Last week I wrote about attending conferences and trade shows. They can offer valuable tools and platforms, and many of the best events I’ve attended were organized by trade and professional associations. That brings me to a much broader topic for this week. I believe that trade and professional associations can be very beneficial for businesses, especially entrepreneurs. In fact, I’m surprised by the lack of people who belong to associations.
Whenever I’ve considered involvement in a trade association in the past, I looked at it as an investment in myself. Benjamin Franklin once stated that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest. I couldn’t agree more and would recommend entrepreneurs take this advice.
Think of a professional association membership as an investment in knowledge and your career.
The argument that I hear most frequently from colleagues who don’t belong to trade associations is that membership can be pricey. It’s true. But when you consider the benefits and if you take full advantage of your membership, I think you’ll find that trade and professional associations can be a great investment.
I could outline dozens of benefits I’ve received from my involvement in various trade and professional associations, but I want to focus on four now:
What’s great is that trade and professional associations typically exist on national, state, and local levels. Whether you’re looking for a general business association (consider your local Chamber of Commerce) or an industry specific association, it likely exists. A list of many of the top national associations is included in the annual federal Consumer Action Handbook and is accessible online.
I’ve been involved in dozens of trade and professional associations throughout my career. Of course, it’s important to find the right one. Consulting the Consumer Action Handbook can help. Also consider asking colleagues and competitors what associations they’re involved in. Look at your local newspaper and event calendars to see which associations are the most active in your area. If you find one that looks like a good fit, I’d recommend contacting some existing members to ask them about their experiences.
When I’ve conducted this due diligence on potential associations, I’ve found the right one (regardless of the industry) and benefited from my membership.
Please share your thoughts too. I’d love to hear what benefits and challenges other entrepreneurs have found with trade and professional associations.