It seems there is a trade group, guild or business association for just about any industry or facet of business. If you’re a small businessperson, you may have already been approached or recruited to join one. You may have questions about these associations or be unconvinced that they’re even worth joining. Guilds, trade groups and business associations differ in their mission and purpose. Here we’ll take a look at the role that guilds, trade and business associations play in the marketplace and why you should consider joining. Guilds Guilds are the oldest form of trade group that exists. The trade guild is a medieval invention that came about in the 14th century. Many of the guilds of old have gone by the wayside as mechanization and industrial innovation have done away with craftsmen in many industries. The ancient guilds protected merchants and labor. They developed best practices and shaped trade. Their purpose has changed over the centuries to encompass many of the labor organizations, union and college academic guilds. Professional guilds still exist, especially in the creative fields of art, literature and even software development. The Writer’s Guild, for instance is one of the largest in operation today. Trade Associations Trade Associations, also known as Sector Associations, are groups that are formed and funded by local businesses. Many are not for profit organizations that are governed by a board of directors elected from their membership. Trade Associations promote interactions between businesses in the form of conferences and trade shows. Many offer continuing education and advertising as well as contributing to political causes and lobbying activities to benefit their specific industry. The value of the public relations work that these associations accomplish can not be underestimated. Business Associations Business Associations do much of what trade groups do, but have an additional focus. They are concerned with setting and maintaining best practices and industry standards. They, too, can be active in the political lobby. They focus also on research and education and promoting the industry locally and nationally. Many of these organizations are familiar to us. Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau and the National Retail Federation are all examples of business associations. Nearly every city has a Chamber of Commerce or a local business association. Taking advantage of the perks of membership can be a very smart business move. Joining a business or trade association can have a major impact on the success of your business. Being a member puts you “in the know” for what is happening in your community, the local economy and the political scene surrounding your industry. The experience of not only joining, but serving in some capacity in one of these organizations can be both educational and profitable.
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