As change, disruption and technology take hold, companies are banding together with their supply chains to build a new future. These efforts are happening between industries and their trade associations, and they are building robust strategic partnerships. One of the more visible successes is between the Helicopter Industry and HAI (Helicopter Association International). This strategic partnership is helping a disrupted industry transform itself from the Helicopter Industry to the Vertical Aviation Industry. The broader definition incorporates all companies engaged in vertical take-off and landing aircraft that can operate without a runway.
The public concern about energy affordability, the environment, and global conflict has required America to create a pathway to address and solve the persistent hard times we face. Throughout its history, the U.S. scientists, researchers, and private companies routinely demonstrated that when faced with stiff challenges, this country is capable of overcoming adversity and achieving lofty and heroic breakthroughs. Realistically, we know there is a unfortunate political divide, record high energy prices, and a strong desire to reduce the carbon footprint. It’s time to reimagine how strategic partnerships between industry associations and their member companies solve the issue of reducing the carbon footprint. As we have seen, no other solution can make as great an impact.
Strategic partnerships continue to play an important role in helping industries position for growth. The most fertile ground for nurturing strategic partnerships within any given industry is through trade associations. That assertion should be obvious to all industry leaders, but if widespread adoption is a fair indicator, the results are not there. The good news is that several industry and trade association strategic partnerships are taking hold and they are changing the game. One of the more effective collaborations is between the Frozen Food Industry and the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), their relationship demonstrates that this strategic partnership drives Frozen Food Growth.
Some strategic partnerships were created to help industries weather tough times; sometimes those tough times are due to internal issues, sometimes external issues, sometimes uncontrollable circumstances, sometimes extraordinary opportunities, and occasionally in preparation to achieve the next breakthrough. Successful strategic partnerships come in all shapes, sizes, textures, colors and flavors. Nowadays, industry CEOs are using a new application of strategic partnerships that are more inclusive, impactful and ambitious—the sort that moves the needle for entire industries.
The good news for business leaders is that strategic partnerships between industries and their trade associations already exist. They lead and convene industries to deliver unified advocacy strategies and convey business outcome-focused messages to government officials. These relationships translate into vital assets to help industries face challenges and position them for growth. For example, recreational boating built its own strategic partnership through its trade association, NMMA, (National Marine Manufacturers Association) and its been highly successful.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of conversation of what cannot be done. Many say we are in uncharted waters, and that is true because uncertainty keeps reaching new orders of magnitude. The Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates to tame inflation, job openings break new ground surging past 10 million, military conflict persists in Ukraine, gasoline prices are heading higher again. Some say that a longer-term cohesive industry growth strategy is not feasible.
The global economy is making a pivot from just in time to just in case and there are opportunities to unleash supply chain innovation. As noted in a USA WIRE article, supply chain innovation is underway. From the private sector all the way to strategic partnerships between Industries and Trade Associations, collaboration and outside the box thinking is happening in real time.
American Eagle’s Chief Supply Chain Executive Shekar Natarajan is working to unclog retail supply chains and modernize them. The company created a supply chain that can be shared among different companies with an end goal of squeezing out inefficiencies and satisfying customers. It’s a strategic partnership strategy, and it’s a frenemy network too where retail companies share resources to drive down costs and increase efficiencies.
Are persistent growth challenges and global uncertainty opening different pathways for Trade Associations? In several instances, several Association CEO’s are utilizing radical transformation strategies to increase their relevance to the members and the industries they serve. Do Association’s need Radical Transformation Strategies to remain relevant enough to keep their members engaged over the longer term?
Association Radical Transformation Strategies
In 1982, as the global competition and market disruption accelerated, Tom Peters introduced a new way of thinking in his book “In Search of Excellence.” Instead of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” he said “If it ain’t broke, you just haven’t looked hard enough.” As market conditions drive tighter margins and uncertainty limits opportunities for industry growth, Tom Peters bias for action is a clarion call for Associations. The following 3 Association Radical Transformation Strategies will help to radically transform your Association and better position your organization to more impactfully engage your members:
Dispense with traditional Association Strategies, Connect the Value Chain
Engage the entire value chain (suppliers, original equipment manufacturers, producers, customers, and customer’s customer) through qualitative and quantitative research. Identify similarities among business challenges and growth opportunities. In doing so, your organization is positioning itself as the place to address solutions and drive growth from one end of the marketplace to the other.
