SIERRA VISTA — Melany Edwards-Barton was selected to be the permanent chief executive officer of the Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce late last year after working in the area as a realtor with Haymore Real Estate.
Edwards-Barton took some time this week to answer emailed questions from the Herald/Review.
Herald/Review: What are your goals now that you are CEO?
Melany Edwards-Barton: Long-term goals and short-term goals are the focus. I’m going to throw our mission and dedications out there for the readers to see. It’s not often you ask someone what their company’s mission is and get a straight and quick answer. Most mission statements have a lot of thought and care put into them, but once created, they are forgotten. I feel a mission statement is the long-term goal. It’s the path to our success. Our mission: The Sierra Vista Area Chamber promotes business and provides leadership for the improvement of the community.
We are dedicated to...
1. Creating a Strong Local Economy.
2. Promoting Business & the Community
3. Providing Networking Opportunities
4. Representing the Interests of Business before Government
Not specific enough? I know. You want to know what I plan on doing. I am working on building the Chamber’s foundation through memberships, member benefits and a variety of events and fundraisers. I am taking a long, hard look at what’s working, what’s not working, and what just needs a little extra attention in order to make it great. I am working with our local government to bring you more news on issues that affect local businesses. I am also strengthening relationships with Fort Huachuca and Cochise County. In general, I am working on increased communication. That includes member-to-business, business-to-business, city-to-business, County-to-business, etc.
HR: What challenges is the chamber facing?
MEB: With any business there will always be challenges. The Chamber is no different. The trick to dealing with a challenge is understanding that each challenge is an opportunity, not a roadblock. One of our current challenges is streamlining our new software system. It is in need of some tweaking in order to ensure it is working harder for us than we are for it. This software has features that will increase communication with our members, provide better opportunities for our members including member-to-member discounts, increase web presence for our members, and it also has additional tools to ensure ease of access and support for events. I feel this is the foundation we need to reinforce for future success.
HR: You decided to no longer be an active realtor, what made you want to do that, since you weren’t asked to?
MEB: In today’s day and age, it is common for a person to have a home-based business, or be self-employed, in order to supplement their full-time job. I was self-employed as a Realtor® and was able to work my schedule around other duties. However; currently I have contracts with existing clients. I am working with another agent to ease the workload as we complete their transactions. I will keep my Real Estate license active, but I will be referring potential clients to other agents.
There are two reasons I have chosen not to take new clients: 1. I know the Chamber is one of the first stops for potential residents, visitors, and the general public in need of information. I feel it would give me an unfair advantage over other agents in the local area. 2. I have chosen to dedicate my career to the Chamber. It is a full-time job. I feel that if I allowed another job to consume time dedicated for the Chamber it would be unethical and a disservice to the Chamber, its members and the staff.
HR: Why did you want the CEO job?
MEB: In short… I love the Chamber. I have been a part of this Chamber for years. Soon after I joined as a member, I became an Ambassador. I then joined the Military Affairs Committee and became a co-chair of the committee. Last year I was voted in as a Board Member and in September I offered to act as the Interim CEO until the Board was able to choose a new CEO. I enjoyed the job so much that I decided to submit my resume. I know how important the Chamber is to business and I know what it has done for me and my businesses. I want to see every business succeed, and watch our community thrive. I feel in this position I am afforded opportunities to increase the business footprint of the Sierra Vista area and to provide an avenue for networking, marketing, and relationship building that would not be there if it were not for the Chamber.
HR: Why should business become part of the chamber?
MEB: There are so many reasons to become a member. Sometimes we think “I live in a small town. Everyone already knows about my business.” Do they know your business, or do they know you? When we do business, it’s personal. We like to know who we’re talking to. We like a face with a name. And don’t we usually do business with those we already know? We have already built that relationship, tested those waters, and rated their customer service. So why would you take your business elsewhere? So, I ask you again… “Do they know your business, or do they know you?’ The Chamber offers a myriad of networking opportunities throughout the year. It offers increased exposure to other members, the community and your online presence. It offers you the ability to build those relationships, and your customers won’t go elsewhere. It’s important to remember that a Chamber membership is much like a gym membership. If you don’t show up, you won’t see results. It’s about building relationships, supporting our businesses, and strengthening our community.