Back in 2005, when Past Chair Bill Wooten asked me to serve as "first vice-chair," I gladly said "yes" even though I really didn't know what that meant. You see, I was raised as a "giver" - my parents always taught us that if you "give-back" you will always "get" more than you "give."
So, for me, it was a no-brainer and very consistent with my logic in agreeing to serve on the board in the first place - help the Chamber, help the city and eventually it will help me.
It was a year later that I came to fully appreciate the true meaning of "first vice-chair."
It was that day in June, 2006 that Bill, who had assumed the chairmanship the previous January, called and said "I have been offered a great job in Cincinnati. I am starting Aug. 1 and that means I will have to relinquish the chair's position early. Are you ready?" Hmmmm, am I ready? Well, no! You know how it is - I was fully prepared to assume my duties as chair in January, 2007, NOT August, 2006.
Oh well, things happen, as the saying goes, and it was in August that the roller coaster ride began!
As I look back on the past two-and-a-half years and prepare to "pass the gavel" to Deborah Taylor, I can honestly say that the ride was full of surprises, numerous twists and turns, some steep ascents and dramatic dips, but we survived the trip and are now positioned for a great future! I would be less than honest if I said it was "easy" or even "fun" (although it did have its fun moments!).
Challenging, disappointing, difficult and frustrating at times, are descriptive adjectives that immediately come to mind. But in the final analysis, I leave feeling satisfied, encouraged and enthusiastic about the foundation we have laid for the future.
So what lessons have I learned?
• Trust your instincts - Don't be afraid to "go with your gut." It's usually the best gauge and a great "moral compass." Too often, volunteer-driven organizations aren't willing to follow their instincts and as a result, they perpetuate mediocrity. That wasn't an option for this Chamber and fortunately you had a Board of Directors that understood that!
Don't be afraid to make decisions - "Paralysis by analysis" is an affliction that haunts many non-profit organizations. Often-times, the end result is an inability to make hard decisions and therefore a non-stop "re-cycling" of the status quo. I was blessed with a board that was not afraid to make hard decisions, populated with individuals who were willing to "roll up their sleeves and get to work." It has made all the difference as we transform this Chamber.
• Rely on your mentors - Leaders are only as good as those that come before and those that follow. Another blessing for me was the strong legacy of great leadership I inherited at the Chamber. Glenda Huffman, Ted Schindler and Bill Wooten all preceded me as Chamber chair during my tenure on the board. I also had the good fortune to serve on the Business Advocacy Committee during its infancy and initial development under the leadership and guidance of David Kandel. Like any new board member, I tried to watch, listen and learn. The lessons I took away from each of these great leaders - all with unique but effective styles - was invaluable.
• Empower people - People in my company have accused me of being a "master delegator," a moniker I wear proudly! I have tried to extend this management technique to my tenure as Chamber Chair. My philosophy is the best way to build leadership, and provide a strong organizational infrastructure for the future, is to empower people to make decisions and implement. To do so, you have to have individuals who are willing to be "empowered"! Fortunately at the UA Chamber, we do! Our volunteers - too numerous to name here - are simply great. From the Ambassadors to our Committee Chairs, we have a cadre of committed individuals who selflessly put aside their own personal agendas to advance the causes of the Chamber. It may be our greatest asset!
As I prepare to "pass the gavel" I rest comfortably in the knowledge that the Chamber is in good hands.
Without question, the best decision I made over the past 2.5 years was appointing incoming-chair Deborah Taylor to chair the search committee that found our new President Becky Hajost. Becky has injected energy, enthusiasm and strategic thinking into our matrix and I am confident that the sky is the limit with Becky as President and Deborah as Chair. What a team!
Finally, and since this will be the last time I can exercise my authority as chair and author a column with no word limitations, I want to extend a few special "thank-you's":
• To my business partners for affording me the opportunity to devote more time and energy than originally anticipated and supporting me and the Chamber for the past 2.5 years.
• To my family for tolerating and supporting time away for committee meetings, board meetings, events and functions.
• To every board member with whom I have had the honor to serve. Again, too numerous to name but each has brought unique and important skill sets to the board without which we would not have been able to accomplish all that we have over the past 2.5 years.
• Special thanks to Ted Schindler, Don Leach and Steve Roeder who have provided me with an important "sounding board" for advice, counsel, direction and even an occasional libation!
• And finally, special thanks to each and every member of the UA Chamber for allowing me to serve you as Chamber chair and for continuing to support this important community organization as we transition to better impact our business climate and quality of life for the years to come.
Rob Radcliffe is the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce board of trustees chair.