Chairman’s Reflection on 2012

by Larry Anthis
2012 North Chamber Chairman of the Board
Vice President, Frost

The North San Antonio Chamber and Lead SA Board of Directors, our supporters, volunteers and Chamber staff have achieved so much in 2012. When I began my chairmanship in January, the primary objectives for the year were: to meet the needs of the millennial generation; emphasize leadership development; maintain high quality programs; reimagine our connectivity to the community; advocate for business; and broaden member participation.

To that end, the board of directors built a strategic plan to anticipate the current and future needs of our membership over the next three to five years. We executed the agenda immediately and made great strides in communications, leadership cultivation, event support and attendance, membership development and advocacy.

Reimaging our connectivity to San Antonio
In an effort to engage our membership more fully, we conducted a survey, and you, our members, noted the positive impact the North Chamber is having  not just on the North side, but also across  San Antonio and Bexar County. In response, we refreshed our brand and re-focused our core emphasis on “Keeping Bexar County Strong.” This continues to be a dynamic and evolving chamber because of our volunteer leadership.

You also communicated the importance of relationship building, advocacy, informational programming, participation and visibility. As a result, the North Chamber revised and expanded membership benefits to reflect the resources our members value most, including: communications, visibility, referrals, discounts/offers and exclusive member programming. The result is a new, multi-platform, digital content marketing program that promotes our members and engagement with the larger community.

Engaging with the community and our members
There are several issues on which to focus as a member – whether it’s small business, technology, sustainability, leadership, finance, government affairs, and get involved on a committee. And, due to a varied and diverse program offering, enriching volunteer opportunities and an emphasis on value-packed membership benefits, we increased our membership by 234 members as of November 2012 while achieving an average membership retention rate of approximately 80%.

Furthermore, recognizing our chamber’s ability to make a difference with our excellent programs, Mayor Alan Baxter of Windcrest and the Windcrest Economic Development Corporation (EDC) approached us to deliver a chamber of commerce experience to the businesses of Windcrest. For the first time, the North Chamber added a regional council in partnership with the City of Windcrest and the Windcrest EDC, and the Windcrest Council was started this year.

Advocating for business
Moreover, we successfully advocated for the North Chamber membership on economic development issues including:

  • my participation at the 2012 White House Business Summit discussions with the Executive Office and Business Forward;
  • board of directors opposition to impromptu zoning changes by the City Council;
  • board of directors endorsement of City Bond Election for transportation infrastructure;
  • board of directors consensus that led to a decision for the North Chamber to support Pre-K 4 SA as a viable solution to the city’s growing need for an educated workforce;
  • my appointment as a 2013 City Commissioner on the Convention & Visitors Bureau through a newly-created appointment for business leadership; and
  • my appointment to the 2013 executive committee for the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation.

Just over a decade ago, the North Chamber launched a Capital Campaign to secure $1 million to build and finance our own office building – a first in a city that hosts multiple chambers of commerce. North Chamber members met the campaign financial goals, and in 2002, the doors opened to the North Chamber’s headquarters. I’m proud to say the North Chamber has been an exceptional financial steward, and this year, we have retired the building debt.

Cultivating and recognizing leaders
Additionally, we have continued our commitment to cultivate our community’s emerging leaders. The Leadership Lab Class of 2012 has expanded to 86 graduates – the largest since the program’s inception in 1999. This program too has been re-envisioned and re-focused on empowering leaders, self-discovery and success.

Furthermore, we have continued to honor leaders at every age and career stage. We began the year recognizing Pat Duncan, USAA Real Estate Company, with the San Antonian Award, and later Charlie Amato and Gary Dudley, SWBC, with the Gov. Dolph Briscoe, Jr. Salute to Excellence Award, while 10 other business leaders were recognized through the Small Business Leaders Awards program and the ATHENA Leadership Awards® program.

Keeping Bexar County Strong
In closing, the North Chamber is successful because of our members and your participation. Our board met monthly and consistently focused on topics that addressed the needs of our members. I salute the North Chamber and Lead SA board of directors, our supporters and volunteers, and the hard-working chamber staff led by Duane Wilson for working tirelessly to fulfill our promise to the community to “keep Bexar County strong.”

