The Value of Associations

I've talked to you before about how important I think trade associations and other business networks are.

I've always been of the belief that the time and money you put into attending conferences and the such is easily made up by the benefits. It's no coincidence that most of the top companies in this industry belong to the American Society of Concrete Contractors, the Tilt--Up Concrete Association or one of their ilk.

Recently, though, I heard from a contractor that didn't agree with me. Steve VandeWater, a decorative concrete contractor from Indiana, feels that the associations aren't doing enough for the small contractor. He has some ideas on how to change that, and a guest column from him appears on p. 12 this month. I don't agree with everything he has to say and I'm not sure all his ideas are feasible, but I do think he's worth listening to.

The common argument I hear from contractors, and it's one Steve makes, is that they can't afford to take the time off from their business to go to a conference. Frankly, I think that is shortsighted. You need to invest in the future of your business if you ever want it to be more than a practice.

Look at your business. Where do you want it to be in five years? 10 years? Do you still want to be out in the field in 2015? Someday you're going to want to retire. If your retirement plan consists of selling your business, it's going to need to be more than you and some stains and dyes. You need to have systems in place and a proven track record of the business running without you for it to have any value for a potential buyer beyond your used equipment.

Sure, maybe you can do it on your own--plenty of people have. But why reinvent the wheel? Learn from the people who have already done it and maybe you can avoid some of their expensive mistakes. One of the biggest benefits of an ASCC membership is the free opportunity to join one of their MIX groups--a group of noncompeting concrete contractors that meet a few times a year for in--depth discussions of company issues. Even nonmembers can join for only $300 a year if you don't want to be a member of ASCC--a real bargain.

After you read Steve's column, I'd like to know what you think. If you think I'm wrong, tell me why. The membership numbers for the various associations tell us that most of you don't belong to a trade group either. Why not?

I can be reached by e--mail at or by phone at (800) 547--7377, ext. 321.

Jonathan Sweet Editor