WE ARE HEADING for the fall season when many contractor associations hold their annual meetings. If you have even the slightest thought that you are going to continue to be a contractor in this industry, now is the time to join up, start to professionalize and give back.
Your active association membership can accelerate your professional growth in a way that you will be able to measure as the years of your successful growth roll forward. I am not suggesting that you should join up and start racing through the chairs to become an officer of the any of these associations. This may happen as a result of your active listening and active attendance. Those who think, however, that this is the reason for belonging to an association have my condolences.
As an individual contractor you have very little strength in the community, very little clout with government, and little to protect yourself individually or as an industry against the constant erosions of your turf by those who intend to exploit your unorganized and probably disorganized, protective responses.
Don’t delay this decision to join association efforts until you get larger or become more profitable. Stop the procrastinating; it stands in the way of your future growth.
With the proper intent, the resolve to listen rather than talk and the support of your group with your membership dollars rather than your mouth, you can do yourself, and all of us, a world of good. By signing up and becoming active in local, regional and national contractor groups, you protect your business from inroads by those who would want to sit at your table without working your fields.
For some of you the problem is that your mouth gets in the way of the learning process. You have such great anxiety to tell your phantom success story that you do not listen to or give proper attention to those people who are truly successful members of the association and who are willing to share what they know, if you would just shut your yap!
Some of the sharpest people attending association meetings are very willing to hand over the symbolic administration of the association to the hot-air engines and go about their business of improving their management and product skills in the most efficient of all business learning environments, the industry convention.
You have much to offer. Work to build membership by fellow contractors and by those affiliates who have products for sale to your membership. Work hard, in the association, to differentiate between these two kinds of memberships. Those who want to sell you something should want to come to your meetings, but they must be identified as suppliers rather than regular members.
Some of you may not like my definition of the sellers. It is not uncommon and certainly not improper for a contractor to decide that he has products, ideas and skills to sell to fellow contractors. When these transitions occur, and when a contractor becomes, for example, a wholesaler or develops a software product, I think it is proper for the association to expect him to identify his dual intensions by carrying dual memberships.
I have been there and done that. At one time I was president of a closely held company that had multiple wholesale locations but was also a manufacturer of products whose most important customers and potential customers were wholesalers, both our own branches and the competitors who served the same markets. We sent people to conventions from both our manufacturing and wholesaling divisions and, as much as reasonably possible, we tried to properly identify their reason for attendance. They were there representing either our wholesale division or our manufacturing operations. Only when looking to the very top executive management of the company was there any duality to their attendance and even here it was the exception rather than the rule.
Translated to your specific association groups, I think it is reasonable for your members to identify their reason or several reasons for belonging. This information is necessary if members are to judge whether other members’ interests are self-serving or for the common good of all association members.
As you attend association meetings, make value judgments on the others attending. It must be your intention to actively identify members who can help you with specific problems that you will encounter and whose success and opinions you can respect. Some of these may be in your local market, but some of the most valuable advice will be from other geographical areas and represent resources impossible for you to have obtained any other way than through regional or national meetings.
By listening to them, by actively questioning them, you can build a profile of the businesses they operate as well as their strengths. These mentors, from great distance, can represent valuable consulting resources available to you for the price of a phone call and perhaps a pleasant dinner at the next convention!
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