I’m fortunate to attend a lot of conferences and conventions put on by industry associations. These events are not only great networking opportunities, but they allow attendees to learn more about niches of their industry, as well as gain 30,000-ft views of things like engineering design trends and economic factors that are affecting their business. Yet, there is so much more to these groups—and I’m surprised that many individuals and companies don’t get involved. So I spoke with four association executives recently, to get their take on things.
“The power of the trade association is the members work together to make themselves better businesses and better managers,” said Ann Arnott, EVP and CEO, of PTDA, the Power Transmission Distributors Association. “If you’re looking for companies to buy from, you should consider how involved and active that company is in the trade associations they belong to because they learn so much from participation and have access to many resources that make them stronger, better companies.”
The International Fluid Power Society (IFPS) is a fluid power technology industry group that is dedicated to individuals, and its focus spans manufacturers, distributors, OEMs, end users, educators and students. Donna Pollander, the group’s executive director, noted that certification and professional development were ranked #1 and #2 in the group’s recent membership satisfaction survey.
“Our members love the recognition they receive from being part of an industry organization. They also rely on the ability to get reputable information, especially when it comes to safety, when they need it,” Pollander said. “Our members value their certification above all. In addition, members receive every study manual for every certification at no cost. These documents are not only useful as study guides for certification testing; they can be used as stand-alone reference books.”
NAHAD, the National Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution, is active in developing the industry’s future workforce, keeping public policy interests engaged on Capitol Hill, helping members expand their exports overseas, developing more useful business intelligence tools, and more.
“Associations should not simply mirror the ups and downs of their members’ businesses,” said Joseph Thompson, EVP. “Strong associations push the proverbial envelope by identifying trends and purposely preparing their members for the business realities that they will face in the future. In order to properly lead, support and strengthen their members, associations must anticipate the future, innovate for creative options and collaborate with their members and with other leading industry stakeholders. Successful associations gain the active participation and engagement of their members in identifying, developing and nurturing the services, programs and benefits that can help all members succeed.”
Thompson noted that globally, businesses and industries are being held to higher standards of safety, quality and performance, as evidenced by an ever-increasing number of industry standards organizations, certification qualifications and demands by customers.
“Associations often serve as the incubators and managers for such industry standards,” he said. “NAHAD’s Hose Assembly Guidelines initiatives and its Hose Safety Institute are the products of our members’ commitment to addressing hose assembly safety; a topic that resonates well with end users and the public. Through education, training, testing and certification, NAHAD’s Hose Safety Institute has greatly enhanced our members’ commitment to safety, quality and reliability, and to serving the needs and interests of their customers worldwide.”
While there are commonalties among associations, each brings unique value to its members, and members join for varied reasons. Pete Alles, director of Membership and Communications for the National Fluid Power Association, said that some benefits may be undervalued by some.
“One of our long-term core benefits has been statistical and market information that we offer members to help them plan ahead through economic cycles and unique market conditions. Some may step back feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information available. We think NFPA is unique in the extent that we strive to make it more relevant and easily usable. We’re soon launching our new Stats Toolkit Pro, a software that enables members to easily work with our multiple data sources and customize the results to support their decision needs,” said Alles.
In workforce development, Alles said NFPA is working to develop a pipeline of engineers and technicians with fluid power training, and its programs are producing results—an unseen benefit that is very real.
Bearing Service Inc. is a mid-size power transmission distributor located in Livonia, Mich. John Masek, the SVP there, has spent 34 years at the company and working in the industry. He’s been an active volunteer at PTDA for more than 20 years.
“Bearing Service got deeply involved in PTDA when we were a small organization, knowing it might take some time to build relationships with other industry leaders. Through our attendance at Industry Summits, as well as involvement in committees and the governance of the Association, we did just that,” Masek said. “Our company is a testament to the saying that the more you put into the organization, the more you get out of it. Being involved gives you the opportunity to serve your industry, while learning from others to be able to benefit your own company and yourself. But in order to fully participate, you need buy-in and support from ownership of your own organization. I would encourage every senior manager and owner of any company, no matter the size, to allow their up-and-comers to get involved in trade associations.
It will groom those participants for taking on more responsibilities
and help your organization grow.”
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