By Richard G. Ensman, Jr.
Why bother to join a trade or professional association? Here are ten good reasons for becoming involved.
1. Advocacy An association represents your interests before the business community and government. And if your business or industry faces major threats, your association is right there fighting for you.
2. Benefits Many associations offer a variety of tangible benefits to members and their employees: purchasing discounts, group health and life insurance, retirement plans, and more.
3. Convenience When you're facing a problem, isn't it great to be able to shop for a variety of solutions under one roof? An association is a "one-stop" center for advice, contacts, inspiration and suggestions on a wide range of topics.
4. Data Want to know the current size of your market? Understand the most recent buying trends? Get a handle on your competition from other industries? Chances are your association can furnish you with up-to-date data on these issues.
5. Economy Don't reinvent the wheel when it comes time to save money, consolidate an operation, or enhance efficiency. Tell your association what you're trying to do -- and your association can tell you how your peers have already done it!
6. Journals Associations are known for their expert publications: journals chock-full of news, trend information, research and commentary, all available at your fingertips.
Got a problem? Need technical advice? Help with a thorny accounting issue? Your association is as near as the telephone. And if you need more detailed information, your association can put you in touch with one or more individuals who have the "know-how" you need.
8. Leadership Your business or trade needs leaders -- people who can actively mobilize you and your peers toward industry-wide action, and who can chart your industry's future. An association produces voluntary leadership that can make a difference.
9. Networking "Networking" is today's buzz word. Association events, meetings, member directories and information exchanges make networking a reality for you and your peers.
10. Seminars One of the greatest pleasures of association membership is participation in annual or bi-annual seminars -- thought-provoking educational sessions led by successful peers as well as regionally- and nationally-recognized business experts.
Richard G. Ensman, Jr. is a syndicated freelance writer based in Rochester, NY.