The approach of spring has me thinking about new beginnings. While I was writing this column, the U.S. Park Service announced the peak bloom time for the Nation’s Cherry Blossoms (March 26 – 30th). I am always surprised by the announcement. The prediction comes when the weather is chilly, even snowing and yet, it is usually accurate. Washington is transformed during this week, tourists flock to the city, DC residents shed layers, go outside and the whole spirit of the city is renewed. I am embarking on my own renewal this year. I am excited to join the International Wood Products Association (IWPA) as its new Executive Director -- just as those cherry blossoms are at their peak.
I come to IWPA as past collaborator. For nearly 10 years I have directed the regulatory affairs and legal advocacy for the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). It is through my work at NMMA that I came to know IWPA and its work on our common issues regarding the Lacey Act and the importation of wood. I have been impressed over the years with the way IWPA has built coalitions of likeminded associations on its issues. That work has helped it reach much farther and have more influence than it could have done on its own.
Trade associations have the same power for its individual members. Individually, one company can rarely yield the kind of influence to stop or change a pending regulation, alter a bill or successfully sue a federal agency. Associations can also be what my Coast Guard friends would call a “force multiplier.” Association staff can be your eyes and ears in Washington and beyond, alert you to new threats or opportunities, and give you time to adjust to changing market conditions.
One of the best ways to take advantage of what an Association can offer is by attending its meetings. The face-to-face interaction is important for business intelligence gathering, personal networking and to get up to speed on the latest developments quickly. IWPA’s World of Wood Annual Convention in Vancouver (April 17th – 19th) will be my first. I am looking forward to getting to know this industry. But most importantly, I am looking forward to asking attendees what is important to them, what issues are keeping them up at night, and what service can IWPA provide to help their businesses grow?
The delivering of exceptional customer service has been an important focus of my association career – I want our members to know that we are on their side; that we are doing everything in our power to help their business thrive, and beyond that, that we are listening to them. That constant push to be better than we were yesterday is a quality I hope all of you find in your associations. Associations, like your own businesses, must be constantly evolving themselves to ensure they are meeting the needs of its members.
If your path takes you to Vancouver please introduce yourself to me and tell me about your business. Connect with me on LinkedIN or follow my twitter feed (@iwpawood). Until then, I am going to put on my walking shoes and get outside to enjoy the cherry blossoms before the wind takes them away.
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