Nicki Anderson is a woman I consider my friend and we’ve never met IRL. I met her through another woman Stephanie McHale, who I have also never met. The beauty of the technology and social media means women all over the world have the ability to meet, share ideas and give support to each other. Nicki has been generously writing for MOMentumNation for ages and while I will sorely miss her as writer, I am sure we will still remain friends and eventually she will make her way to New York where we can finally meet. But I am so proud of Nicki. She recently ran for President and CEO of her local Chamber of Commerce and won! She is an inspiration to anyone who ever thought about running for an office.
So you’re an exercise expert. How did things you learned from that career help in your recent run for President and CEO of the Naperville Chamber of Commerce?
Nicki: “People don’t’ realize that as well as being a fitness expert, I also ran a business of seven to nine employees over the years, my expertise is really business. I was a great fitness trainer because I “get” people. But most of my efforts were spent writing about and lecturing about business. Those lectures took me all over the world, as trainers are not necessarily good business people. I loved working closely with a wide variety of people via consulting or lecturing and teaching them the finer nuances of business ownership.
The chamber is simply a continuation, on a grander scale of what I’ve been doing for 20+ years, inspiring people to realize and seize opportunities. (I did the same with my fitness clients, realizing the possibilities and laying out their strategy.) In fact, my very last column for my weekly health and fitness column, I wrote about it.”
Do you think more women should get involved in their area politics?
Nicki: “Absolutely. Small business owners especially don’t understand the value of paying attention to local and state government. Not understanding the ramifications of new, legislative issues that could make or break their business is a shame. Women for some reason feel it’s not important; unfortunately it’s all too common. One of my goals this first year, is getting small business owners more involved (our big businesses get it) and help them understand the value of being on topic of political issues by breaking down exactly what the Chamber does as far as legislative support. In fact, I have a legislative meeting on Monday, progressive taxes and pensions I’m sure will be the topic of conversation. The more we know, the more empowered we become. The more empowered we become, the better we become at business or whatever our area of expertise.”
What tips do you have for women looking to run for any kind of office? Had you run before?
Nicki: “You know, it’s funny. I’ve never considered myself a politician however my husband has always said, “You are the consummate politician. Because life is politics.” He’s so right. Women are typically great at looking at all sides of the equation. Additionally, we’re really good listeners. We also are more likely to vote on something that’s good for all versus good for me, which I see all too often with politicians, especially if they’re up for re-election.
I’ve been involved in a number of offices in school in my younger years and then getting involved in not-for-profits and getting voted in to various positions there. I’ve also sat on a number of Boards. IN fact, had I not pursued this job, I was going to put my name in the ring for one of my favorite not-for-profits as Board President. In Sheryl Sandburg’s book, “Lean In” she makes it very clear that women should take a seat at the table without hesitation. One of my male counterparts said to me, after I was hired for this position, “While others are taking a seat at the table, Anderson is on dessert.” That’s me; I’m full speed ahead and never apologize for it. My thing is that I like finding the holes and figuring out ways to fill them.”
You’re also the first woman to ever hold that position. What did you daughter think of that? Your husband?
Nicki: “My daughter was incredibly proud. In fact, at the gala which is where they announced me as the new CEO (it’s a big black tie event and fundraiser) my daughter walked around with me all night. I was really happy to have her not only “hang with me” but watch how I interact and that a woman can do anything she sets her mind to, even if it’s scary. I’m very fortunate, my husband has always been my biggest cheerleader, albeit silently. When this job came to me of course I asked him what he thought given how it would dramatically change our lives. He asked me, “Do you want it?” and I said, “Yes.” He said, “Then do it. You have my support.” Pretty great.”
Will you still be teaching health and exercise?
Nicki: “God no. I’m so done. It’s a tough industry that is relatively new so it’s not regulated at all. The people who deserve to be paid big bucks don’t, and the shysters in the industry (every industry has them) is making bank. So, it’s tough to make money unless you can operate and run a successful business or a large gym. I always felt like my knowledge and passion were undervalued, so when I walked away, I wasn’t sure exactly how I could continue my passion and purpose, and lo and behold, this job showed up. Never doubt that what is right for you is waiting for you. You just have to navigate through shitty waters sometimes, but when you hit that clear blue ocean (where you’re meant to be) there’s nothing more beautiful or satisfying. And next to having my children, starting my first business, this gig is just a great thing.”
What do you look to change while in office?
Nicki: “Really getting to know my members. We have some fantastic large corporations that are great members, but we can’t forget about the Mom and Pop businesses that have dreams. I want to connect with them and make sure they take advantage of every opportunity within our chamber to help their business succeed. We have Women in Business breakfast 1x per month. My goal is to get powerful speakers in there that serve to inspire positive change for women. I also want to educate our members on the incredible value of the legislative arm of the Chamber. Additionally, I’m creating focus groups to better understand what our members want and I want to create more diversity in our chamber. That’s just a few of the things on my agenda. But there will be plenty more as I move forward.
Are you ready to run for office?