What Good Are Associations?
"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." – Theodore Roosevelt
A trade association is the essential fabric that holds an industry together, melding the commonality of businesses in which competitors and peers share a common interest.
From time to time, we need to remind ourselves that promoting the benefits of our industry associations also helps build stronger associations that continue to aggressively and diligently work for our common cause.
For some now time now I had an uneasy feeling about the future of industry associations in general and our industry’s associations in particular. Not from the standpoint of the associations’ value to the industry (which, in my mind, is incalculable), but the value people in this industry place on associations that represent the tire and retreading industry.
This year’s World ITRA Expo was smaller than last year’s – capping a attendance spiral that started many years prior. The buzz however, around the trade show and seminars was at a considerably higher level than recent years.
Which made me wonder: If these people see the benefit of participation, and are excited about what they have seen and learned, why can’t more dealers and suppliers feel that way?
And it’s not just ITRA. Total membership in the Tire Association of North America (TANA) doesn’t even reach 25% of all tire dealers in the U.S. That means that 75% of you – or more – are not members of your own national trade association. And participation in state associations remains phenomenally low.
I read a recent issue of Northwest Tire Talk, published by the Northwest Tire Dealers Association, which offered its ideas about what it means to belong to an association. It pointed out seven fundamental benefits of joining an association, which I really thought hit the mark:
- Don’t you owe it to yourself and your business to help your industry advance itself on regional, state, and national levels?
- The meetings and conventions you would attend will have a positive effect on your own business in terms of the ideas and information you’ll obtain.
- You’ll have access to publications, reports and other member products prepared with your business needs in mind.
- You’ll develop friends among members that will hopefully last a lifetime and should also offer business-related benefits.
- As your daily attention is consumed by your own day-to-day business concerns, associations continue to work behind the scene to the membership’s collective benefit.
- The cost of belonging is generally small in comparison to the many derived benefits.
- And, finally, one of the most important points is that it generally takes strength in numbers and concerted action to accomplish anything worthwhile.
These seven points are only the foundation for many other positive reasons for becoming involved in your associations.
The tire industry should be proud of its many great regional and state associations, and our national organizations – ITRA and TANA. Not to mention groups like TRIB (Tire Retread Information Bureau), which supports the retreading industry, and the RMA (Rubber Manufacturers Association), which represents tire manufacturers and other rubber product producers. Collectively, they have all done a great job in advancing industry causes for everyone’s benefit.
But without greater support from individuals and companies, these associations are working in a vacuum. Too often, unfortunately, we get hung up in the thick of the thin. We don’t see a direct, tangible benefit to us as individuals, so we want nothing to do with the group at-large. Yet, how many times have these associations kept our fat out of the fire – tire registration, UTQG, TREAD Act, FET changes, OSHA ergonomics rules, just to name a few.
At the annual ITRA Hall Of Fame Banquet at their World Expo, the names of past inductees like Bradley Ragan Sr., Les Schwab, Joe Kilcoyne, Ed Wagner, Pauline Chambers Yost, Harvey Brodsky, and this year’s inductee, George Bishop were easily recognizable as individuals who experienced exceptional personal and business growth from their involvement in industry associations.
You, too, could experience similar recognition one day, and you’ll assuredly gain the same level of personal and business growth from the organization of your choice. Except you have to get involved first.