Saturday, December 15, 2018
By Madeleine Maccar

Association Unity It’s no secret that the industry’s associations are true labors of love. While a handful are able to hire a dedicated executive director to navigate the organization through lobbying efforts, membership drives, social events, and, of course, regular membership and board meetings alike, those who voluntarily take the reins are typically accepting hours and hours of additional responsibility with nary an extra cent to show for it.

In an industry with razor-thin profit margins and in these times of instant gratification, it’s hard to prioritize those pursuits that don’t yield immediate financial payoffs. But there is strength in numbers, as it’s proven time and again, and a unified front often (though perhaps not always quickly enough for some) leads to success.

It’s almost dismissive to say you get from an association what you put into it: While true, it is also often easier said than done. Being an active member of your local association absolutely requires your time (and your money), and it can be difficult to justify dedicating even a few hours every month, every other month, or every quarter to a pursuit that has you stepping away from your company.

But the bottom line is that your industry associations need you. And you need them. Associations present a unique opportunity to amplify your voice and message by joining together with the operators, vendors, and industry supporters who are clamoring for the same changes, parity, and demands you are—and change is much more likely when a unified front is rallying behind a clear, singular message.
"Associations present a unique opportunity to amplify your voice and message by joining together with the operators, vendors, and industry supporters who are clamoring for the same changes, parity, and demands you are."
Of course, associations are more than de-facto lobbyists and vehicles of change: They are also treasure troves of shared knowledge, a support system of like-minded individuals who keenly empathize with and understand fellow operators’ and vendors’ frustrations, and a built-in community.

With new associations forming, old ones being resurrected, and existing groups looking to become even stronger, proactive boards and leaders are often seeking ways to bolster membership, both in terms of numbers and engagement. And while some argue for quality over quantity, it’s certainly possible to have the best of both worlds—even if it takes a little extra work in the beginning to recruit new, enthusiastic members who are willing to go the extra mile. But what is the luxury ground transportation industry if not a coterie of dedicated service professionals who understand the value of going above and beyond to deliver a great experience?

With that in mind, there are numerous ways to reinvigorate an association that needs a little something new or help a nascent organization get ahead a little faster. And whether you’re on the board of directors or looking to become a more active supporter of your regional association, there’s plenty anyone can do to strengthen even the most robust industry organizations. Here are just three of the association mainstays we’ve seen yield positive results time and time again.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Newsworthy updates, regular newsletters (both digital and physical), Facebook groups, email chains, a members-only portal on the association’s site, and post-meeting highlights are all excellent ways to keep members as up-to-date on and keyed into the association’s goings-on as possible. And they’re all initiatives any willing member can take on.

Facebook posts quickly share breaking news like changes in airport policies or legislative updates, while email chains are a great way to see who has a specific vehicle available for a last-minute passenger request. Newsletters help share members’ good news, meeting highlights, and aggregated local and industry-specific information. Not everyone can attend every meeting, association event, or lobbying effort: Cellphones all but an extra appendage these days, so email and Facebook posts are a good way to stay in front of members.

Bonus: It also ensures that dedicated individuals are managing each of those avenues of communication—after all, how many times have you heard about the importance of ownership when fostering a sense of personal responsibility among your staff? The same goes for volunteer positions, since they’re often among the first to fall by the wayside when busy schedules and daily emergencies thwart the best intentions. And that leads us to ...

2. Delegate or accept responsibilities reasonably
Association leaders may feel obligated to navigate the entire ship themselves, which is how frustration and burn-out happen. While it’s admirable to want to take on as much as possible, it’s also a fool’s errand: Remember that someone can’t do everything, but everyone can do something.

Association Unity The same goes for members who want to do more for their local associations. Whether you’re ready to run for a board position or want to increase your involvement in another way, examine what you can realistically offer. An association president is a demanding gig that includes planning meetings, working with local regulators, and being the public face of the association, just to name a few. Can you reasonably give what the position demands?

Association members are always encouraged to go to their boards and see what they can do. Is there a committee or organizational role you can play? Do you have an idea for a speaker who’d add value to the next membership meeting? Is there a social event you’d like to spearhead? Speak up and help make it happen!

3. Put the suit and tie aside
One of this industry’s strongest assets is its willingness to embrace coopetition—that is, cooperating with local competitors. And associations are one of the best examples of that, as they unite the region’s companies under one singular banner, encourage them to push forward to meet similar goals, offer the same education about issues that are bigger than friendly rivalries, and bring plenty of chances to work together as part of the same team.

And social events are a great way to look beyond the business side of the industry to not only network with your regional peers but also get to know your neighboring companies’ key players on friendlier, more personal terms. Holiday parties, summer excursions, charity outings, award ceremonies, fundraising events, and chauffeur appreciation days are just some of the events with both proven success and staying power throughout the industry’s associations. They’re also great ways to offer sponsorship opportunities that help take smaller operations from the shadows to the spotlight—and for an industry that does much of its business after hours, it’s a natural progression of that unconventional approach to fostering new connections.

The benefit of social opportunities extends to the associations themselves, too, as people are more apt to dedicate themselves to an organization in which they have a vested, organic interest: Work feels much less like work when it’s done with a genuine investment in the outcome. Members who are engaged on a personal level instead of a purely professional one help generate goodwill among their peers while serving as organic ambassadors for all the good the association can do.

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