Friday, July 3, 2009

Woodstock Chamber and Quinn Keefe to part

This morning's Northwest Herald carried a long article about the resignation of the Executive Director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, Quinn Keefe.

The Board apparently gave him until August 31 to clear out his desk. Most employers these days, when the time comes for the top dog to leave, send him packing on the day of the decision. Locks get changed; bank accounts get changed; computer access gets cut off. That's just the way it is done. The Chamber's Board, by not doing this, shows its expectation that operations during the next seven weeks will be for the sole benefit of members.

The article was prompted by Quinn's own "announcement" on the same day that the Board and he "agreed to disagree." As I've heard it for three-four years, they have disagreed on many issues. So I guess that then it was a case of "disagreed to agree."

A while back I joined the Chamber for one year. That was before the days of the Woodstock Advocate. I felt that the Chamber did not merit my money, and I didn't renew my membership. Even that didn't go smoothly.

Before moving to Woodstock in 1996, I had been a member of three chambers, and I had worked for four chambers - all in large cities; so I thought I knew a little about how Chambers ought to operate. My first job with a chamber was as Vice-President of Membership Services for a chamber with 1,300 members (when I started). Two months later the membership was down to 1,100.

How did that happen? One of the first things I did was run a membership report for dues that had been unpaid for over a year. Those 200 businesses got a letter, asking them to pay up. Then they got a second letter, informing them that, if they didn't pay off, they'd be taken off the membership rolls. They didn't pay, and off they came. And, oh, did they scream... but they didn't pay up and they were history. The VP of Administration, who had been there for 18 years, called me in one day and introduced me to a man in her office. "This is the guy who threw you out of the chamber," she said.

I was polite to him but I told her later that had better not ever happen again.

That employment taught me a valuable lesson - that I never wanted to be an executive director of a chamber. If a board of directors has nine people on it, you had better keep five of them happy. Did Quinn find out what happens when the fifth director is unhappy?

A Chamber needs strong leadership from the Board and an Executive Director who can execute the plans of the Board.

The Chamber President and members of the Board will be smart not to make any statement at all. Just find a new Executive Director as fast as possible and put him or her in place.

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