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“We’re going to wait until after the election to take action.” This is the cry of an industry association doomed for failure and shows inexperience. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Trump administration — it is implementing sound business policy decisions to move this nation forward and dismantling poor decisions made from past administrations. My anxiety with current policy life in Washington falls squarely with industry associations. It’s obvious when an industry association gets it — and it’s as obvious when they don’t. I’m loyal to industry, which is why I’ve taken the time to express my thoughts.
The time to strike is now. If your association isn’t aggressive in this political climate and begins to state they it will wait until after next year’s election to take (any) action — sorry folks, you are members of the wrong association.
All too often, the mission of an industry association contradicts its actions. Beautifully scripted visions that are, in practice, more mechanical than sincere, more marketing ploys than sincere commitments, more about surface membership growth than true membership services and representation.
These mission statements tend to neglect a needed, stated bridge to convey how it intends to implement and achieve its vision (on behalf of its members) with lawmakers, regulators and whatever administration is running the White House — all of whom have a piece of statutory authority governing policy development and enforcement of an industry. The result is a perceived inconsistency in the eyes of their members, leading to a decline in membership and distrust of an industry association’s intentions.
The culprit? Certainly not the industry or the members. Associations tend to hire marketers as staff (“association professionals”) rather than industry loyalists. That’s not to say there aren’t many very competent association professionals, but the lack of passion for the industry that hired them shows.
We can test it.
Let’s do something many associations tend not to do. Let’s flip the mission of an industry association around and look at it from the perspective of the White House, the administration, the office of the President of the United States. I don’t care what industry you represent; if you don’t have the current administration on your side, you’re cooked.
The administration — the president — has a vision. The vision morphs into mission statements which then drills down to agencies and, eventually, policies that support the mission. The administration also makes its mission know to Congress and the American people (the State of the Union address) and submits a budget to Capitol Hill early each year (required by the U.S, Constitution), which, by the way, is always dead on arrival. Pretty basic stuff.
The administration begins to partner with industries, societies, organizations and industry associations to carry out its mission — as reflected through the implementation of its policies. This is where a genuine industry association either shines or fails. It either understands that the administration is providing an opportunity to partner and it’s time to put industry association egos in check — or it is left out in the cold.
What the administration wants — its goal in working with industry associations — is to have an association use its reach into an industry to “spread the word.” Associations are natural information dissemination mechanisms.
The beauty is when an industry association understands how to partner with an administration’s goals to represent and educate its members — to spread the word in terms of the good work the administration is conducting on behalf of the American worker. Again, this is where industry associations fail — they tend not to take it to that next level. They are too busy taking selfies after meetings — and it’s noticed.
So, let’s focus on an industry association that gets it —the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.
ACCA and the Pledge to the American Worker
ACCA understands how the vision of the administration aligns with the best interests of its members and, just as important, its industry. It is significant because their actions also align with their stated mission.
Recently, ACCA was invited to participate in a meeting at the White House with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, members of the president’s cabinet and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump. That in and of itself is impressive, but what makes you want to applaud ACCA is its leaders took it to the next level — to benefit its members.
The issue gravitates around the American worker. Perhaps the most significant issue plaguing the skilled trades is there are simply not enough workers. The meeting highlighted the Trump administration’s “Pledge to the American Worker,” which many industry associations signed onto. Purely ceremonial but important.
Simply put, the pledge is a “call-to-action for states and the private sector to create new education and training opportunities to better serve the American worker and encourage private investment in workforce development,” Trump says. “A strong bipartisan majority of our nation’s governors and more than  companies and associations have signed the pledge, committing to create nearly  million enhanced career and training opportunities for America’s workforce.
“On this inaugural Pledge to America’s Workers Month [July 2019], my administration calls on more states and employers, both large and small, to sign the pledge to strengthen the economy and ensure one of America’s greatest assets — its workforce — is prepared for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
ACCA signed onto the pledge — but went beyond that. It began to offer benefits to its members if they also signed onto the pledge. This is spot-on — precisely what the administration wants, a fantastic way to explain what the pledge is all about.
It may not seem like much, but it reflects ACCA’s understanding of the administration’s goals while being true to its mission, its members and its industry.
I know the folks who work in the White House, and ACCA’s actions show real commitment to the industry and the administration.