Chris Steinocher has been at the helm of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce since 2011. His vision and leadership have transformed a once-ailing organization into one of the strongest institutions in St. Pete. A force for business advocacy and equitable economic growth, the Chamber has doggedly told the story of St. Pete's rapidly growing entrepreneurial community. But that work gained new meaning when Steinocher was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2019. With the disease now in remission, Steinocher has a new lease on life, and a renewed vision for the way the St. Petersburg community should treat one another.
Years in St. Pete
Organizations involved in
What gets you out of bed every day?
I get out of bed a whole completely different way now since my cancer. I actually get out of bed with joy in my heart because I’m taking care of myself first, so I have changed the way I get out of bed. Before I come to work – and I used to get to work very early – now I get out of bed for myself, I get out of bed for my health and for my family. I quickly get out of bed, I do 30 minutes of working out, I do 15 minutes of yoga, 15 minutes of meditation and 15 minutes of reading the bible. By 9:00, I may be exhausted but I know what my day is like and it’s about me and my family and my God.
Why St. Pete?
St. Pete has a vibration that you can feel. As soon as you drive over that bridge and you see our St. Pete monument, you know something is different. Even in 1989, when there was none of the wonderful buildings and the people and the beer and the art, there was still the vibration. There’s something different about St. Pete. The vibration allows people to maybe feel different and maybe look up a little more, smile a little bit easier, care a little more about their neighbors.
What is one habit that you keep?
Right now it is literally taking care of myself first so I can be good for my family and be good for my Chamber. I used to think I took care of myself because I used to work out all of the time and try to eat well. But taking care of yourself is asking, “what kind of stress do you have today?” and how do you try to something so you don’t carry that with you.
Who are some people that influence you?
All of the people that show up at the Chamber of Commerce, because nobody has to show up, everybody volunteers. So it’s the people of this community that constantly just give first before they even ask for anything. What I’ve really seen is that I can be inspired at every ribbon cutting because every one of those businesses is doing something pretty courageous so I don’t think there’s just one but I think there’s a collective notion that we’re trying something different in St. Pete, and people care about it.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
I hate to keep repeating about it but this self-inflection of what everybody is going through. I’m just a little worried that everybody is carrying their stress like it’s a badge of honor or something they just have to go through. If we all start talking about it and just handling ourselves a little more human, expecting less from each other and expecting more for each other. My advice is, are you handling your stress well? And what are you doing about it? Don’t let it kill you, don’t let it get you sick like it did for me.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I wish I would have known how much people cared about what we’re doing. I have just recently, over the last nine months, come to understand that people really saw us this whole time. We were working really hard to try to bring this momentum, collaboration, this care of this community and I didn’t realize how far along we were until I was gone for a few months with my sickness and watched how prolific this creation continues.
I really believe we become the leader in the State of Florida, then one of the leaders in the country for how we conduct ourselves. We’ll be witness to the successes, people will come to celebrate our art and high tech innovations and data analytics and everything else we’re doing. But I think we’re coming to become a leader in how we have done this, how we’ve collaborated together with care for everybody. This inclusive prosperity model – equity – people are starting to talk about it, but we’re nine years in now and you’re seeing it being translated to every business.