By Jim Sobeck
No matter what business you are in, there are usually one or more trade associations representing your interests. Are you active in any of the trade associations for your industry? I’m not asking if you belong to a trade association; I’m asking if you are active in it. There is a big difference between being a member of an association and being active in it.
Why should you be active in one or more trade associations?
- Networking. None of us has all the answers to the problems we deal with in business every day. However, somewhere out there someone has the answer to a problem you’re facing today. How do you find that person? When you’re active in trade associations you meet people in the same business from all over the country, or maybe even all over the world, and someone, somewhere, has the answer to your question. Being active in a trade association makes it much easier to find that person.
- Staying abreast of changes in laws and regulations. Unfortunately, today there are literally thousands of laws and regulations affecting your business. How can you possibly keep up with all of them? Trade associations do that for you. They have professional staffs whose job it is to monitor changes in the laws and regulations governing your business, and it’s their job to inform you of the changes.
- Lobbying. “Lobbyist” has become a dirty word in this country, but the fact of the matter is, if you don’t have someone lobbying on your behalf in Washington, your industry is not going to get the attention it deserves. If you are active in your trade association you will meet with your lobbyists from time to time so you will have an opportunity to let them know what’s important to you and how you would like them to represent your interests.
- Grow your revenues. Those active in trade groups tend to do business with others in the same group. If you go to the meetings of your trade association, you will make contacts with both suppliers and potential customers that will help you increase your sales. Those who are active in associations prefer to do business with others they have come to know and trust through the association.
- Education. Unless you have a very large company, you don’t have the resources to develop educational programs for your employees. Most associations have very affordable educational programs which will help your employees become more effective, which benefits you and makes them feel more fulfilled.
- Employee benefits. Most trade associations pool the collective buying power of their members and are able to offer you more benefits, and at a better cost, than you can obtain on your own. By this I mean health insurance, travel discounts, special deals on shipping, “members only” pricing on vehicles and capital equipment, etc.
- Fun. In my 40-plus years in business I have been very active in many trade associations, including being on national boards. Not only did I learn and grow a lot from doing this, but my wife and I have had a lot of fun with other members and their spouses at some very attractive locations around the globe. Being active in associations isn’t all work!
Jim Sobeck is CEO of New South Construction Supply, a building products distributor based in Greenville with nine locations in the Carolinas and Georgia. He is the author of “The Real Business 101: Lessons From the Trenches.”