By Joe Lark
As most businesses struggle to keep their heads above water in these tough economic times, they must dig deep into the past and draw wisdom from experience. For a lot of companies, and surely a lot of their employees, this is the first real economic downturn of this magnitude they’ve experienced.
My feel is that businesses that stay active in their trade associations are best apt to survive this tough time, and this is true for many reasons.
Trade Associations offer industry knowledge & networking opportunities
One reason is that associations provide a bevy of information throughout the year to help companies be stronger in good times and in bad. Associations engage business experts to shed light on the state of business. The experts may not always be right, but it gets your mind thinking of the possibilities that may exist.
The most important value of a trade association is in putting you together with other people that are in your same type of business. What could be better than getting together with 1,000 other people that are in the same business and sharing thoughts and ideas?
It is so important to be able to share what you are experiencing within your industry and finding others experiencing the same issues. In a trade association, you have a great forum to learn from others and give feedback as to how you are handling a specific situation.
Setting high standards for your industry
Members tend to be very open in sharing ideas within associations, as it serves to make the industry stronger. My philosophy has always been that I want my competitors as good as I am as we represent the same industry. As a distributor, I believe we need to make sure that what we do is of value and held in high regard by our customers. I’ve always felt every new opportunity that my competitor has, should be a new opportunity for me.
One trade association I’ve served in many capacities over the years, most recently as Immediate Past President, is NAHAD - the National Association for Hose & Accessories Distributors. Over the last several years, NAHAD has put together one of the most powerful tools that any Association has devised for their members - The Hose Assembly Guidelines. These guidelines existed for many years in data form, but were never truly marketed to our membership.
NAHAD – Creating Hose Assembly Guidelines
Back around 2004, Sam Foti Jr. (CEO of Hose Master, Inc.), Steve Gray (of Lewis-Goetz & Company at the time), and myself along with Joe Thompson (Executive Director of NAHAD) engineered a plan to pull these documents off of the shelf and into the mainstream of our industry. We spent many hours in Cleveland debating how to best achieve this monumental task. The key to success was involving as many people as possible to assure that not only did we have a good, accurate and useful document, but that it had universal value.
What we found is that it not only had universal value, but that it had much more hidden power. By design, the process was achieved by creating a hierarchy chart, not unlike a business, with responsibilities spread among many leaders. The response was incredible - the results are history.
I look back on those days as a proud moment in the life of NAHAD, assured in the knowledge that The Hose Assembly Guidelines are a great addition of value for our members. Most importantly, we brought thousands of people together to create something special for everyone to use.
The guidelines served as a rebirth of sorts for NAHAD and reinvigorated our association. There were many lasting relationships created between manufacturers and distributors; distributors to distributors; manufacturers to manufacturers and many other combinations that will not soon be forgotten.
You may consider the dues an expense that can be trimmed from your budget in tough times, but the relationships you build and the knowledge you glean from your memberships are invaluable. The training members receive through NAHAD's Hose Assembly Guidelines Program and University of Industrial Distribution is an investment in your personnel, and therefore, your company.
I’ve found the relationships that I developed through NAHAD are the best that I have ever experienced and probably the best I ever will. As the old saying goes - “Products don’t make successful businesses - people do!”
Joe Lark is the Immediate Past President of NAHAD and the President of Monroe Rubber and Plastic Supply Company - the source for high quality hydraulic and general service hose and coupling products.
NAHAD’s Hose Assembly Guidelines are a comprehensive set of minimum performance recommendations for the design, fabrication and specification of industrial, composite, hydraulic, corrugated metal and fluoropolymer hose assemblies. To learn more click here.