The right trade association can make all the difference

by David Specht

More than a decade ago, America experienced the worst natural disaster in its history. When Hurricane Katrina came ashore just east of New Orleans, it left an unprecedented amount of damage in its path. Just when we thought the worst was over, levees broke along Lake Ponchartrain, flooding New Orleans and many of the surrounding communities.  Even today, the scars of Katrina are still very visible in the Crescent City.

During that time, I had the privilege of serving the Louisiana Press Association (LPA) as its president.

During strategic planning, we set out to accomplish many different things for our membership. When Katrina hit, everything changed.

While I was safely in Bossier City, my heart (and much of my efforts) were focused on southeast Louisiana.

Once we were finally able to establish communication with the folks at the LPA, I learned they had already begun helping newspapers in need. Many of the LPA staffers were housing reporters, and others from newspapers like the Times Picayune of New Orleans.

The staff worked tirelessly to salvage “bound editions” of many small town newspapers in the affected areas. These old newspapers were some of the only permanent accounts of history in their respective communities.

Once the magnitude of the destruction was fully realized, many newspapers from outside the state began efforts to send monetary relief to their “bretheren” in Louisiana. The LPA set up a non-profit foundation to help get the resources to those in need.

If I were to list everything the LPA did in the aftermath of Katrina to help the affected newspapers, our server would be full. The efforts I witnessed during that time stand as a constant reminder to me of the importance of trade associations. Every business has the opportunity to belong to a trade organization. From local chambers of commerce, to state and national organizations, businesses have plenty to choose from, and should take advantage of them.

Trade associations provide valuable services to the members they represent — everything from lobbying efforts at all levels of government, to training and networking opportunities. In our “tighten up,” “slim down,” “boost the bottom line” world, we might be tempted to drop memberships in our various associations. This would be a short-sighted mistake.

The LPA is not “unique.” Every business has a similar organization that brings much to the table for very reasonable dues. It is up to each and every business owner/manager to find the right organization for them, and to take advantage of their services to bring the greatest return on their dues investment.

Your business is what you put into it. Joining the right trade association is one of those “no brainers.”