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Weiner Schnitzel

by Kelly Chopus

October 5,2006

I have been spending lots of quality time with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce lately. I feel like I have my own cable channel: All Chamber All the Time. Meetings, legislative learning experiences and planning retreats. My day job affords me the delight and responsibility for being involved in these types of gatherings and I am starting to get the hang of it. What keeps me amused to no end is the fact that I get to be a part of the “behind the scenes” Charlotte. You know, it is almost like knowing how, when and where the sausage is made.

Being a finalist, okay, runner up, for Class Instigator in high school (I told you it was a good thing Mom and Dad!) has uniquely prepared me for these experiences with Charlotte’s power players, leaders and regular Joe’s. I like to stir the pot (really, not a bad thing) and creatively find ways to have a say. All the fun and relevant hard work does happen in the back of the room. Having a say is as easy as finding a break out group, committee, task force or Board.

I am a big fan of the entire staff of the Charlotte Chamber. Okay, I don’t know all 50 of them personally, but I will make a sweeping generalization based on the 15 or so employees I do know. They are smart and dedicated. Even better, they are all about the relationships. Since I am all about the relationships too, this makes it easy to love them. They are an infectiously talented lot. And they have all had really great work experiences before their current Chamber gigs, which makes them uniquely qualified to lead efforts to promote our Queen City and our region. One of the things that most impressed me as a citizen of Charlotte is the Chamber’s ability to reinvent itself yearly, especially after the change in executive leadership. Last year, we welcomed a new President and a new executive committee of volunteer leaders. The volunteers are among the best and brightest Charlotte has to offer. Business big Whigs. Exactly like puzzle pieces in the ever-evolving Charlotte business landscape.

Sometimes it is not so pretty, with competing interests, conflicting agendas (it would be so easy to cite the School Board here…but I won’t), adversarial stakeholders rowing in opposite directions. It reminds me of the making sausage analogy or parenting three children with very different personalities and needs. It is enough to make even the iron-stomached among us weak with discouragement and frustration. Happily, that is not what I see with the Chamber and the way they are meeting business challenges. Remember, I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past 30 days in all sorts of Chamber related events.

One of the takeaways from my last foray in ChamberNation is while planning is crucial, more important is creating a process which celebrates and embraces the diversity of perspective we each bring to Charlotte and then somehow crafting that varied perspective into one unified game plan. That is quite a mission in itself. That… and cajoling the right volunteers, at the right time and in the right role to add to the puzzle to strengthen our community. Without delving into the top secret specifics, our job as volunteer advisors at the Chamber Fall Planning Retreat was to give the Chamber its marching orders and priorities for 2007. We did, and I can honestly say it was the process that made the event meaningful.

My job gives me access to some pretty interesting companies, ideas, opportunities – and I meet lots of different people with as many agendas. Why is this important to you, you ask? These volunteer puzzle pieces are the keys to our Charlotte future, that’s why. In Charlotte, business is a critical driver in the areas important to all of us – a strong public school system (from kindergarten through graduate school), economic and workforce development (so we all have decent jobs), transportation, planning for baseball and revitalizing Second Ward and the list goes on. Your say is on the line, every day, at every meeting. You get to tell us what you like in your sausage.

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