As far back as 1830, the French statesman and author Alexis de Tocqueville observed in Democracy in America that … Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all dispositions are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. And you know, he was right then and remains so today. How many folks don’t belong to one or more social, religious or business groups? Very very few. But the issue here is, how many of you are not maximizing the profitability of your business because you don’t belong to a state, provincial or national manufactured housing trade association or institute?
The has identified 22 features that attract businessmen and women to join various assemblies of like-minded individuals and firms. And the nearly two dozen features have been grouped into four areas of emphasis: activities, information, publications, and benefits. The following paragraphs take a closer look at ten of these feature areas (i.e. reasons) that are particularly germane to manufactured housing industry aficionados.
1. To support and advance a personal, business and other common and important interest to the individual or business involved. For example, manufactured housing, finance, real estate investment or management, OEM suppliers (i.e. original equipment manufacturers), and on and on. The purpose to all this? To capitalize on the very real concept that there is greater strength in numbers of like-minded folk than always going it alone.
2. To meet, network and share ideas, frustrations and lessons learned, with peers who have similar personal and professional interests. A good example of this is the periodic meetings we attend on local (i.e. chapter), state (i.e. convention or annual meeting) and national levels to do just that.
3. To acquire information and access resources key to one’s business survival, even prosperity. Venues for these opportunities? Regularly scheduled meetings, trade and professional publications subscription, trade show attendance, even recreational activities like golf outings. Furthermore, unique and helpful resources are oft available from association staff contacts and their experience, familiarity with research results, etc.
4. To develop new business through and with people met at association events and activities. When I started my manufactured housing-related business two decades ago, visiting local manufactured housing association chapter meetings was essential in developing contacts and future business relationships throughout the locale in which I was working. And now, twenty years later, the pattern repeats itself on a national and international level relative to the very same reasons.
5. To increase and update one’s skills and knowledge base. How? By attending association-sponsored seminars, training programs and other related activities. Frankly, there are no other opportunities to obtain the specialized knowledge we often need in manufactured housing than to be intimately involved with our state, provincial and national trade associations and institutes.
6. To keep abreast with changes to industry rules, regulations, statutes and standards. For that matter, association involvement is oft the only way one has to input the process to begin with, to express one’s support of or displeasure with pending legislation, rules changes, etc. For that matter, sharing a practical Code of Business Ethics with one’s peers is an important feature of this particular reason for joining.
7. To learn of and access latest worthwhile business products and services. Vendors often contact trade associations first to ‘test the waters’ relative to market (i.e. association member) acceptance. This is an especially common phenomenon at our regional MH trade shows.
8. To interface with professional association staff for answers to strategic business questions -and learn where to go for further information. This could well include access to the association’s attorney for legal opinion and initial guidance in sensitive business matters.
9. To increase clout in local, regional and national political and regulatory arenas. Politics is obviously a fact of business as well as personal life. Why not enhance your opinions in this arena by uniting with trade associations that share your concerns?
10. To take advantage of group purchasing and/or member discounts for certain products and services. There’s a very wide range of possibilities here: printing, advertising, travel discounts, group health and liability insurance, banking services, long distance telephone services, association -sponsored retirement plans, etc.
Convinced yet to join? I surely hope so. Here’s what Teddy Roosevelt had to say on the subject: ‘Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.’ So won’t you join me? As a matter of principle, I maintain trade association memberships in every state or province in which I have ongoing business interests, plus the national association that lobbies in my behalf at that level.