Vail Valley Partnership column: Ability to listen key in business environment | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Partnership column: Ability to listen key in business environment

As I think about the leaders we are fortunate to have in this community, and the talented and inspirational individuals I have met in my professional experience, I find the best are persistent, persuasive, strategic thinkers, energetic, able to offer compelling arguments to overcome resistance. Many, as you would expect, are quite good speakers — elegant, inspirational and inspiring. But if I had to pick just one quality, one that each of these individuals share, then it would be this: the ability to listen.

As any business operator knows, listening (really listening) to your clients (or in the case of Vail Valley Partnership, our members) is harder than talking at your customers. Talking is a one-way process designed to get your message across, while effective listening to is a two-way process that requires interaction — not just mouse clicks or page views or newsletter opens or video impressions. Listening allows us to absorb and understand the challenges facing our member organizations. Not only the business challenges, but also the threats and opportunities. A deeper understanding allows us, as a business organization, to better develop programming to meet the needs of the business community.

The good news is that it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to engage your clients in meaningful conversations. It does, however, require an investment of time and effort. The fact is, most of us don't really listen very well. Consider the folks who attend public meetings with an agenda; you can see these folks itching to get a word in and often bloviate when presented with the opportunity to speak.

When they do manage to listen, they are often waiting until the other person finishes so that they can say what is on their mind. And that's not really listening. We're all guilty of this at some point or another; throughout time the result of this is that we seal ourselves off from other people, we don't really know them or really understand their concerns. All because we don't listen.

At Vail Valley Partnership, we recognize this and we are working to really listen to our members across a variety of forums, in an ongoing effort to best meet the needs of our business community. Listening to the needs of our members helps our board of governors to identify key strategic priorities for the organization, and listening to our members allows our team to develop programming to meet your needs.

Consider our 12@12 program. This program is designed to bring 12 people in the same industry together to collaborate on new ideas, discuss best business practices, and work toward solutions on similar business obstacles. The 12@12 program provides an open forum for partners to share feedback on the state of their industries and is designed to provide businesses with tools and resources to help them maximize their long-term success, not just within the valley, but also within their industry. The Partnership is able to bring together businesses, to facilitate discussion and to help determine possible new programming or resource gaps that might exist to better support businesses.

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Our economic development advisory council is another way we listen to our members; this group meets quarterly and provides feedback on our economic development programming and efforts. This group consists of public and private partners across industry sectors, from Gypsum to Vail and all points in between.

A key part of the economic development effort is our SmartBusiness Eagle County business retention and expansion program. Intensive business interviews are in progress to better understand the challenges faced by industry, opportunities for expansion and to connect businesses to various town, county, regional and state resource partners.

Advocating for Better Public Policy

The 12@12, Economic Development Leadership Council, and SmartBusiness Eagle County programs are all designed to provide different forums — small groups, cross-industry and individual — for us to listen to our members. The intent of these programs is to provide structural, imbedded forums to allow us to listen to the needs of our members, and to then provide resources for the issues that are raised. Vail Valley Partnership has the unique opportunity to advocate for change at a regional and state level on those issues that challenge or inhibit the growth of business in the valley.

By really listening to our members, and soliciting their input around business challenges, we can effectively advocate for better public policy. It is why we are active in leading the dialogue around workforce housing, air service development, transit service, transportation infrastructure, and workforce development.

We encourage businesses and organizations throughout the valley to engage with us and allow us to learn what challenges face your business and industry. We're stronger together, and it starts by listening to your needs.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.

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