The man behind the chamber

CARLSBAD — While we might not always be able to control life’s circumstances, Ted Owen believes that with the right attitude we can often affect a positive outcome. 
In navigating through rough waters brought on by the current recession, the president and CEO of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce falls back on lessons learned in his youth spent in the Marine Corps.
“They teach you leadership, management skills, confidence, the ability to make decisions and multitasking,” he said. “Therefore, as I grew up, and got into business, I surrounded myself with positive people.”
After leaving the Marine Corps, Owen’s positive approach to life and business yielded more than 300 awards as publisher of the San Diego Business Journal for “writing good news,” he says.
“You can learn more from positive people and stories than you can from the negative,” he explained. “Therefore, I try to focus on things that I can improve and make better rather than the things that are negative and can cause bad feelings. I just try to think positive every day.”
Since the economic downturn, Owen says the chamber has lost many members who have been forced out of business. Despite that, he’s consistently met new membership quotas and has doubled his staff to meet the demand for trainings.
“We’re working twice as hard because instead of doing half a dozen seminars on topics like finance and marketing we may end up doing 15 or 20 because more people want to find out how to be successful,” he said.
While it’s true that many great ideas have sprung from times of economic adversity, Owen cautions those contemplating a new business start up to do some soul searching first. He explains that a person who wants to create a business because they have lost their job and are desperate will most likely fail.
“There’s a difference between being an entrepreneur and being in business for yourself,” he added. “An entrepreneur doesn’t mind failing because they fail their way to success.”
Owen says one way to become a successful entrepreneur is to join the Small Business Success Center. The organization offers expertise on business plans, loans, setting up an office, marketing and networking.
“The center is for people who tell us, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing but I think I have a good idea,’” Owen explained.
Another resource for chamber members is the new Netforce networking group, which initially began with six members. After each member got comfortable with one another, they agreed on the selection of a seventh member. The process continued, as the networking contacts grew.
“A year and a half later there were 36 people who met every week,” he explained. “They were handpicked by each other. Each member has 35 other people who sell their products for them. They have a sales force without having to pay them.”
The concept has expanded to three Netforce groups, each with 36 members.
“If you ask if they want to pay their dues, they’ll pay early because of their return on their investment,” Owen said, smiling.
Owen is also upbeat in the new year by changes at City Hall, with a new mayor and council member, and a city manager who is relatively new on the job.
“The way the city does business will change,” he said. “It is already good. We want it to be better. If I turned in a permit to build a building, today it would take seven months to process. We think it should be half of that. That will save money.”
The Carlsbad Chamber is the largest in North County, the second largest in the county, following the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the 10th largest in state. Owen said it is successful because it is run like a business, not a nonprofit, and that changes in the city government will positively impact it.
“We want to go from a good chamber to the better chamber,” he said.
For more information about Owen and the Carlsbad Chamber, visit www.carlsbad.org or call (760) 931-8400.

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