their selfish agendas. A lot of their programs and initiatives don’t respond to the needs of the community and they only put together social events to justify sponsorship dollars to make sure that they get those dollars again the following year.
I’m not 100% satisfied with the results that we have accomplished with the Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce so far because I know that we could be doing way better with more resources but I know that the organization is moving in the right direction. By the way, for the first time in the history of the organization, the Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce is going to have an Advisory Board. A Board that it is going to be integrated by proactive small business owners truly committed to make a change in their communities.
If you are a Board Member of a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that it is struggling financially, has a few members and has programs that don’t respond to the needs of the business community please do us all a favor, conduct a real assessment of the situation and take action to move agenda forward. It’s not right to use the Chamber’s resources to just befit your personal agenda.
It’s okay to have personal agendas and interests. It’s not okay to use a non-profit to just benefit yourself.
If you are a member of a weak Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, take action to make your leaders accountable for their actions. Challenge their leadership, organize the members to change things and make sure that new leaders work for all the members and not just for a few. If no one takes action because they are all satisfy with an average Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that’s up to the membership.
If you are a proactive business owner interested in helping the family business sector, join the Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce. We need people like you helping to build a stronger family business sector in the Hispanic community.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Feel free to share your comments, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this matter.
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