It is natural for business people to be cautious when it comes to dealing with competitor companies, but the world is not entirely dog-eat-dog; sometimes a bit of friendly rivalry, co-operation or mutual support can pay handsome dividends. Here Thomas Marks, Secretary of the Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades (AEMT), speaks to some of his members about their experiences and concludes that there is more to be gained than lost by keeping in touch with others in your industry.
Trade associations, such as the AEMT, exist to serve given markets, both supply-side and demand-side. Their membership consists mainly, often exclusively, of the companies serving the market.
As such, it is inevitable that competing companies come together in trade associations and are required to interact with one another at certain levels. Naturally, the more they interact and co-operate, the better the trade association can function to provide services benefitting its members, the market and the wider economy.
Most trade associations have an executive committee (although it may operate under a different name, such as a board of management or council) that directs and drives their operations. People on the executive committee tend to be senior or relatively senior managers of the member companies, who naturally tend to be sophisticated and worldly. They are able to recognise activities that are worth pursuing and to avoid those that are not; the fact that they give time to their trade association suggests that there are beneficial effects to be gained.
So, what are these beneficial effects and who do they help?
In short, they can be separated into two categories: development of the market, meaning there is more business around to keep the suppliers active and to contribute to the general economy, and benefits for individual member companies, such as the opportunity to form alliances, share knowledge and develop joint strategies.