21 May, 2019

‘Together we stand – Divided we fall’

02 April, 2015

BFPA CEO Chris Buxton emphasises the importance of representative and trade bodies working together in the best interests of their members and the wider UK Industry.

The UK Trade Association Forum (the representative body for trade associations) estimates that across the UK alone there is something of the order of 3500 trade associations. This excludes the vast array of membership institutes and other not-for-profit representative bodies. The membership services offered by these bodies is wide and varied but without doubt, their primary purpose should be to provide a single voice for their industry and to engage with the regulatory authorities to either reduce the burden of inappropriate and disproportionate regulation or to champion formal processes and best practice against which their industry can operate and therefore raise standards of either quality, health & safety or, ideally, both. They should also provide an appropriate range of commercially focussed services designed to help members to promote their businesses either directly via tailored channels to market such as events and publications or indirectly through the provision of tools that ultimately help companies to improve their ‘bottom-line’, in short – to help them to sell more products and services.

The variation in trade associations being able to realise this worthy aspiration is as diverse as the variation in size, quality, the level of commitment and the skills amongst the staff within these many organisations. Perhaps most significantly; success or failure is often determined by the available funds and resources.

Very large organisations such as the National Farmers Union (NFU) or the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have the luxury of large budgets which in turn facilitate the provision of adequate and skilled staffing. When they engage with Government they speak on behalf of large numbers of companies, many of them blue chip, and many employing large numbers of people, all of whom carry a political vote and can therefore attract the attention of politicians and regulators. But what of the plethora of smaller trade associations, many of whom comprise of little more than one full-time member of staff and an assistant? The ability of these organisations to meet the above referenced aspirations in terms of membership services is very limited indeed and the likelihood of them being heard in the corridors of Whitehall, (even if they do manage to secure 20 minutes with the Minister), is essentially zero. They simply don’t have the size or resource to influence the regulatory or more specifically, the political landscape.

Many of the latter category are quite content operating as they do as little more than a focal point for what may be the occasional members meeting and production of a ‘budget members’ magazine’, often produced at a domestic level by the usually part-time secretary on his or her home printer. These micro organisations are never going to change the world for their members but may be quite content with their lot.

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