As many of you probably did this week, my sons and I piled into the car and drove to see family far away. In our case, it was my three youngest sons…Tyler, Richard and Nicholas…joining me on our trip from South Carolina to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with my family. Unfortunately, my oldest son, Jordan, couldn’t be with us as he’s overseas with the US Navy doing what he must so that we can enjoy our holiday. But this isn’t a story about him, our military or the sacrifices they make every day. Instead, this story is about his younger brother. Tyler is about to turn 21, and this was the first long road trip where he was able to get behind the wheel and put some serious miles behind us. As parents, we’ve all experienced those moments where we had to allow our kids the opportunity to learn and grow as adults. In this particular case, I found myself coaching Tyler on a few of the finer points of long-distance road trips, and I think several of the lessons translate well into Organization Management for both Chamber and Association professionals.
- Keep a safe distance: I know I have a tendency to follow a bit too closely at times, but I’m a far more experienced driver than Tyler. That’s not an excuse to tailgate, but it does speak to the reaction time and vision I’ve developed over many years of making trips like this. As Chamber and Association pros, we have to remember sometimes to back off a bit…not push too hard…not be too aggressive…not change lanes too quickly…and keep in mind that sometimes those around us need the space more than we do. Just because WE’RE comfortable riding a bit closer, doesn’t mean those in front of us or those behind us are as comfortable with where we are.
- Keep your eyes on the traffic several cars ahead…not just the one immediately in front of you: For many of the same reasons as keeping a safe distance, it’s important for a driver to keep an eye on the entire traffic pattern ahead. If you’re aware of the car half a mile in front of you swerving into the lane you’re traveling in, you can take your foot off the gas and avoid slamming on your brakes. As Chamber and Association professionals, we need to be watching for trends in our communities, patterns in business. We can steer clear of trouble if we simply keep our eyes on the road ahead.
- Check your gauges: Cars today make it very easy to track things like oil and tire pressure, temperature, coolant levels, fuel mileage and much more. Paying attention to these things means fewer surprises and better overall maintenance of your engine. The same can be said about our organizations. We need to KNOW our overall and first-year retention rates, our penetration rates, our budget projections and more. If we keep these numbers in mind each day, we are far less likely to be caught off guard if one begins to rise or fall slowly over time.
- Don’t get caught low on gas: I’ve always told my boys to be sure and fill up the tank before it falls below a quarter. I don’t think I have to explain the WHY on THAT one! But I find myself reminding Chamber and Association executives ALL THE TIME that they need to recharge…refuel…before they run out of gas. We’re all so dedicated to our members that we sometimes forget to take care of OURSELVES. If you’re running on fumes, you won’t be as capable of handling the needs of your members as you’d like to be. So take some time for yourself. Hopefully you’ve done just that this Thanksgiving holiday, but don’t wait for another major holiday before taking some time for YOU again!
Keep the pedal to the medal and the rubber on the road, friends! Until next time…