The company had been in business for 30 years, so I assumed my boss knew everything there was to know about cleaning. It was only after my wife and I ventured out on our own that we learned about the professional organizations in the industry, such as IICRC and various associations that could help us.
My first contact with associations was when my main distributor told me a convention was coming up in the near future, and he thought that it would be a good idea for me to attend. That distributor was Lee Pemberton, and little did I know what he was getting me into. My wife and I learned about many things at that show, including the IICRC. We scheduled my “official” educational class at that Tri-State Convention.
I have seen associations go through a lot of changes through the years. When I first became involved with them, association conventions were where you went to see all the new equipment and cleaning products. Associations were also where you went to get your education. There seemed to be an association-sponsored educational program of some sort going on all the time. You had to sign up early or you did not get a seat. People flocked to them because they were starving for information. This is when associations were the strongest, because they were the only game in town if a cleaner wanted an education. There were only a few distributors at that time offering classes.
Then something happened in the industry to rally everybody to associations. DuPont was recommending a franchise to clean its new fiber with stain-resist technology. In response, cleaners looked to their associations, the only place that independent cleaners could turn to for a “unified voice” to try to change DuPont’s mind.
The associations and the IICRC were able to talk with DuPont and show that there were a lot of good independent cleaners in the industry that could cover the country better than a single franchise. This helped enhance the importance and influence of associations. Being smart businessmen and women, manufacturers and distributors noticed how well the educational programs were being attended, so they started sponsoring classes. They could show their wares and provide a quality education at the same time. The distributors also started providing “on-the-job” demonstrations with their new equipment, so you no longer had to go to conventions to see new product offerings.
All of a sudden, associations did not have the same importance that they use to have. They became social events instead of educational events. Then the Internet came along and we now have the ability to ask questions of other professionals regarding problems we encounter daily. Cleaners and restorers from all over the world now can contact us to provide answers within minutes. People have started to question the validity of associations. After all, this information is available at the touch of a button; who needs associations?
In my opinion, we all need associations! When the terrible tragedy of 9/11 occurred, flags and symbols of a unified country were prominently displayed. Here it is a year later and you don’t hear or see as much of that patriotism. We all know that our country will be there to count on; we can’t say the same thing about associations.
Who are you going to turn to? If you leave your association, it will die. Don’t let this happen; support your association. When you consider how everything you do influences your ability to do business, $300 dollars or so a year is a very small investment.
At press time, there are eight associations trying something new and innovative. They are working together to develop a unified convention. Connections 2003 will take place Oct. 2-4, 2003 in Las Vegas. You have a year to plan to attend this event, so start saving your money now.