In 2005, after studying Psychology and Government & Foreign Affairs at Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney, VA, Henry headed back to the Carolinas to pursue his dreams. Installed as Chief Executive Officer of a Charleston Networking Association in 2005 by former U.S. Majority Whip James Clyburn, Henry began his journey as a leader. After six years of operating the alliance as a membership-based networking association, Henry amended the name of the organization to the Southeastern Chamber of Commerce, carrying all rights pertaining thereto.
Today, Henry L. Ravenel Jr. leads this organization through a lens of new millennium success, structure and positive regional impact. He oversees the chamber’s Future Agendas and Public Policy initiatives at the international level, along with the countless day-to-day operations of the organization at large.
In a short period, Henry established a Southeast Regional growth plan, which has been effective for dozens of large and small companies. Henry has assisted the Southeastern Chamber of Commerce, its Board of Governors and its hard-working investors, in embracing new business challenges associated with aggressive communication initiatives and campaigns, all designed to bring great benefits for the region.
The chamber’s success across the region has been based on its vitality and ability to stay on the cutting edge of ever-changing business and economic trends. As a young chamber, SCC witnessed the need for a “millennial powerhouse”, moving forward to define and establish this concept through seven core cluster target areas that affect business development. The “powerhouse” has provided support to business owners and individual entrepreneurs who have encountered tough advocacy issues that are currently in front of local, state and national government.
Prior to building the foundation of the Southeastern Chamber, Henry was a manager with Veolia, an international transit company. He also became a valued leader at Kiawah Development Partners, Inc., which operated many subsidiaries such as the Doonbeg Golf Club in Ireland and the Christophe Harbor on the island of St. Kitts,West Indies. Henry currently owns Henry’s Transmission & Roadside Assistance, Inc. based out of Ravenel, SC. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Market Street Gentlemen Society, a private wealth society based out of Charleston, SC.
Henry held numerous military leadership positions throughout his educational career in Camden, SC. He served as a member of the Camden Military Academy Board of Alumni, class president and battalion adjutant.
As part of his duties while leading the efforts of the Southeastern Chamber, Henry also serves as Executive Board Chairman to its new Board of Governors. He is actively involved in many faith- based projects and holds various positions with Sounds of Praise International Ministries, a growing Christian ministry led by world-renowned Bishop Dr. Allen H. Simmons. Henry is happily married to M. Dunice Ravenel, a Human Resources Supervisor with the U.S.Department of State.
Connect with Henry on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Upcoming initiatives the SCC and its subsidiaries
- Small businesses in navigating through the economy since Covid-19 outbreak, vaccines, and overall adaption
- Pro/Cons of new wave of energy for small businesses
- Corporate America in adapting to the inflation of entrepreneurship and its overall impact on today’s workforce
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Association Leadership Radio. Now here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:20] Lee Kantor here another episode of Association Leadership Radio and this is going to be a good one. Today on the show, we have Henry Ravenel with Southeastern Chamber of Commerce. Welcome, Henry.
Henry Ravenel: [00:00:33] Thank you, Lee, for having me. Pretty excited about today.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:37] I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about the Southeastern Chamber of Commerce. How are you serving, folks?
Henry Ravenel: [00:00:43] Well, the Southeastern Chamber is extremely busy these days as a business networking association. We were founded in 2005. We service about 893 members across the southeast, particularly comprising of small business entities. They make up hospitality and tourism, health care, green energy consortium, nightlife, entertainment and of course, technology, which is something big across the southeast. Certainly a pleasure to talk about all of the growth that’s happening not only in the chamber, but I think in the region as a whole and then, of course, across America. We were, as I said, founded in Charleston, South Carolina, in oh five, about ten years shy of the closing of our military tourism base there in Charleston. And we developed our assisted our communities there with developing plans that would come up with a stronger blue and white collar industry there in Charleston that would make things sufficient for years to come so that if another big closing like that of a manufacturing dependent, that many of the residents and local market was depending on, if that were to happen again, we would be ready. So we were founded during a very unique time, but we are all about networking, training and promoting our members and we’re always looking to do that through an innovative form of development. Well, that’s a little bit about our chamber now.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:17] What was the thinking to have the chamber focus on the Southeast rather than just the community or the city or even the Metro?
