I recently represented the design & marketing arm of my employer at one of our industry association’s regional-dinner meetings in Auckland, New Zealand. It’s probably the 5th industry dinner/meeting I’ve been to so far, but it was certainly one of the most interesting ones I’ve attended to date – and it made me think a lot about the structure behind an association, and the benefits that joining one can bring. At my particular table, I had a builder, a manager, and a number of staff and owners. One of the owners had only just joined the association, and this was her first meeting.
This particular lady was in the process of building her first facility – the foundations had been laid, but everything else was yet to be constructed. As the meeting progressed and the conversation turned to legal issues within the industry (our guest speaker for the evening was Rob Ferguson – the association’s legal advisor in New Zealand), I guess I felt a bit of compassion for this lady – she was brand new to the industry, had just attended her first meeting, and here we all are at the table sharing horror-stories like accidentally selling the wrong customer’s goods, finding drug labs and even booby-traps (complete with explosives) in storage units! It certainly would have been a bit of an eye-opener for her.
However, I feel that despite all of this talk of “the worst of the worst” that might happen, it certainly prepares you for what may come… and preparation is core to a successful business in an industry that you are new to. By knowing the in’s and out’s of an industry, you can prepare yourself for virtually anything – and know where to turn if you need help. Sure… everyone at these meeting’s has to run their own respective businesses at the end of the day, but the great thing is that with a group of people like this, they are usually always willing to share stories, experiences, tips & tricks when it comes to dealing with any curveballs that the industry as a whole may throw you. When some of the others at my table asked the lady what locks she was using, or what type of roller-door she was going to implement, she didn’t really know the answer – her builder was handling it all.
These few simple questions grew into detailed discussions about security, CCTV, roofing materials and so on – and I think this particular lady went away armed with a head full of knowledge, new ideas and a fresh take on where to take her business when it opened. So, while perhaps a little daunting at first, the meeting would have provided a wealth of knowledge for her. If you need one reason to join your local industry association, make it “knowledge”, – not just that knowledge received from the association itself (although this in itself is a great reason to join) but from those who attend the association’s events.
Because even though they might be your competitors in the business world, over dinner they are generally friendly people with a wealth of information to share.
The legal knowledge and business guidance provided by the associative body of any industry is great advice for any new business in said industry… so while you may initially think an industry association isn’t worth joining, you might like to think again… because an association is all about the knowledge, the experience, the guidance and – most importantly – the people.