Why are Industry Trade Associations important?
Industry Trade Associations play important roles in promoting trade laws, providing networking opportunities among competitors, providing a voice for the industry when it comes to regulations and new legislation and providing tools such as best practices for that particular industry. Associations are not labor unions, instead they are generally groups of businesses in the same industry, all joined by the common threads that can affect that industry and the individual members within that industry. The American Society of Association Executives defines an association as "an organization or group of individuals affiliated with one another who share a common purpose, interest, or mission and exist for the mutual enrichment and advancement of their membership" (ASAE, 2012, p. 4).
Some of the largest associations in the United States include the National Association of Realtors, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the National Association of Home Builders and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. Ok, to be fair I am a proud member of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents. In fact, as a past Chairman of the Kansas Association, I am now in the chairs and will be the National Chairman of IIABA in 2020 – BUT WHY DOES THAT MATTER?
Running your business is a full time job and requires many hours at work. Joining an association may seem like a waste of time, but here are 6 reasons you should not only consider joining your association, but being involved in your association, after all if your industry suffers – so will you.
Expand your network and learn from others in your industry. No one knows it all, but I’ve found that being involved allows other from around the country to share what works and what is not working. That can be extremely beneficial in your own business.
Take advantage of the professional development most associations offer. Whether it’s continuing education or the prestige of being a part of a well-established and recognized association. Industry associations offer professional development that is not open to the public.
Be a leader. Leading your business is one thing, leading a group of individuals and businesses within your industry gives great insight into future developments, legislation that affects all of us, and gives you the satisfaction of making positive impacts within your industry.
Become a mentor for someone else. So many people new to your industry are searching for someone who has been there before and is willing to help talk them through situations and help them along their way. Or, conversely, find a mentor. Many people involved in your association are ready, willing and able to help.
Become more civically active. When you start to see how simple rules, regulations and laws can have a dramatic effect on your business or industry it’s easy to want to be involved at all levels of government. Not that you necessarily ever want to run for elective office, but paying attention, being on local committees and governing bodies, you can play a significant role in the welfare of your community.
Be at the forefront of your industry. By being involved you have access to an enormous amount of resource information such as case studies, white papers, emerging trends and products, and experts in your field. This can be put to great use to help your clients and to enhance your business and you as a professional in your field.
When I was first asked to join our state association board, I asked my Dad who was my mentor and my boss if he thought that would be a good idea. What he said then still rings true today some 20 years later, he said; “you will get more out of being involved than you will ever give to the association.”
For me personally, I know that my skills, my professionalism, my network and my awareness of industry trends and developments helps me add value to the clients and friends that I serve. I encourage you to look into your joining you professional or trade association – it’ll be a step in the right direction.