Henry Ravenel: [00:02:26] Well, you know, they have about three or four different chambers that are in Charleston and just right there servicing the Charleston area. But no one is looking at interconnectedness on a regional basis. And a lot of our contractors want to do business abroad. They want to do business outside of the local market. And we decided to do what we saw that other chambers weren’t doing and that still have the small business improvement areas that cover a specific locale, but then give them the opportunity to connect for contracts and bids and opportunities abroad as well. When I say abroad, of course, outside of our headquarter market of South Carolina, with doing that, we’ve been able to structure divisions, to have cross collaboration with other divisions to do business. So whether it’s bidding on a project at a stadium in Atlanta or whether it’s looking for government contracting state of Raleigh, North Carolina, our members love that cross collaboration and we wanted to make a regional impact while still giving them a small time hometown feel.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:37] Now, as a leader of an organization like that, how do you kind of help them, the members connect with each other and create maybe events that encourage that type of collaboration across borders?
Henry Ravenel: [00:03:51] Well, we do that through a lot of our events and service. You said a key word there, events and whether it’s our NENO conference, which stands for Stop Entrepreneurship Next Gen Opportunity, or whether it’s through some of our local festivals that we put on as an organization, we’re always looking to connect those members, whether it’s through international trade, us being a 500 1z6. We just did two tours in Africa to talk about international collaboration and US trading and employment opportunities in the hospitality and tourism industry. You know, all all the way down to just some of the programs we do from city to city and state to state. Those include our restaurant festivals and, you know, food and beverage events that all drive our members with the opportunity to do business abroad and in the local area. So those are just to name a few of some of our programs and events that we provide to the members across the borders.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:58] So what’s your back story? How did you get involved in this line of work?
Henry Ravenel: [00:05:02] You know, I went to Camden Military Academy and finished there in high school, came out second in command. So leadership wasn’t a stranger to me tipping off to college, which was done in Hampton, Sydney and Hampton, Virginia, Hampton, Sydney, Virginia, and then got into Charleston and just realized there was a need for a millennial based networking organization that focused on small business. Like I said, we had had our traditional chambers that had been around Charleston Metro chamber, one of the greatest. Organizations in Charleston had been around since 1776, but they had a very traditional structure and a very traditional way of doing business. So when we looked at that and we looked at the amount of college graduates and high school students that were coming out of high school locally and college locally, but matriculating on to other areas like Atlanta and Charlotte. We had to bridge a gap there. And we thought that the chamber, with the first step, being networking and future collaboration, would be able to bridge that gap and which it did. But how do we. We asked ourselves back then, how did we go to those cities like Charlotte and Atlanta and Raleigh and those that were close by and grab our next generation of trailblazers that had took off? And then we figured out that if we created cross-border collaborations on a regional level, that may have the opportunity to bring them back home and strengthen the workforce, but still give them the opportunity to tour and visit and have friends in other markets, that we could create good synergy and collaboration to do business with them. Still feeling exposed, getting proper exposure, but yet having that hometown town feel to come back and contribute to the market. So that’s how all that got started. And some of the ideas that we had when this came about.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:54] Can you share a story where you were able to help a member kind of build one of those cross-border relationships that took maybe either one or both of those organizations to a new level? You don’t have to name the name of the organization, but maybe the challenge that they had and what they were looking for and how were they they were able to achieve it.
Henry Ravenel: [00:07:15] Uh, yeah, I could give you a I guess I could give you kind of on the advocate standpoint without me. That sounds like an interview question. They’re like a, like a job interview question. But I think I could give you a example of how we assist one of our members with advocacy. We had a member that. You know, services something in the health and beauty industry. So it’s a it’s a nail industry. And a lot of their employees that come to the states come from abroad. So they were dealing with a testing and a international examination period through the License Labor and Review Board, which is linked to our State House and some of our local state officials there. We were able to assist him with streamlining a easier testing process for some of his employees to come into the country because his unique services that he offered is sometimes not something that a lot of our local workforce would like to do or would like to be trained. So we took him in and met with local officials and some of our state officials and politicians that were all involved with that committee and build policy and law process that made it difficult for him to get some employees and help. So we had to travel to various markets and do some analytics and data to prove his argument and then bring it to the board for review. And so our cross-border collaboration in the return on investment for that member came from him being able to see that he had a local business organization that fought in front of local, state and national government for things that affected his business. We went from Columbia to Raleigh back to Charleston to prove the importance of why this small business that has 12 locations really needed not only the support of his chamber, but support of those that are passing laws that affect his business.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:21] Now, if you were going to give advice to an entrepreneur or small business owner on the best way to leverage this Southeastern Chamber of Commerce membership, what would you say is the most important thing they could be doing?
Henry Ravenel: [00:09:36] Well, follow our return on investment strategy. I think we’re the only chamber that offers a 180 day return on investment plan that tells you once you sign up to become a member and you invest in our products and services, how do you gain the most of your ROI? So we’ve got a roadmap plan that we give out and it tells you on your 30th day or 60th day, your 100 and your 90th day in 120th day, what you should be looking for, what are the type of events that you should be engaged in? Not only that, I think we’re the only chamber that offers customized membership, meaning that member has the opportunity to come and sit in front of us and talk about what are their needs for their business. You know, traditional structures. Typically you sign up for a chamber of commerce, you list off your list of benefits and it’s the take it or leave it thing, you know, get in where you fit in. We saw that that was problematic for industries like chamber. So the Southeastern Chamber rolled out a millennial plan to customize memberships. So we take the question you asked me and we give it back to the member.
