Widening the Fold
Do We Really Have a Nation Undivided?
by John Crowder
This past year the Association of Millwork Distributors (AMD) extended invitations to several industry organization leaders to come together and explore the possibilities of providing added value to our members. Would trade associations that hold tight to their history, membership criteria, bylaws and encapsulated structures; be willing to step away from their association mold? Would association executives be willing to gather in one place and engage in open dialogue about the fallout from a derailed housing market? Would they unveil the current health of their organization; including strengths and weaknesses? We’ve come a long way from the days when business competitors wouldn’t want to be in the same room. Today, they’re sitting across from one another in a roundtable forum discussing best practices. The same could be true of associations. There seemed no better time, than the present, to test the waters.
Each invited organization represented a particular segment of the building industry. It was important to provide a forum where association leaders could come together to exchange dialogue without hesitation. AMD hosted the first Leadership Forum, “Associations in Synergy,” in February 2012 at AMD headquarters in New Port Richey, Fla. AMD welcomed the Cabinet Makers Association (CMA); The Door and Hardware Institute (DHI); Moulding and Millwork Producers Association (MMPA); North American Building Material Distribution Association (NBMDA); North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA); Stairway Manufacturers’ Association (SMA); Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA); and the Wood Machinery Industry Association (WMIA). This was an exciting time for us, as executives, to finally connect with one another and take the first step towards establishing new relationships.
Since the initial Leadership Forum, the group has since met in June 2012, at NBMDA headquarters in Chicago; and again this past January in Las Vegas hosted by WMMA and is scheduled to meet again this summer. In our last meeting, two additional organizations were welcomed, the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS) and Composite Panel Association (CPA). Our agenda included establishing guidelines, criteria and providing structure to the forum. For the most part, the group as a whole is in the early stages; peeling through the multiple layers and still learning about each organization. As we move forward, removing a layer at a time, we will discover how to connect the dots between our groups. Some leaders have already linked together, such as AMD and the NAWLA, who, both for the first time, brought their members together at a Leadership Conference in April 2013, in Florida.
We’re not the only ones forging relationships. This year, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and National Kitchen & Bath Association announced they will bring their trade shows together in 2014. Today, the business model infrastructure continues to adapt to the “new normal,” and industry trade associations are introducing a new prototype as well; one which may include partnering on education, conferences, marketing, tradeshows, and the other new ventures.
Association members are passionate about their organization, maintaining their history, mission and identity. With that in mind, each new endeavor between associations is a work in progress. The leadership, members and staff, must all buy in and be open to change. We must find common ground, be patient and be willing to compromise. Even with efforts from all parties, there may be a need for fine tuning as things begin to unfold. However, the benefits for the members and association can outweigh the obstacles. Like today’s new business model designed to align with the industry and the needs of its customers, industry trade associations are introducing a new prototype to meet the member needs of today.
As Steve Jobs said, “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
Rosalie Leone is CEO of the Association of Millwork Distributors.
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