Opinion: Trade associations - what’s in it for me?

posted on Monday, 13th October 2014 by Simon Wehr



As the comments that followed our recent coverage of the last Connect with CEDIA reveal, there’re plenty of opinions to be had on the pros and cons of trade organizations and associations, their related events and shindigs. Several years ago I was a vocal skeptic of an association that represents the industry I worked in. I didn’t understand (and didn’t want to understand) the value proposition that it delivered to its members, so I did the bare minimum to support it.  Then one evening I received a telephone call from the Chairman of said association – who incidentally also happened to be one of my biggest dealers and a close friend. “You know how you are always saying the association doesn’t do anything for you?” he said. “Well I’m nominating you onto the board.  It’s time to put up, or shut up!”

Never one to step down from a challenge, I immediately phoned the Executive General Manager of the company I worked for, to ask his opinion. His advice was as surprising as it was profound. He said, “You need to do this … not for us, but for you. This is your opportunity to make your mark and build your profile and reputation within the industry. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.”

Over the next three years I not only became an advocate, I became totally dedicated to the cause. The harder I worked, the better the results. The better the results, the more driven I was. Contempt was soon replaced with commitment and passion. And one thing about being passionate is that it’s infectious and contagious. Pretty soon others felt the same way.  And when you get a group of people that are committed and passionate, well that’s when great things happen.

My boss was absolutely right. So how can you invest your time and efforts into something that will improve your industry and your future? And where do you start? 

Find a cause...
To make a difference, it is important to find something that you can become totally passionate about. You don’t necessarily have to feel that way in the beginning, however you do have to see something that you will be able to build into a dedicated commitment. In my situation, the industry association provided the perfect vehicle to invest my time and make a difference to the industry, however it doesn’t have to be something so obvious.  It could be providing training to other associated industries or trades to expand the knowledge of your specific expertise.  This is particularly relevant if you can offer CEUs (continuing education units) to help them retain their own qualification. Why not become an evangelist for your profession by making yourself available to the media for expert opinions or real-world situations. 

Don’t sit on the fence...
I have worked with others who quite clearly became involved in a particular group or activity, simply because they were asked. You can tell they are disengaged and disinterested, because they will sit there quietly, never participating and look at their watch frequently. From my experience this level of involvement is actually worse than not getting involved at all, because a demotivated and disengaged person will drag others down to their level. If you’re going to do something, then do it properly. Absolutely and totally commit to it and believe that you can and will make a difference. Be vocal and let your passion be infectious.  If you feel strongly about something, then speak up.  If you throw up ideas, others will speak up as well. And even if they don’t agree with them, at least you have them participating and discussing ways of moving forward.

Encourage others...
Not everyone has the same level of business acumen, creativity, or social skills, however everyone can contribute and be passionate in their own way.  If you are involved with a group and see others slipping, or failing to engage, then be the one that pulls them up and helps them get back on track. We have all worked with that person who sat there quietly during meetings, never responded, but always looked like they had something to say.  Chances are they did … they were probably just shy or socially awkward and didn’t feel comfortable injecting themselves into the conversation. But, when they did … wow! … Where did that come from? Remember that a brilliant mind doesn’t have to be an outspoken one.  

Develop relationships...
If you want to grow into your full potential, then you need to surround yourself with a variety of people to inspire and motivate you. When you do this with a group of people who have poured their blood, sweat and tears into a project together, the relationship goes way beyond being just colleagues and into the realm of kindred spirits. The people in the industry association I was involved with not only became business acquaintances, they became friends. I can now travel the world and meet up with others who I have a very close affinity with; all because we have shared the same level of passion and commitment for something we totally believed in.   

It’s very easy to become trapped in a routine of daily life, filling each moment with work, family, hobbies, chores and social commitments. While volunteering your extremely precious time may be the last thing in the world that you want to do, I can highly recommend it.  Stepping out of that comfort zone is both liberating and rewarding. 

Also read:
Reviewed: Connect with CEDIA round table
The first Install & Technology Solutions Awards announced
Reviewed:CEDIA Region 1 Awards 2014



Simon Wehr

Simon has over 30 years sales and marketing experience across the Custom Installation, Consumer Electronics, Record, Entertainment, Advertising, Broadcast and Professional AV Industries

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Have your say...

Posted by Kris Gamble on 19th December 2014, 12:20 PM
I'm surprised this excellent article from Simon has not encouraged lots of comments and feedback. Great questions asked Simon, it's crucial we get others to find their voices. There seems to be a lack of opinions in our industry in the public space. There are lots of hiding behind others and we always hear from the usual suspects. Wouldn't it be great for the industry if some new voices started getting heard. We appear to be heralding in a new generation of Smart Homes so it would be timely to bring some fresh contribution to internal and external communications.

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