Henry Ravenel: [00:10:43] What is it that you’re joining this organization for? In section F of our application, we ask, Do you need government contracting? You need networking, you need marketing, you need visibility. And when they check that box, we put them into a system and then we look at our calendar for the year and our programs and our services. So we mix and match those opportunities to what they signed up for. And we’ve seen that members like that because they get a greater and direct return on investment other than just being thrown to the wolves, which is kind of like sometimes how these modern day groups and organizations do things. So I would say to any member interested in looking at getting the best bang on their buck for joining the Southeastern Chamber is to follow the plan we give you, which is that our strategy in the beginning and then when we sit and talk to you during that interview process and we ask you what is your expectation and what is your prospective return on investment from the organization, that you answer that thoroughly so that we can do our job and deliver.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:44] Now what do you need more of? How can we help you? Do you need more members? Do you need more kind of corporate partners, more sponsors? How can we help you?
Henry Ravenel: [00:11:54] We’re always looking for collaboration and partnerships and but we’re very specific family chamber. So at that same time, we want to make sure that partnerships are strategic for our organization because we are a different type of chamber. So I would say what we need from organizations like yours and other partners in the airways and in the media realm that have large followings is just to help us promote the small business, family office, family style businesses. We are the training ground and the hub for those type businesses. And if you can help us get the word out about our organization specifically wanting to service those markets, that would be of great help to us. Not to mention we’re rolling out a plan that’s a lot to do with green energy, putting more smart energy hubs in a lot of our southern markets. We’re working on bidirectional green energy and with solar panels and electric car charging stations. It’s going to be a big tech green tech wave for the 2023 plan of the chamber. So any businesses that are connected in those spaces are always good referrals for our chamber. With some of the new bills and laws that have came out and some of the business that we’re going to be doing across the region was specifically in the energy and in green space. So all of those are good referrals. That’s how you can help and certainly we would appreciate that.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:32] So now, having worked in this space for a minute, are you bullish about the next generation of entrepreneurs? Are you excited about their contribution to the economy?
Henry Ravenel: [00:13:46] Well, I’m excited if we’re able to continue to understand them, because millennials have to understand Gen Zs as Gen Ys had to understand millennials. And I think that they can contribute a lot. Our Gen Z generation can contribute a lot to the economy, but I do think they need to realize that it’s comfortable that it sounds it’s not going to be able to be done from your pillow in your bedroom. Even though we’re a millennial and innovative chamber, we still believe in shaking hands. We still believe in face to face interaction. We still believe in closing a deal at a table. And and so I think it’s going to be a balance. It’s going to be a balance between the two generations. And we’re here to help find that balance. We’ve been finding it. And and so I think that we do have a bright future. To answer your question, with the the next generation of trailblazers, we just got to be able to pinpoint their thought process and how they think things. And then we’ve got to model the workforce to fit them. Some may say, no, we should take our corporate structure that we have and we should have them level up. But you try to tell people that have to run our nation and our workplaces and our small business models that are next in line. As others phase out, you try to tell them that they’ve got to do this and they’ve got to do that. And I think that’s the problem. They don’t want to hear that. So we’ve got to figure out a way to meet them in the middle. We need their technology. They need our wisdom, they need our strength. And together, when you can put that all in one hand, you’ve got a great fits.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:31] And it’s important contributors like you and your team that are being that bridge to help make that happen.
Henry Ravenel: [00:15:38] Absolutely. And we enjoy it. We enjoy every bit of it.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:41] Now, if somebody wants to connect with you or somebody on your team, what’s the website?
Henry Ravenel: [00:15:46] Yeah, you can reach us at Southeastern Chamber dot org. On December 1st, we’ll roll out our new interactive website. So we’ve had our website now for about seven years and we’re rolling out a new website on the 1st of December. But to reach us for now, you can reach us at our current website, which is Southeastern Chamber dot org. Of course you can call the chamber direct at 8435562863 or also on our. All of our modern modern social media links such as Instagram. We have Southeastern chamber page there, Facebook and Twitter, so you can reach us in those markets as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:34] Well, congratulations on all the success and thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you will lead.
Henry Ravenel: [00:16:41] Thank you for having us. And we look forward to doing some collaboration, probably working with you again in the future.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:46] Sounds good. All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you all next time on Association Leadership Radio.