Regardless of Company size, there are concerns around a possible economic downturn in 2024. Every Industry is increasing its scrutiny on how they spend time and money on outside resources. This is nothing new as Trade Associations continue to evolve their value imperative. From the Global Pandemic through today, CEO’s are reinventing themselves to look, think, and act more like the Industry they serve, and focused on delivering the greatest possible return on every dollar spent. In many cases, Boards see their Trade Associations as the Industry and they do because their organization is aligned with their “Awake at night” challenges and business outcomes.
Board Members need to see the business reason to continue or increase their engagement on a Trade Association Board of Directors. They want their time and money invested in solutions that shape a more favorable business environment. Sometimes complex or even routine Governance gets in the way, and some Board leaders will pull back or leave. If this is the case and the timing is right, it could make sense to invest time and resources into streamlining Governance.
CEOs aren’t just focused on the current disruptions anymore, they are leaning in and identifying the unimaginable (unknown unknowns). For company Executives and Trade Association CEOs, it’s imperative to account for the unimaginable, and this happens by incorporating Scenario Planning into Strategic Planning efforts. Scenario Planning broadens Strategic Planning deliberations, and it forces consideration of most eventualities. In a marketplace defined by disruption and chronic uncertainty, the unimaginable must be addressed in every Strategic Planning process.
Strategic Partnerships work and they really matter. In a time of constant change and uncertainty, Industry Executives seek new ways to create a better business environment and drive top line growth. Industries ranging from the Vertical Aviation Industry (Helicopter Association International) to the Frozen Food Industry (American Frozen Food Institute) are building Strategic Partnerships with their Trade Associations. They are utilizing research, convening Industry leaders and transforming Trade Associations into Strategic Business Units of the Industry. While the outcomes vary from one Industry to the next, its clear that these partnerships are making a difference. The latest success story comes from the EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) Industry. Executives convened at EIMA, the Industry Trade Association, to identify common challenges and business outcomes in a Strategic Industry Planning Process.
What’s clear is that Association Members don’t hesitate to vote with their feet and go somewhere else. Business challenges and an uncertain economy are causing professionals to evaluate how they invest time and money. Recognizing this trend, Boards seize upon the opportunity to reimagine their Association through their Strategic Planning Process. Reimagination occurs through the eyes of the Member in what is identified as “outside in” strategic planning. A highly successful example of this type of approach was utilized by the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association.
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.