Chris Hardy is the president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
Chris Hardy has been the president of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce for nearly a year. During that time, the North Carolina native has come to embrace his new home here in Albany and is working to bring his philosophy of transparency and openness to his job.
In a recent question-and-answer session with Herald reporter J.D. Sumner, Hardy talks about his personal and professional life; his dream of escaping to Hawaii and his addiction to golf.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I was a busboy in a seafood shack. I did just about everything, stocked the salad bar, cleaned off tables. Just about did it all.
NAME: Chris Hardy
OCCUPATION: President, Albany-Area Chamber of Commerce
FAMILY: Divorced with no children. One 18-year-old dog
Q. What did you do with your first paycheck?
A. Well, actually that was the first money that I earned myself; that I could really claim ... but I actually ended up buying Christmas presents. Because when I got my check it was just a few weeks before Christmas.
Q. What’s your guiding principle as a Chamber executive?
A. Transparency. I’m a big believer in transparency. Some Chamber presidents don’t necessarily believe in the full level of transparency. I’m on the flip side. I believe the more transparent you can be, the better people will understand you, better understand your management style, better understand your leadership style, better understand your vision. As well as better understand the organization you’re employed for.
Q. What hobbies do you enjoy?
A. .I do actually enjoy working in the yard. I’m an outdoor nut, if you will, I like working in the yard even it’s just cutting the grass, weed eating, pulling weeds, whatever the case may be, I just love working outdoors. But primarily my main hobby is golf. It’s just something my dad got me started on when I was 13 years old. On Sundays after church he’d take me and brother to a local municipal course called White Pines Country Club and we’d play 18 holes and I’ve been playing ever since.
Q. What are you reading currently? (Writer’s note: Hardy is currently working on his chamber executive certification, a fact that colors his answer.)
A. Well actually we haven’t gotten to the recommended readings yet. Those books and materials have to be purchased from Amazon or the American Chamber of Commerce Executive’s web site, so I haven’t gotten to that point yet, but the actual names of the materials I’m not sure about yet, I haven’t researched it yet, but it’s primarily going to be in regards to fiduciary responsibility, tax information as far as being a 501 C-6 non-profit status, you know, how you go about filing your tax returns, investments in regard to non-profits, overall financial management. It’s going to be in regards to government relations, public policy, your knowledge of local politics within your state and federal government as well as the city and county local governments, basically all aspects of chamber management from books and biographies or bios written by people who have been in the industry for a long time.
Q. Do you have a favorite work-related gadget?
A. Well, I’ve got an iPad, but I don’t use it as much as my iPhone. I rely on my iPhone because I’ve got my emails synched to it, I’ve got my calendar synched to it, so if I don’t have that with me, especially Monday through Friday, and even the weekends for that matter, I feel extremely lost. Because if I’m out of the office any particular day, I don’t do the out-of-the-office assistant so on and so forth, because I want people to know that regardless of what time of the day it is or regardless if it’s the weekend, I want people to know that I’ll be able to respond to them in a timely manner.
Q. Have you had any role models?
A. Personally it would be my father. He’s probably the best man that I have ever known for a lot of different reasons but one thing he taught me and my brother was that transparency that I mentioned. Tell people how you feel, even if they don’t ask, be honest with people, always tell people what’s going on, treat people how you want to be treated. I know that it’s a bit cliché, but it’s something I’ve always tried to believe in. So I’d say that my dad has been the most inspirational person to me personally. Professionally, specifically in regards to the chamber industry, my first chamber president Rob Youngblood, who is president of the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce in Rock Hill, S.C. Even still I lean on him and I contact him for advice on some things that maybe I just want to get a second opinion on. Regardless of what that may be, or just call and say “hey” and what’s going on with him.
Q. If you were alone on a deserted island, what three things would you not want to be without?
A. A set of golf clubs with unlimited balls, which if you’re on an island that really won’t be possible but it’s a wish question. I would probably say, if she was able to live long enough with me, my dog. She just turned 18 years old this past January so she’s been with me almost half my life. The third thing I would probably say that I would need inspirational books to keep my hope alive that I would one day get off that island.
Q. When planning a vacation, would you seek out a beach destination or a mountain getaway?
A. Beaches. Growing up I was never more than four hours away from Myrtle Beach (S.C.). I know Myrtle Beach, S.C. like the back of my hand. I still go once a year to a charity golf tournament, I’m on the board of a charity in South Carolina that has an annual golf tournament in Myrtle Beach every year so I still go to that. Here I haven’t been able to visit many of the beach destinations yet. I’ve been to Jekyll Island one time last year; I’ve been to Kings Bay, but I guess it’s because Myrtle Beach is so close to my heart and it’s just where a lot of my vacation memories come from, I’d probably say Myrtle Beach is probably my favorite destination at this point in my life.
Q. What advice do you have for people getting into your industry?
A. First and foremost I’d probably mention to them the part I mentioned earlier about this being a selfless industry. That if they’re looking for constant reassurance about them doing a great job this probably isn’t the industry for them. You’ll be told you’re doing a good job but it’s not going to be as often as somebody in the private sector because you’ve got so many different people around you within your own company that recognize you whereas we try and recognize our volunteers. Also, I see a lot with chamber presidents, at their hesitancy to make a decision because they feel like it might not be viewed well by others, whether it be elected officials or people on the board or people in the community. But if they honestly feel like that was the right thing for the organization and the right thing for the business community based on a particular situation don’t be hesitant to make a decision because if you do, you’ll always going to be in question. Your decision making ability, your leadership style will always be under question that maybe you’re not sure of yourself and confident in what you’re doing.
Q. If you couldn’t be in your current field, what job would you have?
A. Growing up, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I grew up playing baseball. I played baseball in high school. I played baseball in college. I tried out for a couple of major league organizations but it was minor league teams. I was invited to a couple of tryouts after college; never made it but I think it’s only natural when you grow up loving a sport as much as I did baseball. Still to this day I’m one of the few people who can actually watch a baseball game on TV from the start of it all the way through the ninth inning.
Q. If money and time were no object, where would you travel to and why?
A. Hawaii. Never been to Hawaii. Always wanted to go to Hawaii. A lot of friends I have have been and told me about it. Never really heard any horror stories. I’d love to go visit Pearl Harbor. I’d love to go Maui, Honolulu.
Q. What’s your favorite quote?
A. My favorite quote, and it’s something I live by, and it’s really something that is more relevant in this community than any other community I’ve been in, if I can relate it to a community, but more just about myself; it was a quote I heard a long time ago and it goes: ‘In order to create change you cannot fight the existing model. In order to really create change you must build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’
It’s from Robert Dickinson. He was a best-selling author. That’s always stuck in my mind. And you can relate it to really anything — personal life, professional life. When I got here, we talked a lot about change. How are we going to change things? How are are we going to go about changing ourselves as an organization? We’ve got to change with the times. We haven’t really been doing that. We’ve got to do that.