Our state association, the Georgia Low Voltage Contractors Association, recently voted to change our name from the Georgia Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and separate from the NBFAA (see related article, “Georgia Association Aims to Attract More Low-voltage Contractors,” SDM March 2006, p. 18). We had been struggling to balance members and money and activities for some time. As a result of a discussion that had been in process for a couple of years, the vote was held on Dec. 29, 2005.

Our motivation was a perception that we no longer were just a group of burg and fire guys. At our annual security show in May we had a quarterly meeting and there was an overwhelming consensus that, in fact, diversity was a new attribute of the majority. We do so many things that aren’t even security-related it’s startling. With that, the dialogue that had been brewing came to a boil and change was in the air. During a few moments of speaking, I fielded thoughts about changing the association’s name as a result of the fact that we had all become diverse – and the responses were substantially pro-change. So began our journey that is evolving as I write.

First, our challenge was to understand how and why we, and the market, had changed and how our companies and our association could evolve to serve a larger and different market. In Georgia, we have a state license required, the “Georgia Low Voltage Contractor’s License.”

There are more than 4,000 of these license holders in Georgia and our association had fewer than 200 license holders. While there are some license holders that may never see an association as an attraction, we believe somewhere in that mix is a great deal of prospects looking for the kinds of things our association offers.

In many ways, what has driven our individual businesses has been the proliferation of the market by large companies and/or mass marketers. Our association, our industry, as well as our nation are driven by small business – but we couldn’t or wouldn’t play the mass-market game. This is one catalyst that affected our choice to look at other ways to grow, expand and – for some, just survive.

Another motive for change was simply wanting to offer more options for our customers and become the “one” logical choice for “all” low-voltage needs.

What had changed was our industry. What had not changed in a long time was our industry association. We had become lazy, ineffective, too social and, frankly, unattractive. We were appearing to exhibit a middle-aged spread and really were developing a “couch potato” mentality – we just didn’t have a remote; we didn’t want a remote. Our association had a predictable few that showed up for meetings, played a little golf, had a few drinks, had a few meals, and went home – frequently accomplishing little. Frankly, we just got lazy. Thank goodness some members decided that we really don’t want our time and money wasted or our association to be irrelevant.

Fundamentally we all need to take a look in the mirror occasionally. Over time we inevitably need a tune up of some sort and that is where we are today.

Associations should provide value to all dues-payers – not for just a few or the upper echelon that don’t even know who the members are. We developed “member magnets,” as our association feels that if we are going to bring in members to help us do the things we need to do, we don’t want them to have to think twice. We truly believe a trade association should in fact promote professionalism, promote our businesses and our industry, and help affect legislation that helps our businesses, our customers and our industry. These are our priorities and these are things we are working on.

Editor’s Note: SDM wants to hear your opinion on this and other issues that affect the electronic security industry. If you have a strong viewpoint that you’d like to share with your peers, contact Maggie McFadden, SDM Associate Editor, 1050 IL Route 83, Bensenville, IL 60106; tele. (630) 694-4386; FAX (248) 502-1098; e-mail mcfaddenm@bnpmedia.com. Editors will consider all serious submissions.

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