Guiding Our Growth by John Holmes
As the industry shifts, so should the focus of industry organizations.
November 18, 2008
The industry faces many challenges at the moment, but with challenges comes opportunity. As these opportunities gradually unfold and develop, industry associations will play a critical role in guiding and managing the resulting change and reaction.
At their most basic level, industry organizations such as OFA, the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and the multitude of state and regional associations, are just individuals coming together to accomplish similar goals - including some that cannot be achieved on their own.
Throughout the history of the floriculture industry, we've seen organizations formed for very specific purposes, such as sharing research (the roots of OFA), increasing floral awareness and consumption (America in Bloom, PromoFlor, the Flower Promotion Organization) and promoting perennials (the Perennial Plant Association). But many times, industry associations take on a larger scope and actually promote and support the industry without members even being aware of the extent of services or assistance.
As the needs of the industry shift, the focus of the association should not only adjust but also be one step ahead - reflecting the desires and challenges of constituents but also anticipating those challenges and developing solutions. Some of the most common ways industry associations can support members and facilitate growth include:
Networking and Events. Often seen as the primary value of trade organizations, many folks benefit from the networking and peer interaction provided by key events like OFA Short Course. Trade shows, conferences, tours and other formal and informal gatherings give constituents the opportunity to share best practices, benchmark against industry leaders and manage the latest challenges. The tips and advice learned from peers during these events form a solid basis for industry-wide growth.
Education and Information. Education and information sharing are two of the most important aspects of OFA's mandate, as it is for most trade associations. New research, especially in a technical industry such as floriculture, supports individual growth.
New technologies are expanding the reach of education, with critical developments being shared by eMail or online in Webinars. Associations can and should lead the way in adopting these new technologies to expand the audience beyond those who can travel to events.
Advocacy. Growers already have full-time jobs. Most can't devote the countless hours necessary to track and exert influence on legislative and regulatory items of interest. Constituents often rely on their trade association for this type of advocacy.
In the green industry, groups like ANLA and the Society of American Florists (SAF) take the lead on items of interest in Washington, D.C. Such efforts have secured funding for critical industry research, prevented harsh import restrictions on cuttings and guided potential immigration reform. These groups are supported and often partially funded by partners like OFA.
Public Awareness. A very obvious part of some organizations like the Dairy Board or the Flower Promotion Organization, public awareness can have a direct impact on an industry's growth by attracting new customers and increasing sales from existing customers.
There are, however, many different ways to increase public awareness for an industry. Via community outreach and product donations, associations often work quietly to enhance an industry's image.
Trade associations also lend credibility to industry positions, they support positive change, and many times, they can be the catalyst for a more successful future.