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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jul. 17, 2018 1 year ago

Q&A with Jorge Gutierrez

Gutierrez has been president of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce for nearly a year.
by: Ray Boone Sports Editor

Jorge Gutierrez was made president and CEO of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 21, 2017. In the 11 months since, memberships have grown. What's next for the chamber?

Q: What was the condition of the Chamber when you first came in?

A: It was really just a vacuum in leadership. The president wasn’t there. There was a lot of staff changes, where people just left, and so forth. Memberships were not growing. Our renewal rates were down. That was really the environment that I arrived in.

Q: Can you tell us what changes and progress the chamber has made in the past year?

A: My first thing was going out there and talking to the customers and conducting several focus groups to make sure that I understood what was going on. Out of that, our strategy has basically been a three-prong initiative. One is visibility, connections, and being a trusted resource that resonates with our customers. With our results currently, it looks like that’s definitely working out. Our year-to-year membership growth is up 10%. Renewals are running 80% — that’s up roughly 10 basis points compared to last year. We’ve scaled down the number of events at the chamber to only those that add value to the members of the community. Our approach to new and existing members now is more on a consultative basis, meaning we now meet with each new customer to understand their target market, their business needs and of course we provide a cause-and-effect solution to their business needs... . We’re also trying to increase our marketing and social media presence for the chamber and our members. We also are working much closer with our area council committees. They’ve done a phenomenal job at working with the constituents to promote the businesses in their communities... . And of course, we’ve recently launched our Chamber 62 initiative.

Q: You mentioned Chamber 62. What is it, and who can join?

A: We have approximately 650 members, and we’re adding anywhere between 12 and 18 new members each month. At this rate, it’s becoming increasingly challenging to deliver exceptional service that adds value. So, that’s why we’re reaching out to our members, our long-term supporters, who can help us continue to fulfill our mission by participating in Chamber 62. It’s a one-time retribution of $1,000 that will help invest in new technology, infrastructure, marketing campaigns, social media platforms, staff training and development, enhanced membership benefits and, ultimately, operational efficiency.

Q: There are about 650 Chamber members, but there are also about 7,000 businesses in the county. Why aren’t there more members?

A: The biggest thing is their lack of knowledge of the value proposition of the offer. A lot of them join and do the ribbon cutting, but they’re not aware of what advantage they can take from being apart of the chamber. The scale and scope that we have, meaning the reach that we have, at the price point that we have, is phenomenal. For 94 cents a day for our business membership — $330 per year — you get a tremendous amount of value: website design, advertising, event participation and just pure connections... . I think it’s just a lack of communication, a lack of us being able to explain the value of a membership to our customers. To alleviate that, we’re taking a consultative approach, where we sit down with our new members and plan out their whole year.

Q: What’s next for the second half of the year?

A: One is to continue driving our key initiative. Everything that we’ve done well so far: do it again, but better. But we have to continue to visibility, connections and being a trusted resource for our members. In addition, we’re going to continue investing in new technology, infrastructure, marketing and social media platforms, employee development and operation efficiency as the funds continue to become available, which Chamber 62 is a big part of. We’re not going to change our strategy. We’re just going to make it better and more efficient.

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