Local Business Associations (usually based around a council region) have been around for a long time – since the early 1970s in Western Australia. Often starting as ‘businessman’ associations and possibly with various connotations that come to mind with that term, why would joining a business association be good for your business?
For a start many have come a long way since that more seedy time of the 70s and 80s when businessmen were served by skimpy waitresses at regular long lunches!
Here are some reasons why you should consider joining your local business association. They may be much more contemporary and beneficial than you first thought.
It goes without saying really. Networking is a pretty major reason to join. You get to meet other business owners in your area. They may not all be potential clients but you’ll meet people who can be referrals to their business associates or others who may need your services. In fact, the more involved you are, the more people get to know you and will be inclined to help open doors. Networking isn’t only for business leads. You’ll be able to get referrals for services or vendors; discover alliance opportunities; and even find prospective job candidates. Associations are also a great forum in which to glean and share best practices that are relevant to your business.
If you a new business owner by joining a business association it will provide you with the contact information for other local businesses, speeding up the process of integrating you into the community.
Education and Training
Some business associations offer a range of seminars and workshops which as a member you can take advantage as they often offer special member pricing on their training.
A local business association is likely to have a great working relationship and dialogue with local, state and maybe even federal government. While they are not a lobby group they will advocate for their members and can make a significant representation on issues that are likely to affect the local business community.
The professional networking may well be the initial reason to join a business association but the friendship and camaraderie experienced once having joined can be a welcome side benefit. Business Associations often host dinners, Awards Nights and other more social events so entrepreneurs get to know each other at a deeper level. Participation in a business association may also serve as a social expectation in a community where small business owners know one another through work as well as outside of it.
Improved Business Climate
The result of participating in a business association, whatever immediate benefits it provides, should be an improvement in an area’s business climate. As business owners get to know one another they find ways to share resources, unite on important issues and develop new tools for securing their profitability in the community and creating an atmosphere that encourages competition and attracts customers. With effective leadership and adequate participation, a business association can make it easier for its members to make money and also enjoy the process.
And one last thing…
By belonging to a local business association it can increase your business’s credibility. Potential clients or customers often view membership of business groups and associations as a sign you’re an established business and accepted within the local business community.
Are you a member of a local business association? It might be SBA or others. Please share your experiences below. Why did you join? What do you like best about being a member?
Joining the local chamber of commerce can have a positive impact on your company.
Grow your business by taking advantage of the many networking opportunities the chamber provides for cultivating and maintaining valuable business prospects and relationships.
It’s easy to get lost in the daily grind and view your business as a lone ranger in a vast landscape, but there is one key step that can bring you closer to others and directly impact your success in the process.
Joining a local business association enters you into a group that is dedicated to helping business owners and professionals grow in a number of ways. Take a look at some of the rationale provided by chamber of commerce organizations located across the country, who highlight specific advantages of becoming a member.
The chamber “provides a host of ways businesses and organizations can get noticed,” notes the Chamber of Commerce in New Mexico. This can range from grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremonies to inclusion in business directories, and it allows your business “to be found by people looking for your goods or services, whether they are looking online or on foot.”
Local chamber offices receive plenty of inquiries. “We do our best to connect potential customers with chamber members that can provide the service or product requested,” notes the Chamber of Commerce in Ohio.
“Take advantage of professional development programming and educational seminars that are complimentary with membership,” suggests the Chamber of Commerce in North Carolina.
“People do business with people they know,” according to the Chamber of Commerce in Georgia. “Grow your business by taking advantage of the many networking opportunities the chamber provides for cultivating and maintaining valuable business prospects and relationships.”
“Membership brings credibility to your business,” notes the Chamber of Commerce in Texas. “You can increase positive perception among consumers and business owners when you’re identified as a member of the chamber of commerce.”
The chamber represents and lobbies on behalf of business interests in the region. “It is perhaps the most behind-the-scenes, yet most important role a chamber plays,” notes the Chamber of Commerce in Colorado. “Your chamber fights many battles on many fronts on your behalf.”
Still not convinced? Turns out there’s research to back up the many positive claims.
According to a study conducted by the Schapiro Group in 2012, for example, 49 percent of consumers were more likely to think favorably of a local business if it was a member of the chamber. The study also found that 80 percent were more likely to purchase a product or service from a member.
As you mull over the possibilities for improving your own bottom line, taking the steps to become part of a formal business network might just be the right move.
The best way to increase name recognition and overall success for your business is still to join business organizations and/or "face-to-face" business networking groups. It is especially important for small businesses trying to sell locally.
Joining organizations or networking groups lets you interact with like-minded people who can be invaluable sources of information and support, and send customers your way.
Benefits of Business Organizations
Many business organizations also offer benefits to members, such as discounts on particular services or products, or special promotional opportunities.
For example, many business networking groups offer members the chance to present their business to the group or get specific business advice. Business organizations with websites often allow members to list their businesses in their online directories for free or advertise without cost on their sites.
Besides the support and camaraderie, belonging to organizations can increase your business's credibility. Many potential clients or customers view membership in relevant business groups as a sign that you're an established business and accepted by your industry.
Industry-Specific or General Business Organizations?
Being a member of an industry-specific business organization is a great way to contribute to the growth of your industry and keep up with advances in your field, as well as an excellent opportunity to learn from others who may have more experience or new ideas.
