Woodland Park Chamber President Celebrates Career Milestone

Miller Outlines Big Changes In Business Practices Over 25 Years

Trevor Phipps

Debbie Miller, the well-known veteran leader of the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, has reached an important milestone in her career.

 Miller was recently honored by the directors and staff of the Association of Chamber Executives for 25 years of service.

Miller has served as president of the local chamber that supports Woodland Park and businesses in the WP area and surrounding region for 15 years.  She is well-versed in this role, and is the longest-serving director for the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce.  Miller, in fact, has been in charge of four different chamber of commerce organizations across the country in three different states for the last two and a half decades.

It is a longevity record that she is quite proud of.

 After working closely with businesses of all types, Miller has experienced quite a lot of changes in the business world. She has also dealt with many changes regarding how the organization communicates with their members.

 “I think the major change has been technology and how you interact with members,” Miller said. “When I first started, technology was not as robust, there was no social media. It was really a phone call or in-person visit, which is still advantageous to do with your members. But technology certainly has changed since I began 25 years ago.”

The chamber president said that through the years she has faced stern challenges. The number one hurdle she cites deals with constantly changing regulations. “I think the biggest challenge over the years has had to do with how quickly rules and regulations for businesses change and keeping on top of that so that our chamber members are well-informed and operating to their best capacity that they can,” Miller said. “Whether it was in Illinois, here in Colorado, or South Carolina, rules and regulations for businesses change. Whether it’s an increase in minimum wage, whether it’s information about overtime, or healthcare, this information changes so quickly. So, it is incumbent upon the chambers to stay on top of that so we can let our members know how they need to fulfill their obligation to meet the rules and regulations they have to operate under.”

Local Business Challenges

Miller said that since she headed the chamber in  Woodland  Park, she has seen the local chamber organization grow by about 7 percent. She says keeping businesses in the area seems to be a prime issue. “What we see here is we have a lot of businesses that open and unfortunately, if they are not prepared with a marketing plan and business plan and are willing to pivot and change with those plans, it is hard to sustain,” the chamber president explained. “So, we have seen a lot of businesses come and go over the years, which is not unique to Woodland Park. That is a national trend. It happens all over the country.”

 Miller said that those wanting to start up a business need to put extra time in the preparation phase. She also said that it helps to set goals for the business, just like some do in their personal lives.

“I think the key for anybody who is considering opening a business is that they are well-planned,” Miller said. “That they have a business plan, a finance plan, and a marketing plan. All three of those are not set-in stone, and they will change. They may change weekly depending on how the marketplace is.”

She said that now, especially during the pandemic, it is wise to conduct research about market share and other ins and outs of the industry. “I think that during the pandemic, you need to be willing to pivot and change,” she said. “You have to be willing to embrace technology. With any small business, when it is independently owned, whether it is in the pandemic or during the best of times, a small business owner works their tail off. They don’t go in and work from nine to five. They are working constantly. They may be working inside their shop, but when they go home, they are still working. So, you have to have that passion and dedication that you really want to see that achieved. During the pandemic that passion helps to sustain overwhelming circumstances that none of us could have seen coming our way.”

She said one of the best parts of her job has been getting the chance to see businesses grow. She has enjoyed seeing the local economies grow in the four communities she has worked in.

Miller says that one factor contributing to her success over the years involves her networking efforts. The Woodland Chamber leader has said that since a community only has one chamber president, she has had to reach out to other chamber professionals across the state and country to connect with others who do the same job.