JAN SOBEL Chamber of Commerce Consultants, Woodland Hills Jan Sobel runs a locally based chamber consulting firm that helps chambers of commerce in many areas such as board planning seminars, hiring new CEOs, helping with web sites and learning how to deal with certain problems in running the organizations. She’s no stranger to the Valley chamber scene, having run the Encino Chamber in the early 1990s before moving to Carlsbad, Calif., to do the same. She has returned to the Valley and lives and does business in Woodland Hills. Question: How long have you been involved in chambers? Answer: I’ve been in the business 18 years. It was all by sheer accident. Most chamber executives get involved by sheer accident. I was the manager of a health club. I got approached by a recruiter for the Encino Chamber. I didn’t know anything about chambers but fell in love with it. I had no experience with a chamber but I knew how to run a business. Running a chamber is like running a business. Q: What do you feel is the role of chambers? A: One is to create a strong local economy. That means jobs. That’s a lot easier to do in Carlsbad than if you’re the Winnetka Chamber. No. 2 is to promote the community itself. Then comes networking and political action and public policy. Q: Do you think there should be fewer small chambers in the Valley, that some should move toward mergers? A: I think small chambers are good but they’d be a whole lot better if there were less of them. The trend is to merge chambers. But a smaller chamber can turn on a dime. However the money that companies give to chamber activities gets diluted by giving to several of them. Q: Should there be just one large Valley chamber? A: No. Maybe you could cut the area into quarters. Not all areas have the same things in common. If we closed every chamber in the Valley, six months from now they’d be back. Businesspeople need a place to gather. Q: What are some common problems you have found among chambers? A: Retaining membership is a problem. Membership dues are about 50 percent of the income of most chambers. Some chambers don’t charge enough. Members would pay more if they see value in it. Q: What are the things that many chambers do well? A: They’re involved with local schools and do an excellent job of creating networking opportunities.
Chamber Professional Gives Advice on Groups’ Roles