LINDA MOORE: Do Industry Associations Deliver Value?

Posted on August 18, 2009 by LCT Magazine

NO JOINING, NO WHINING: Times are tough and you are looking to squeak every penny out of your expenses. You look at the money you are spending to be a member of industry associations and you wonder whether it is time to cut this expense. Think hard before you do this. Consider the following:
1) If every member of the association gave up their membership, there would be no association. You are a small part of a whole but a critical part of the sustainability of the industry. 
2) You say your local association is ineffective. Whose fault is that? I find that the biggest critics of associations are the ones who are the least active. Now, more then ever, it’s time to get involved in your local association.
3) With depleting fleets, operators are looking to their competitors to assist them when they do not have availability. Association members do work with other association members.
4) Local associations are the watchdogs for the industry. Many of the local associations in our industry are doing great things. I write about association activities regularly in LCT and in our e-newsletter. Locally, the associations in our industry have made incredible inroads at a grass roots level. Some examples:
  • California — The GCLA fought and won the permitting issue. The state now has a state permit and every municipality cannot issue its own set of permits as is the case in states such as Florida. This is a major industry victory.
  • New Jersey — The LANJ obtained a rolling stock exemption for the industry which also enables them to purchase tax free goods used in the operation of their business. This includes the purchase of its vehicles.
  • North Carolina — The NCLA fought and beat a proposed sales tax on service for the industry.
There are many examples such as these that I could reference.
5) Areas that have the biggest issues to clobber are the ones where industry members tend to be divided. A unified industry can move mountains. Even when associations are not successful fighting issues, good comes out of those plights.  The industry gets recognized and law makers think twice about enacting new legislation that will affect the industry without first speaking to those associations. Dialogue begins and this can only lead to a more positive and less adversarial working relationship with those who regulate our industry. 
6) Industry associations in the limousine industry are, in my opinion, being held to a higher standard. I read everything that is written and discussed about our industry associations, and I must tell you that the expectations of them are extremely high. Critics hold them at a level that may be unfair.
  • The boards of local associations are business owners who volunteer their time to work for the association. They have their own businesses to run and the time they spend on the boards of these associations takes away from their businesses.
  • Associations are made up of individuals who do have their own agendas.  The reason that the boards are the size they are is so that one opinion does not rule.
  • Participation in local associations varies depending on whether or not there is an issue on the table. Where are these folks the rest of the time?  Consistent participation will only make the association stronger.    
7) The strongest associations have executive directors. They only are able to pay a person to work for the association full time through the efforts and the growth of the membership. When the membership depletes, this is impossible. 
8) Vendor members who support associations should gain your business. These folks recognize the value of industry associations and they spend money to support these groups. Vendor members sit on boards and give of their time. 
Take a long hard look in the mirror. Before you bow out, have you spoken to the association and let them know what you feel is missing? Ask yourself if you are an agent of change or part of the problem. Is your problem with the association or the personalities of the people in the association?   
Local associations are critical to the strength and duration of the industry, but only a small percentage of industry members participate. They partake in the benefits of the efforts of the people who are volunteering and working hard for the good of the industry. To those folks, I say you have given up your right to criticize because you are part of the problem. This is one expense that I believe you cannot afford to eliminate.
— Linda Moore, LCT East Coast Editor 
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