Finally, as I depart, our incoming Chairman of the Board Brad Rollins, Dahill, is preparing to lead this great organization in 2013. Brad and Dahill have been wonderful supporters of the North Chamber and the San Antonio community and I know you’ll welcome him and his leadership team. The North Chamber is here to help you be noticed, be heard, be informed and be there as we work to strengthen our community. Please get involved and be a part of it all. Thank you for the privilege and honor of serving as your Chairman.

Word from the Chairman

After an early banking career in Dallas and more than a decade of service in the ministry, in 2006 Larry Anthis relocated his family to his hometown of San Antonio, re-entered banking and immersed himself in his community – including volunteering for the North Chamber. Today, Larry is a Vice President at Frost developing the Schertz market for the Texasbased bank and will serve as the North Chamber’s 2012 Chairman of the Board.

“At Frost, we hold entrepreneurialism, relationships and community in high regard,” says Larry, “and the North Chamber shares our values to help people build their business while being flexible and nimble to respond to a fluctuating business environment.”

For 38 years, the North Chamber has endeavored to offer an atmosphere of inclusiveness in which any member – regardless of company size or revenue, has access and the ability to make an impact on the community at a micro level. “The North Chamber’s milestones have been achieved by the actions of volunteers who worked together to affect change in the areas of education, infrastructure and quality of life,” says Larry, emphasizing that he will build upon such projects initiated by previous board chairs. “I am a steward of an ongoing legacy to build business and build leaders, but I also feel we are at the top of our game, and I’m challenging our chamber leadership to increase performance and build upon the chamber’s success,” he adds.

At a working retreat last year, the incoming board of directors evaluated the chamber’s values, deliverables and member needs, then developed a few concise objectives to help define the chamber’s course in a more strategic manner.

From the planning session emerged a consensus that the North Chamber consistently advocates for a pro-business agenda and offers a proven array of programs that provide leadership and professional development, networking and recognition for professionals at every age and stage of career development. “Members find a lot of value in our programs, so we won’t change what we deliver. We will continue to listen to our members and ask ourselves, ‘Does this benefit our members? Can we do it in an excellent way?’ And if a program isn’t meeting this criteria, then our members will dictate that we do something else, and that keeps us dynamic,” says Larry.

Furthermore, the board suggested a revised communication strategy in terms of becoming a more virtual chamber in a digital age. This year, the chamber plans to design and build a modernized marketing and communications infrastructure that better facilitates the flow of information between the chamber, its members and the community. “We are reimagining our connectivity to serve multiple audiences who are more reliant on mobile computing devices, smartphones, digital and social media and personalized content that is tailored to their interests,” explains Larry.

Engaging the millennial workforce was also a recognized challenge to member businesses. “Today’s workforce and employers have a unique set of needs and circumstances. In some cases it’s about training young professionals for the workforce and other times it’s training the employers about what Generation Y needs,” says Larry. “Companies are employing these folks and want to keep them retained, and we’re offering solutions among others, like Leadership Lab and the Enterprising Women’s Conference, that help the business community cultivate a more skilled and empowered workforce,” he adds.

The North Chamber understands that small business members require particular focus as they seek resources and value for their organizations, thus will continue to deliver specialized programming like the How 2 instructional seminars and Sustainability Series, as well as financial and technology related programming. “The men and women who put it on the line every day in their businesses are taking the risks to help grow this economy,” says Larry. “They are largely represented within the North Chamber, and in us they have a voice and an advocate.”

Additionally, the North Chamber will work to bolster the return on investment for its members through an individualized effort to get more people involved and engaged via volunteerism. “We know that service hours and financial involvement are the keys to realizing a return on membership investment,” says Larry. As such, the chamber will aim to broaden the depth of member business participation by creating more than one touch point within member organizations, thereby increasing leadership opportunities to more professionals.

Finally, Larry feels that by optimizing the North Chamber’s offerings and operations, it will be positioned to deliver higher value to its membership. “By getting involved, our members use this chamber as a vehicle to work on their business. This is an ideal venue for professionals to demonstrate their expertise, position themselves as an authority in their community, grow their business and even cultivate employees,” says Larry. “I look forward to working with the membership and community to make 2012 a successful year.”