Year-end brings with it holiday cheer, family, warm feelings and an easy friendliness.  But those who run businesses know that year-end also means closing the financial books, preparing next year’s budget, sizing up unsold inventory and the dreaded annual employee performance reviews.

Announcing to the team that it is time to schedule individual meetings for performance appraisals is received about as well as the proverbial Christmas fruitcake.  Nice in theory, but if not done right, it can be a dense, sticky, spicy mess that no one really wants to sink their teeth into.  Best if we put it aside and hope everyone forgets about it.

There is no shortage of academic literature or leadership workshops on how to do performance reviews well.  About how important they are.  About how to make them not only painless, but productive.

Turns out all that advice from management gurus isn’t necessary when your employees are awesome.

In fact, performance reviews at the Chamber were a breeze this year.  A joy.  A series of great conversations about where we were, where we are going and how we can get there.  Honestly, talking to these professionals was a privilege, not a chore.

We had a great year at the Chamber, and that is entirely due to the team in the office.  Growth in membership, an increase in revenue and generous funding from the Village of Oak Park allowed me to invite incredibly talented people to join our team.  They have done nothing but build positive momentum and support small business since they started in April.  We faced challenges and transitions but did so together, successfully.

With gratitude and pride, I want to publicly thank Deputy Director Liz Holt, Communications Manager Ronnie Marlin, Special Event Manager Janice Moskoff, Program Manager Mark Walden, Business District Liaison Jenny Yang and Business Managers Carolyn Henning and Maria Murzyn.  Shout-out to Julie Thompson who does our books.  While all but Liz and myself are part-time, this team makes a full-time impact.

By the way, my mother-in-law makes an amazing fruitcake.  When you have the right recipe and the best ingredients, people actually look forward to that fruitcake.

Happy Holidays, all.

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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...