MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL | DOUG CARPENTER
I have been a business owner in Memphis since 1988. At various times, I have become a member of the Greater Memphis Chamber, finding it important to support our business community and also, hopefully, to gain benefits for my own business.
I say “various times” because, in the past, I’ve let my Chamber membership lapse. I did not always see the value I expected. My perspective changed, however, when DCA rejoined this year.
I decided to take the Chamber up on what they offered. I (reluctantly) took a tour of the Greater Memphis Chamber offices during their introductory event, “Chamber 101.”
That hour or so was incredibly productive on multiple fronts. Not only did I learn how the Chamber is magnifying its values of leadership, partnership, soul, innovation, diversity, and connection, I interacted with a wider group of my peers and found very specific and immediate ways to apply the Chamber’s resources to both our business and our clients’ businesses in a meaningful way.
Under the leadership of Phil Trenary, the Greater Memphis Chamber has transformed into a viable, energetic, and proactive business organization. But its influence is not restricted to “business;” the Chamber epitomizes the business of Memphis, representing the hard topics such as incentives and laws and the soft topics like motivation, momentum, and collaboration.
I was especially struck by the discussion of MWBE (Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise) efforts. My historical knowledge of the initiative has been associated with legal obligations related to government contracts. And while I have always appreciated the effort to help others succeed, only on rare occasions did I feel connected to those specific efforts.
I had a huge shift in perspective when I learned that government contracts represent only a sliver of the potential revenue that could be generated for MWBEs. I immediately recognized that indirectly – not by law but by culture – we must be mindful of whom we work with and how private enterprises operate. This consideration applies to our clients, through our vendors, and with our partners.
I have benefited from a wide and supportive network throughout my career, and I am aware that this resource has not always been available to everyone in our community. That conversation at the Chamber prompted DCA to begin a new evaluation of our relationships. Going forward we will avail ourselves of the Chamber’s current and future resources related to minority enterprises and make a more conscious effort to incorporate MWBE partners into our operations.
Through this process, I expect we will connect with people who will enrich our lives and business in new and dynamic ways. I challenge other Memphis business owners to consider what the MWBE movement does for our culture, economic climate, and city, as well as what it can do for your business culture and greater community. While you may or may not join the Chamber, I urge you to look inward at your policies and take action to move our city forward together.