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Distributors' perspective: More associations

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by Craig Folven

As a board member of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD), I’m clearly a big proponent of association membership.

When people realize my company, Herregan Distributors, belongs to multiple associations, some don’t understand the point. “Aren’t all associations the same?” they ask. “Don’t they offer the same education and networking events? Won’t one association cover all the bases?”

In my opinion, these couldn’t be farther from the truth. Association membership holds enormous value for distributors.

Two primary reasons motivate Herregan being a member of multiple associations.

The first is that my company and my team feel strongly about giving back to the industry and believe we have an obligation to support the associations that represent the floor covering distribution industry.

I believe it makes our industry stronger to have such a breadth of associations, so we strive to align ourselves with as many applicable organizations as possible.

The second reason is each association boasts a unique set of benefits. Even if there are 10 associations within the same niche industry, each one will have values that distinguish itself from the other associations.

One association might offer frequent and well-attended networking events, while another might be the go-to authority on specific technical training. By being a member of multiple associations, you’re showing a great amount of solidarity to the industry, while also leveraging a wide-range of benefits to apply to multiple areas of your business that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Of course, simply joining associations doesn’t make their benefits magically appear. You have to participate, be engaged and attend events. The benefits are there if you want to use them to improve your business.

One of the most visible and worthwhile association benefits are conferences, conventions and other major association events. Specifically for NAFCD, our annual convention has been refocused, based on the needs of our members, to include more intimate settings for networking and information sharing.

NAFCD’s annual convention is not a buying show but a business meeting, making it unique from other events. Exchanging information with likeminded people who know your challenges and can offer solutions that have worked for them is invaluable.

Our senior management team never misses the opportunity to attend our associations’ conferences. We speak to as many people as possible. It’s in those connections, speaking candidly with people who know your industry and can offer their own tried-and-true advice, that I find most beneficial for my business.

Of course, conferences aren’t just about networking—there’s also education that benefits all within the industry. The education is two-fold: First, speakers from outside the industry bring a different perspective we can apply to our business. We get so focused on our industry, having a fresh set of eyes to tell us what is happening outside brings great ideas we can implement.

Second, research related to the industry gives you an inside glimpse at what’s going on now and what’s to come. It’s not just the numbers, it’s the context that makes this information so valuable.

In any business, but particularly in the distribution business, you have to show value for what you offer in the channel. You should always try to improve yourself. If you’re not learning, you’re not improving, and you will be left behind.