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East County Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022 5 months ago

Down to Business

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Brittany Lamont, the new CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, plans long-term growth for the organization.
by: Eric Snider Contributor

 “I’m as homegrown as it gets,” Brittany Lamont declared in November, a few days into her tenure as the new president/CEO of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, a networking and advocacy organization with more than 550 member businesses in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Members range from large corporations to one-person firms.

Save for her first two years in Ohio, Lamont has lived in Bradenton all of her life. The 33-year-old attended Bayshore High School, finished Manatee Community College, then graduated from USF Sarasota-Manatee. She turned an internship at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce into a full-time job and worked there for more than 11 years, the last five as vice president.

Lamont is married to her high school sweetheart, David Lamont, an ER nurse and also a lifelong Bradenton denizen. They have two daughters — Payton, 5, and Harper, 2 — and are expecting a son in April.

Lamont has never felt the urge to test the waters elsewhere. “If anything, I feel a gravitational pull to stay here,” she says. “I’ve always loved it here.”

She spoke to LWR Life by phone on her fourth day on the job, while taking a walk near her office in the Northern Trust Building. 

 

How has your professional role changed from serving as a VP at the Greater Sarasota Chamber to your new position?

I worked my way through different levels of management in Sarasota and did virtually everything there is to do in a membership-based organization. I tell my (current) team that “I have literally sat where you are.” In my new role, I’m working with our board to create a vision of what the organization is going to look like in the next five to 10 years. As Lakewood Ranch continues to grow at this pace, we expect the business alliance to grow along with it. But I’ll be in the trenches, too. We have a total staff of five. With nonprofit membership organizations, everyone is in the trenches.

 

What is the top priority for your first few months on the job?

I’m going to meet with the members to find out what they’re looking for. After that, I’ll be able to better describe to you what our next steps will be. I don’t expect much in the way of major changes in 2022. I’ll be listening to members, looking at membership structure, looking at benefit offerings. In 2023, we’ll be rolling out some new ideas and programs.

 

Overall, what would you say is the most important long-term task you face?

A huge concern is membership. Nothing happens without membership. Without that and investment, we don’t exist. I don’t like the word “dues.” I prefer investment. We’re not dealing with kittens and puppies. We’re not asking people to donate for a cause. Members are expecting ROI, and we have to provide it. We have to make sure we create opportunities and benefits. We have to keep the members engaged. And then there’s retention. We can bring in new members all day long, but we won’t get traction if we don’t retain them.

 

The business alliance is partly a networking organization. The pandemic must have changed the way the business people interact. How have you experienced that? 

Before the pandemic, those of us in membership-based groups were hesitant to jump into virtual programming, but the pandemic forced us into it. And virtual is not going away. But people are itching to get back to in-person connections. I think it may end up that our networking is done more in person and the virtual is more content- and education-based. 

 

You’re also an advocacy organization. Can you give me an example?

Sure. Our support of extending the million-dollar property tax referendum. Residents in Sarasota and Manatee counties voted to tax themselves, and the money goes to local schools. The business alliance, along with other organizations in the region, came out in support of the measure. Why do we care about something like that? When we try to bring businesses into the region, one of the first questions they’re going to ask is, “How’s your school system?”

 

How did you find your way into membership-based business organizations? 

Growing up, I had a friend whose mom was named Debbie Heckert. She worked at the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. When Andrea and I were around 10 years old, she’d take us into the office, and we’d stuff bags for their events. Unfortunately, Debbie passed away awhile ago from colon cancer. When I was in college getting a communications/marketing degree, I just assumed I would go to work in the corporate world. One day in class, someone from the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce came and said they had this internship — was anybody interested? I was the only one who raised my hand. I interned there as a communications person, and eventually joined the chamber full time. I figured I wanted to go into marketing, but instead of marketing one business, I could market hundreds of businesses in a membership-based organization. I fell in love with it. After I got the job, Debbie’s husband, Jim, wrote me and said, “Debbie would be so proud of you.” That means more to me than anything.

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