I’ve been a big proponent of associations over the course of my career covering the world of fluid power. They’ve helped me meet and interact with important industry leaders, network with readers, and understand the critical issues facing manufacturers today.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Joe Thompson, the Executive Vice President of NAHAD (the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution) to see how the association is faring. NAHAD’s membership, which has hovered around 500 for the past several years, is a split of about 150 manufacturers and 350 distributors. And this year’s attendance at the annual conference, was a very strong 950 people.
Thompson explained that NAHAD heavily focuses on education and networking, as well as building relationships between distributors and manufacturers.
“It’s all about relationships, even in this day and age of social media and networking,” Thompson said. “It’s still about face to face, handshake to handshake, business being done. The association provides, obviously, the venue for that at their events and conventions throughout the year. Our role is to really provide some of the services and support that the company needs to thrive and survive. We’re dealing with a whole range of issues, such as workforce development issues, finding and keeping good people.”
Another key role is establishing industry standards, which NAHAD has been heavily involved in creating—especially in the area of safety protocols for quality and reliability. Thompson notes that they have spent a lot of time and effort creating the standards for hose and assembly fabrication.
But there’s also a real need for associations to have strong, capable leadership. While support staff is certainly very important, committed volunteers serving on boards, committees and task groups are critical.
“When you get right down to it, associations are groups of competitors that agree to play together nicely,” Thompson said. “By sharing with each other their experiences, problems, needs and issues—and then finding solutions—everybody benefits.”