Fostering deep and meaningful progress in the community he lives in, works for, and tirelessly promotes.
Grafton deButts (LL ’11) was born in Loudoun County, graduated from Loudoun Valley High School, and, after a few other stops along the way, went to work for the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce as membership manager 10 years ago. He is now director of membership and brand strategy, and it’s hard to imagine a better or more enthusiastic ambassador. “Even though Loudoun has practically quadrupled in size since I was young, so much of that small-town community culture still exists. You see it every day when you look at how our business community is constantly engaging locally and with each other,” said deButts, a member of the 2011 Leadership Loudoun class.
Although it may at first seem counterintuitive, deButts’ commitment to improving the community and growth is compatible with the advice he wishes he had been given when he started out: Do less better. “Taking a thoughtful approach will help you avoid going an inch deep and a mile wide,” he said. “If you do that, what will you have to show for it at the end of your career? The leaders who are making an impact aren’t superheroes, they have the same 24 hours in a day as everyone else; they have a spouse; they have kids with soccer practice, piano lessons, and homework. Because of that limit on the time anyone can give any one thing, invest that time wisely on the things you care about and go deep.”
In his Leadership Loudoun cohort, deButts saw the power of building relationships and believes that they matter over almost any other marketing or advertising. His advice to business leaders and entrepreneurs is to “play the long game. Customers want to work with brands and companies they trust and earning trust takes time.”
At the Chamber, deButts works with members to meet their needs in the community, but he also works hard to ensure that the community knows that the Chamber is more than ribbon cutting and mixers. To serve members most effectively, deButts has founded new communities, such as the Loudoun Young Professionals in 2009 and, most recently, the Government Contractors Initiative, which was prompted by the question, How often do local government contractors drive to Reston, Tysons, or DC just to meet someone who lives in their own neighborhood?
To keep up with the county’s growth, the Chamber has also stayed abreast of the latest technology and information. “When I started,” deButts said, “our technology committee was focused on how to utilize a smart phone for business. Today, that same committee is leading the way in educating our members on cloud integration and leveraging blockchain.” Transportation needs are also a priority for deButts. “We’ve been tirelessly lobbying and advocating for increasing the funding for various local projects,” he said, “including the funding for the Silver Line to Loudoun, interchanges on Route 7, and hopefully one day a north/south thoroughfare connecting the county as well.