Times are tough, and volatility seems to rule the markets. The workforce is more age-diverse and changing more rapidly — due to technology — than ever before. Social media rules — or so it seems. But none of that diminishes the importance of a long-time standard business practice — belonging to a professional industry-focused association.
Associations are one of the most valuable, inexpensive and under-utilized businesses resources we have. They give us the ability to affiliate with others who have common needs and interests. Association events are where I can find people to quickly and easily relate to, people I can share frustrations and success with, people who care about my experiences and people whose experiences I want to learn about.
And attending association events just make me feel good.
A few of the many benefits associations offer include:
Providing a window into the future of an industry or market
Reducing costs by combining the purchasing power of others
Gaining insights from colleagues who have been there before
Improving your skills and those of your staff
Finding solutions to problems you don’t have to figure out how to fix — both a time and cost savings
Leveraging the work of others for your own benefit
Developing a community of practice you can call on for help, advice, collaboration, and many other things too big, too time-consuming, and too expensive to do on your own.
In the world of LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube, professional associations may seem ancient, archaic, possibly obsolete, maybe even prehistoric. But they haven’t lost their usefulness just yet.
It always surprises me how often the answers to problems can be found through an association. When I talk to clients about them, they often ask “Why should I deal with an association when I have access to all the information I could ever want online?”
When it comes to social media and the Internet, conferences, conventions and industry-focused gatherings are still huge. That’s because business still happens between people — face-to-face.
Check out the Social Media Strategies Summit in Boston this year at www.socialmediastrategiessummit.com, or the Social Media Conferences being held in Beverly Hills this July, in Moscow in September, and numerous other locations throughout the world month after month at www.socialmediaconference.com/index.php.
In fact, my simple Google search for ‘social media conferences’ returned more than 20,300,000 results. If you think social media has replaced what professional associations offer, the need for face-to-face interaction, and the need for professional get-togethers, think again.
It’s true that the impact of the Internet in general and social media in particular cannot be over stated. And yes, it has had a dramatic impact on how business is done.
It’s also true that for most of us, particularly entrepreneurs and businesspeople, it’s easier to make connections with others when you have face-to-face contact and meet because of common goals, especially when those goals are Internet-oriented.
When my partner and I started our technology company back in 1992, we were concerned about protecting our intellectual capital. The law had not yet been developed around ownership of programming code, and we had no place to turn to for answers.
So we contacted a California-based association for attorneys, and the most wonderful thing happened. That association helped us find law firms interested in the emerging field of programming code law and almost overnight we had access to more resources for free than we could possibly use.
Given the nature of my consulting practice today, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the Institute of Management Consultants USA, which helps consultants in all industries around the world to ‘Get Smart!, Get Known!, and Get Business!’ There are many opportunities to participate in IMC events throughout Northern California, even right here in Sacramento, throughout the year.
Open your browser and do some experimenting. Search for associations in your industry and see what surprising things you come up with.
You’re sure to find classes, seminars, collaboration opportunities and conferences that will bring instant value to you and your business.
If you get only one thing out of this column, please remember: there’s more opportunity out there than you can ever capture yourself. Don’t be afraid to look for others you can collaborate with.
Find a group of like-minded people and start a dialogue with them. Develop relationships with them and build a virtual advisory or mastermind group. I promise, there’s nothing you can do for your business, regardless of the industry you’re in, that will bring more immediate and powerful returns on your investment of time.