A ship without a rudder

By Tommy Jennings

I didn’t realize how badly it was going to turn out. I was blissfully wandering along happy as a pig in slop and if you recognize that saying, as Jeff Foxworthy says, “You’re from the South”.
I embarked on a second career for defensive purposes.
As our family owned manufacturing company faded into distant memories, my lovely wife looked at her husband with equal amounts of excitement, disgust, and pity. “You’ve never done this before, have you.” It wasn’t a question, but a declaration. I’d never “done this”. As far as “this” was concerned, I hadn’t done nothing. I’d always done something. Work. But I didn’t work anymore. So now I had free time. I found how it wasn’t very “free.”
No sooner had the ink dried from the sale of our building, than we were off. My wife has a passion for cruises. We were on a cruise. We met wonderful new friends from Los Angeles. We returned from the cruise, and planned a visit to LA. We threw in a trip to Vegas. While we were out west, we went to ‘Frisco. Napa was on the list. Great winery tours.
I could see it happening.
It was for defensive purposes. I was happy to go back to work. The world of chamber of commerce beckoned.
There was only one problem. A chamber executive put on parades. A chamber executive handled bake sales. A chamber executive judged beauty pageants. A chamber executive virtually worked for the government. A chamber executive wasn’t a businessman or businesswoman. It’s what I had seen. It’s what I’d been exposed to.
What I found out, though, was the eye-opening experience of a second career. It was a blended world of retail, consultant, and professional. It was a world of business and politics; of team and individual; of home-based business and multi-national corporation. I walked into an organization that I had not a lot of respect, and walked out the door after the first week realizing I was as dumb as a box of rocks.
My evolution as a professional in the world of chambers of commerce has been shaped by those who have come before – those chamber executives who have taught me “the ropes,” those chamber professionals that I have watched and emulated, and those staffers of chambers that, through their hard work and dedication, have made hometowns a better place to live and work.
Chambers of commerce are a resource for business and for the community. We are fortunate to have some outstanding chambers all around us. You may not notice them, but if they weren’t there, you’d miss them. Chambers continue to play an active role in the success of each community in which they serve. They are on the front lines of business, they are on the front lines of the community. Without them, it’s like a ship without a rudder.


Tommy Jennings

Tommy Jennings is a native of Winder, GA and is President of the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce. He was formerly President of Barrow Manufacturing Company, a family-owned company in business for 75 years. He is married to Danette, has two grown sons, and three grandsons.

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