Book Cover photo taken from the author's website:

I am enjoying reading The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, a book about the 1936 US men’s Olympic eight-oar rowing team.  The University of Washington student-athletes hailed from humble, working class backgrounds.  Spoiler alert:  the author paints a compelling picture about how the athletes were inspired to come together and work as a single, extraordinary team and go on to win gold.

Bringing together disparate, skilled, well-intentioned groups to work together as a single unit is a timely topic; crew is an apt metaphor.  No matter how tremendous the individual athletes, if all eight oarsmen do not work together contributing their slightly different skills, the team will not succeed.

When perfectly in sync, the boat moves faster than anyone thought possible.  The individuals come together to function as a cohesive unit.

Lately, we have turned our attention to local small business, which is welcome news. “Winning the race” means creating an environment in which a well-managed independent business can thrive.  Our goal is clear, our intentions are good and we are fortunate to have some pretty stand-up people working on it.

But are we working together – are we in sync – as much as we should be?  We have a plethora of business support organizations, including business districts, Facebook groups, development organizations, marketing and media groups, events organizations and associations like the Chamber.

 From my perspective, we have quite a few people doing some great work.  However, it takes a lot of time and energy to keep everyone coordinated.  And, we miss out on some economies of scale and benefits of scope.  There are inevitable overlaps, some confusion as to who does what and pieces falling through the cracks.

As we prepare for 2018, sitting down with our sharpened pencils to set our own individual budgets, events and strategic priorities, let’s see what we can to together.  There is opportunity for us to have a more meaningful impact working as a team.

At the Chamber, we are eager to take on a larger role coordinating efforts and information for the benefit of all the businesses in our community.  After all, we are in the same boat.

Join the discussion on social media!

Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...