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2017 – The ‘Chamber of Action’ becomes a change agent

It isn’t easy recreating an entity that has been around for 70 years. The process can be intimidating, and even a little scary.

But that is exactly what the talented and supporting volunteer leadership of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber set out to do in the past year.

With incredible support from the Chamber’s Board of Directors, the organization began charting a different path to success, using new and very nontraditional measurements. Key components of the transformation included the successful launch of a new 501c3 Foundation to provide the fundraising fuel for this transformation; ensuring the Chamber stayed true to its new Strategic Plan adopted the prior year; and an eagerness and willingness to look beyond our physical boundaries to bring about meaningful change in the region by spreading the concept of “Profit with Purpose.”

So what is this new path? Simply put, it is based on the premise of a growing movement sweeping business and industry called “Conscious Capitalism,” the notion that business instead of government has the capacity to solve many of society’s ills by creating a supportive – and profitable – environment for all stakeholders be they employees, vendors, customers or the communities in which we conduct business.

Make no mistake, this is not social welfare or public charity. A powerful argument is being made across the country that companies big and small that truly care about their employees, their stakeholders and their communities are among the most profitable in their respective industries. Think Starbucks, Costco, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods and Patagonia as just a few examples of companies that offer higher salaries and benefits to their team members and have true partnerships with their vendors, suppliers and communities all while keeping profits far above the industry norm.

Through a pilot program known as Thriving Michigan, the BBC is one of a handful of Chambers of Commerce throughout the state of Michigan that is committed to promoting this bold new concept to our 700 member businesses. The ultimate goal is to harness the collective resources of our members to dramatically improve the quality of life in our footprint and beyond.

Sure, the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber will continue to offer all of the “typical” benefits to our members. There will still be networking events, educational programs, leadership development and community events. But if we get this right, and we all commit to moving in the same direction, there will be a much bigger and better story to tell in the years to come.

We already have begun collaborating with other organizations to shine a light on areas of weakness in our region including workforce development and readiness, public transportation and infrastructure. One of the greatest assets Chambers have is to act as conveners to bring groups together to have real conversations about real issues. We offer a safe place when oftentimes the conversations can be uncomfortable.

There is an old saying that many hands make for a light workload. Employing the attributes of Conscious Capitalism, our goal at the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber is to harness the collective resources of our 700-plus members to be the driving force in improving the quality of life for all our region’s residents.

Joe Bauman, President