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Trade associations need a human touch

By Marcelle Dibrell

In the year of the pandemic, belonging to any sort of trade organization was a struggle.

By their very nature, trade organizations are about getting people together to accomplish more as a group than they could alone. But in a year of self or government-imposed social distancing and isolation, group meetings were not always possible, which posed some unique challenges to belonging to a trade association.

No in-person board meetings. No live classes. No social events and networking opportunities.

Of course, we all learned how to use Zoom, and we’ve all adapted to virtual meetings. We’ve joined Facebook group pages to get help and feedback from our peers. We’ve signed up for webinars and online classes to try and stay abreast of the issues that are important to us.

But none of that can truly replace the very real human need for personal contact. For a handshake. A pat on the back. A hug.

Belonging to a trade organization is important to a lot of swimming pool industry professionals for many different reasons. For some, it’s about affecting policy change – ensuring that the pool industry is adequately represented when it comes to legislative matters. For others, it’s about getting help from other industry professionals who may have more knowledge and expertise when it comes to troubleshooting equipment, or clearing up a swampy pool. Other still like the assurance of support for when times get tough and they may need future aid.

The benefits afforded by membership in trade organizations can be huge.

Association membership typically includes: networking, opportunities to preside in leadership roles; subscriptions to newsletters or magazines; access to seminars, conferences and trade shows; access to members-only offers; discounts and more.

Many of these sorts of benefits ultimately translate to increased business profitability. This is certainly true of associations that offer certifications or that otherwise elevate a service tech’s list of credentials and professionalism.

And while a lot of these benefits can be obtained through interactions on a Facebook group page, and some can be had through Zoom meetings and webinars, an intangible something has really been missing during life with Covid.

That’s because one of the more nuanced aspects of belonging to a trade organization – that sense of brotherhood and camaraderie one gets from sharing lives, time, meals – has been undernourished over the last year.

Some of us have gotten around this with socially distant parking lot meetings and tail-gate pizza parties. Some of us have been dragging lawn chairs to parks (set up six feet apart, of course) and hauling folding tables to the beach for Taco Tuesdays. We’ve done it because for some of us, face-to-face interaction with friends actually is essential. It’s why some of us joined the association in the first place.

But whatever the motivation for joining an industry association, there is no doubt that they can be useful tools to leverage yourself and your business. In this special edition of Service Industry News, we present some of the major associations and organizations available for membership to swimming pool service and repair professionals.

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