Most every industry in the USA has a trade association that is designed to protect its interests. Consumer Finance is no exception. There are even trade associations to protect the interest of trade associations! Check this out if you do not believe me: https://www.asaecenter.org/. So, what is the value of a trade association to you?
Primarily, the value of a trade association is to make certain that legislatures and Congress “do no harm.” Certainly, from time to time, trade associations advance legislation that promotes the interests of the membership. Even more often, however, trade associations work to defeat legislation that is not in the best interest of their members. Trade associations provide the on-the-ground information to policy-makers in order that they may understand the implications of proposed laws and regulations. As we know, there are consequences that follow passage of law and regulation. It is the job of trade associations and government affairs professionals to make certain that the consequences are not unintended.
Aside from the important role in the legislative process, trade associations offer an education component to their members. We live in such a complex and ever-changing world that it is important that businesses have the tools to keep up with developments in the services and products that are offered to their customers. Trade associations provide an important platform for vendors and service providers to show their wares to the membership. The consumer finance industry in particular enjoys the support of software providers, insurance companies, accountants, collection servicers, lenders, printers, lawyers and credit bureaus. Trade association meetings are important times for vendors and finance companies to come together.
Trade associations also offer a window to learn the best practices among their members. Members may not share trade secrets as they are competitors. So, associations are very careful to refrain from discussion of pricing and markets that would be potential violations of the anti-trust laws of the USA. Nevertheless, association meetings provide a forum for learning new ideas and approaches that can keep members competitive.
Finally, membership in a trade association allows for members to stay connected on a social basis. The comradery that comes from sharing meetings, meals and parties together cannot be overstated. In my attendance at trade association meetings and conventions, I have observed great relationships and friendships established over the years and have made many myself. These relationships often provide a resource for growing and expanding one's business—or when the time comes, even selling one's offices. This fact of trade association friendships should never be underestimated.
Practice Pointer: Be a good and regular attendee of your trade association's meetings. Intentional meetings are the best source for ideas that can improve your business.