General business organizations provide opportunities to interact with people in other fields, which can be an eye-opening experience. Many organizations exist for a particular purpose, such as to provide networking for businesses in a specific geographic area. Others focus on community service, which can greatly enhance your small business's profile in the community.
Social Media Networking
Meeting other local business people face-to-face and thereby participating in your local community will do more to sell your sprockets or cleaning services that thousands of tweets.
That said, social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be excellent networking tools and provide lots of opportunity for engaging customers. Be sure you know what you're doing here; you don't want to come across as inept because that could ultimately damage your brand. You may even consider outsourcing your social media networking to a reputable person or company.
Costs of Joining a Business Networking Group
Membership in many online business groups is free, while many national business organizations offer sliding scale fees based on the size of your business.
Local business organizations are often less expensive to join. For instance, currently, it costs only $35 a year to belong to a local Home-Based Business Association. Now there's a bargain.
With all the benefits and opportunities that business organizations and business networking groups offer, the true question is how you can afford not to join at least one.
It's OK to start small: maybe set a goal of joining at least one business organization or networking group this week, and see how it goes.
If you're looking for local business groups, try contacting your local Chamber of Commerce, or asking business people you know which business organizations they belong to or recommend and/or search for them online.
Industry societies help workers learn, network and gain credibility.
SCHOOL AND ON-THE-JOB training teach workers much of what they need to know to do their jobs well. But for many positions, there's always more to learn.
That's where professional societies come in. There were more than 92,000 trade and professional associations in the U.S. in 2010, reports the American Society of Association Executives. While trade associations attract companies as members, professional associations recruit individual workers.
Educational programs are one benefit of joining a professional society. Others include chances to network and opportunities to build credibility by taking on leadership roles and competing for industry awards.
Read on to learn more about why workers join these organizations to advance their careers.
Associations pride themselves on the data and tools they make available, and their websites, webinars and newsletters are often treasure troves of information tailored to the needs of their members. Many of these organizations employ staff members who conduct original research.
These kinds of resources can be especially helpful to people just starting out in the workplace or those who otherwise might feel the need to "reinvent the wheel," says Reggie Henry, chief engagement and information officer at the ASAE.
Accessing association knowledge is "a lot quicker than you developing those tools and resources on your own," he explains.
Professional associations are known for hosting big annual conferences that bring together hundreds or thousands of workers. Many members consider this chance to meet peers and leaders in their field as one of the biggest bonuses of belonging to societies. Making informal connections at conference happy hours and more formal ties during workshops and education sessions can help people learn about job openings and ultimately secure offers.
These organizations provide other opportunities for networking, too, such as young-professional networks, committees, regional receptions and volunteer events. The ASAE even has its own private social network.
"There's something different about having a conversation in a community of trusted individuals as opposed to having a very public conversation," Henry says. "People have the same issues you have, share the same problems and the same Vegas rules apply: What you say here stays here."
Job Hunting Help
Networking at association functions helps members build relationships that may result in work opportunities. But professional societies also offer more explicit career assistance, too. Membership usually provides access to online job boards that associations host, and sometimes to staff members who work in association career centers.
"A lot of associations have job fairs, sometimes connected to a conference but sometimes separately," Henry says.
Trade associations typically prioritize political lobbying, but some professional societies also have branches that engage in efforts to sway policymakers into making decisions that benefit their members. Belonging to an association boosts its lobbying power by providing it with resources and increases its influence by swelling its ranks.
"Architects are small in number in relative terms to other professions, but our voice is strong," says Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the American Institute of Architects. "We have an advocacy organization that affected the tax legislation."
In some industries, membership in a professional organization provides credibility. By belonging, you indicate that you're committed to your field and that you keep up-to-date with trends and developments. Serving on a society's committee can show your current and future employers that you have leadership skills, while applying for and (hopefully) winning society awards gives you exposure and makes your resume stand out. Because some societies require members to have appropriate licenses, membership signals you've reached a certain level within your profession.
Additionally, some organizations, like the AIA, have codes of ethics that give peace of mind to clients and hiring managers alike.
"Architects know the association stands for certain values and to be a member, you adhere to those values, and you're held accountable," Ivy says.
To make the most of this potential credibility boost, remember to list your association affiliations and leadership roles on your LinkedIn profile and resume.
Selecting an Association
To many workers, it will be obvious which association to join. Others might have decisions to make. There are at least nine national societies just for accountants, for example. Some associations cater more to young professionals, while others are designed for seasoned veterans. If you're not sure which group to join, talk to trusted colleagues about their experiences with various organizations, Henry suggests.
It might benefit some workers to join more than one association, depending on their job functions and industry. For example, an individual who works in marketing for a manufacturing company may consider membership in different organizations that focus on each of those specialties.
All these resources come at a cost, of course. Annual membership dues range from about $50 to about $1,000, depending on the organization, Henry says. Some societies offer different membership levels. At the AIA, for example, fees are higher in parts of the country with more active chapters, like New York City and San Francisco, and lower elsewhere, like Wyoming.
Some workers pay these fees themselves, while others have their dues covered by their employers. If your employer doesn't offer to pay, consider it a benefit you can negotiate for.
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.