by Bobby Amm. “Why should I become a member or my industry’s association? What’s really in it for me?” Associations may not be everyone’s cup of tea — as the old saying goes, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee” — but I believe there are six compelling reasons why all companies should join associations (and collaborate with their competitors) to achieve their common goals and sustain their business.
#1. Communication and cooperation
Associations are a central point of contact and communication within industries. Their primary goal is to advise, educate and update members of developments that potentially impact their businesses and the wider industry. By bringing competitive companies together in a collaborative way, associations also consolidate strength in numbers, giving members greater influence then they would’ve had if they acted alone.
Associations also provide an invaluable opportunity for networking and getting to know your competitors, clients and suppliers. You are far less-involved and -visible if you opt out.
#2 Industry resources
Associations create all sorts of resources for members to use. These may be guidelines, procedures, standard contracts or template documents, to name a few. These resources create standards and procedures by which the industry works. Were it not for associations, every company would have to create its own resources — at considerable time and expense.
Having a single set of resources is also highly practical as duplication increases confusion and wastes valuable time.
#3. Managing threats
In the hands-on environment of making commercials, there are constant new threats that challenge the industry. These come in many forms but may be divided into two basic groups: those you can control and those you can’t. Industry associations can’t mitigate all risks but can react to those advanced by advocacy groups looking to make life difficult.
This work is best done by a collective which represents an industry, rather than by individual companies that are easily dismissed.
#4. Lobbying for a business- and legislative-friendly environment
One of the most important jobs of industry associations is to lobby for an environment that’s conducive to doing business in a user-friendly way. All too often, government departments or local authorities simply don’t understand the knock-on effect their policies and laws will have on specific industries.
Industry associations are vital to make a case for the industry when this happens. By setting out the unintended consequences and showing the potential losses to the economy and industry jobs, associations can make compelling arguments to government to reconsider their actions.
#5. Creating new initiatives
Much more becomes possible when smaller companies collaborate to create new initiatives designed to improve the way the industry functions or to give members a competitive edge. Aside from sharing ideas and implementation costs, projects initiated by associations often prioritise altruistic aims over big profits.
This can assist industries to deliver on expectations that may fall outside of their core competencies but, nonetheless, form part of their wider mandate. The solutions enable companies to carry on focusing on their businesses while their associations look to the bigger picture and the future.
#6. Sharing financial responsibility
Running an industry association (that isn’t subsidised by government) costs money and, ideally, this responsibility should be shared equally between ALL companies that are eligible for membership and benefit from the association’s work and influence. This is particularly true when it comes to planning for situations that could be detrimental to the future of the industry. By signing up for membership and contributing financially, participating companies are doing their bit to keep the wheels turning. If membership numbers decline, the ability of associations to deliver on their mandates is significantly reduced. At some point, they may even cease to exist at all!
Some people expect industry associations to provide them with immediate tangible benefits and free stuff. While many associations do offer discounts, perks and free-to-use resources, their emphasis is usually more-orientated towards the long-term with issues that tend to reoccur in cycles.
Membership of a trade association is an investment in the future of your industry — if you aim to be around for the long run, isn’t that a good enough reason to join today?
Bobby Amm is chief executive of the Commercial Producers Association of South Africa (CPA), the trade association of production companies that produce television, cinema and internet commercials for the local and international market. After a brief stint in journalism, she began her career in the industry at the Consultative Committee for the Entertainment Industry in the early 1990s. She first joined the CPA in 1997 but left three years later to join a production company. After finding that she missed the big-picture perspective of the CPA and the interesting issues which continuously perplex the production industry, Bobby returned to the CPA in 2003. She contributes “The Martini Shot” column monthly, covering developments, trends and insights into the commercial production and film services industries in South Africa, to MarkLives.