As a small business should you join a Trade Association?

small businesses trade associations

Did you know that “…approximately 85 percent of all business failures occur in firms that are not members of their trade association…”? I had never heard of that statistic until I was doing some research about what the consensus is about joining a Trade Association.

The internet, as is becoming increasingly evident, is awash with statistics that are often fabricated by someone or some organization to fortify their viewpoints or further their interests. For that reason, I decided to do a bit of digging to see what research or survey that data was derived from. Of course, I did not find any proper attribution, except for one site (1) attributing that statement to the “Directory of National Trade and Professional Associations of the U.S.”

On the site listing the “National Trade and Professional Associations Directory,” I did not see any specific mention to that fact. Not wanting to plunk down $300+ on their Directory, I emailed them asking about the source of that statement. I have been waiting for an answer for two months as of the date of this posting.

Regardless of the exact percentage of companies that fail, specifically for not being a member of a trade association, I do believe that there is a benefit to being a part of a body of peers. I have been associated with some form of peer organization for the past 35 years and have always found that I benefitted, whether it be as an individual, student, working professional or an entrepreneur running a business.

There are several articles on the web (2, 3) that list and explain the benefits of being associated with a Trade Association. I am only going to list the important ones.

Networking Opportunities Shared Knowledge Perks and Free Stuff Purchasing Power Advocacy and Political Clout Enhance Your Business’ Reputation Explore New Ventures

I feel that the most significant benefit, first and foremost, is the knowledge-sharing aspect. Most associations will organize trade shows, seminars, workshops, conferences, meetings, and so on. Attending these will always result in learning and staying abreast of the state-of-industry you are involved in. I don’t think there is a single Trade Show that I have attended and walked away feeling that it was an utter waste of time.

You will learn about:

  1. Latest trends in the industry or field of the technical application you are involved in,
  2. The problems being faced by your peer group,
  3. The movers and shakers of your industry,
  4. Your competitors and their customers, Legislative and regulatory issues impacting your business, and so on.

In summary, I recommend that any small business looking to gain an edge in the marketplace should explore joining a trade or technology association. Research the various options available. We have compiled a list of trade associations related to Manufacturing and Technology. From this list, you will see that the choices are mind-boggling. Explore each possible option that is relevant and examines their member benefits page and their membership dues page. Check with your network to see what experience others have had with the association. Determine the one or two that will give you the maximum value and then just do it!