As a former President of the NASC, you wouldn’t be surprised to read an article promoting the benefits of joining an industry association. In my view, there are lots of benefits – and very few drawbacks, if any – of joining an industry group, and based on my own experience, I’d certainly encourage it.
Of course, the most important thing for you as a business owner is to look carefully at the different associations available to decide which is the best fit for your organisation, and how you can get the most from your membership.
I was recently part of a panel session debating the merits of system scaffolding relative to the skills shortage in our industry at the first-ever Scaffolding Conference of its type, which was held in the West Midlands at the end of September. Hosted by the Scaffolding Association, the conference was uniquely open to both members and non-members and was a great success.
Events like this, alongside campaigns like National Scaffolding Week, and the annual awards ceremonies run by the NASC, are helping to raise the profile of our industry in a positive way, which can only be a good thing. In fact, at TRAD UK, we supported National Scaffolding Week by running a number of events, helping to showcase the depth of skill and professionalism across the industry.
What does an industry association offer?
Part of the role of an industry body is to promote the industry externally. It’s also to support businesses and practitioners within the industry with additional learning, training and focused business assistance. And these associations are not just for ‘traditional’ scaffolding companies.
They are open to all businesses involved in scaffolding, including building companies and the wider supply chain. Industry bodies provide a valuable forum for meeting other people in the industry, sharing views, updating practices and moving the industry forward.
For example, two of the main industry bodies in our industry – the Scaffolding Association and the NASC – offer a range of benefits to members. These include:
- Free advice on certain business issues
- Access to funding and support for applying for funding
- Networking events
- Preferential rates for certain business services
- Access to training and development
- Ability to have your say on industry issues or future direction
- Audited membership
- Sharing best practice across members
- Guidance notes to support business development
- A chance to showcase your company’s work and approach through annual awards
Are there drawbacks to joining?
Of course, there is a cost involved. Membership rates usually vary depending on the size and type of your business and what sort of membership you want to take up. There may be additional costs for things like attending conferences and meetings. And, if you want to sit on committees or be more active in the association, you’ll need to take time out of your business to do so.
It’s important to note, though, this can be time well spent – sharing your knowledge with others and learning from your peers.
I don’t see any of these issues as drawbacks, though. In fact, I think that, even for a small scaffolding business, the cost of an industry body membership is an investment. The benefits of being in a trade association raises the profile of your business, opens you up to new opportunities, gives you the support to help you grow and even raises your own personal profile across the industry.
Building a wider profile for the scaffolding industry
Although our associations are successful and work incredibly hard for their members, the combined membership of two associations referred to is still only a fraction of the total number of companies in our industry.
By joining an association, you give yourself and your business a voice. And the more voices there are in scaffolding, the bigger voice we have in the wider construction industry and beyond.
Take the time to do your homework so you choose the best association for your business now and in the future. In my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the costs, and I’d encourage businesses of all sizes to consider joining an association this year.