Forget Competitive Boundaries, Lead and Convene the Value Chain
Forget competitive association boundaries. Convene the industry or profession value chain through your association, collaborate with other associations to address industry business challenges and identify new pathways to top line growth. For example, leverage advocacy resources of the entire value chain to reduce compliance costs. Your bias for action is no longer about your products or services, it’s about industry business outcomes. Driving these outcomes throughout the entire value chain provides the results they must have to succeed. If they succeed, then they remember who helped drive their success and reward you with a renewal or a new membership.
Association Promotion becomes secondary, Promote and Grow the Industry or Profession throughout the Value Chain
In a hyper competitive world, relevance is the key that can unlock the business and professional outcomes that your members need. This is the bias for action that matters, promote the industry through actionable research. Utilize it to demonstrate the industry’s impact to advocate with elected officials, regulators, and industry customers. Also, develop actionable research to identify opportunities to increase efficiency or unlock growth opportunities throughout the value chain. Having the value chain at the table creates allies to drive business outcomes. Anything less and your Association’s membership is at risk.
Transformation and Action
Trade Associations who demonstrate a bias for action and transformation are increasing. As global market complexities increase, several CEO’s are embracing transformation as the better pathway to keep their Association’s relevant. What’s more, each of these Associations is finding it easier to engage their members because of the relevance to their business challenges and outcomes.
Thayer Long, NPES President since May of 2016, sees his organization’s strategic planning process as an ongoing act of invention. Although the plan was approved by the organization’s Board of Directors in December 2016, this is a larger effort to support global growth for the print and imaging industry. An NPES Core Team is convening representatives of the value chain (original equipment manufacturers, printers, and brand owners) to ensure that new products and services provide real time solutions to drive business outcomes. Actionable data and acting on what they know versus what they think is now a part of the NPES DNA. The association wants to remain nimble to take full advantage of any new opportunities help reduce costs or to support top line growth for the industry they serve.
Corey Rosenbusch, Global Cold Chain Alliance President & CEO maintains a relentless focus on a strategic plan reflecting the business outcomes of refrigerated food and logistics industry around the world. GCCA developed disruptive advocacy strategies to lower the costs of regulatory compliance for their members. What’s different today? The association leads and convenes an ongoing broader industry effort focusing on cost reduction.
Since adoption of its new strategic plan GCCA has experienced 25% growth in annual revenue.
Heidi Brock, President & CEO, the Aluminum Association and her team have transformed the way they serve their members. Tightly aligning advocacy strategies with member business outcomes and continually providing actionable research to share with elected officials and prospective customers of the industry keeps the Association relevant. Moreover Brock, her team, and the Association’s Executive Committee work towards quantifiable outcomes for the Aluminum Industry.
The Aluminum Association is experiencing 11% membership growth, retention improved 3%, and their core revenue is 6% higher than the prior year.
3 Association Radical Transformation Strategies
Should your Association adjust its bias for action? Start by asking these four questions of your Board and your members:
As you think about the Association over the last 3-5 years what has the organization achieved in terms of direct impact on your costs of doing business and your opportunities to grow your topline revenue?
Over the next 3-5 years what are the industry’s most significant challenges, threats and business growth opportunities?
How aligned is the Association with these challenges and opportunities?
Would you like the value chain at the table with us to help build solutions and drive future topline growth?
The answers to these questions will provide the basis you need to launch your 3 Association Radical Transformation Strategies.
In an evolving and complex world, is it possible for associations to become vital to the industries they serve? Today’s norm means slow or uncertain market growth, member expectations of direct return on engagement, and an emerging view that an association either drive or facilitate market disruption. As organizations consider these factors, is becoming a vital association too tall an order to fill?
In a growing trend, Association CEO’s and their Board Members are utilizing economic data as important context for their strategic deliberations. Jobs data, Housing Starts, Institute for Supply Management Index (ISM), Oil Prices, Consumer Spending, and U.S. Dollar Performance against other currencies is a more frequent topic at Association Strategic Planning Sessions. Although Strategic Plans cover 3 year windows, Boards encourage their CEO’s to be flexible and to use trend data to meet shifting demands to help their industries. In essence, economic data fuels active innovation at Associations.