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Associations today: More partnerships, perspectives

Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013

By Michelle Miller

You’ve heard the saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” but have you ever applied that to association memberships?

When your company is part of an association, it’s an outward sign of your commitment to the industry. By being part of multiple associations, you’re not only giving back, you’re getting the multifaceted benefits from organizations that focus on different areas related to your business and the industry as a whole.

In a 2008 William E. Smith Institute for Association Research report, “Where the Winners Meet: Why Happier, More Successful People Gravitate Toward Associations,” the findings illustrated the wealth of benefits industry associations offer. “Associations provide a critical venue for successful people…to access resources, identify themselves, network with peers, and form mutually beneficial communities…[they] are where the winners meet.”

The report further noted how associations’ value for employers can’t be understated. “Employee attrition is a major problem…especially among highly educated and younger employees…[e]xposing high-value employees to the positive ‘winning’ atmosphere of an association will encourage higher morale, and virtually everyone agrees higher morale lowers attrition. Thus, it is in the interest of employers to encourage high-value employees to participate in associations.”

We all know the industry has been through many challenges during the economic downturn—making association memberships all the more valuable. The industry has changed, and as the climate starts looking brighter, now is the time to think about how your business is going to progress. If you’re not an association member—or are skeptical about the benefits of joining multiple associations—consider the value of building partnerships and connecting with fellow professionals from all over the country.

Associations, including The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD), have evolved with their members and strengthened efforts to build a true community. Many organizations changed their models to offer unique and creative venues for their conferences. An example would be focusing less on exhibits and more on tabletop meetings to promote personal, face-to-face interaction. Others are providing more technical training demonstrations. Many have leveraged synergies and co-sponsored events, offering more high caliber business-related education to help members grow.

Think of associations as a mirror to the industry. If long-standing associations are evolving, your company should follow suit. Companies need to leverage what’s available in the association world and apply those lessons internally. We learn from one another. There’s always competition, but associations learn how to make it positive by sharing lessons learned.

We are also seeing more diversity in leadership— more women, more second- and third-generation representation, and more under-40 involvement. These new leaders offer an abundance of perspectives, which continue to enhance the value of being an association member. Many also leverage the wealth and knowledge of their past presidents.

When you connect yourself to the industry’s best, your company will thrive through even the toughest of times.