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How Joining Industry Associations Can Offer Bountiful Benefits

Industry vet Ron Davis speaks with the CAA’s Executive Director who explains why it’s worth putting yourself out there and joining an industry association.

Jerry Lenander is a pretty busy, and accomplished, individual. As executive director he heads up the California Alarm Association (CAA), which hosts two of the more successful association meetings in the industry (a spring meeting in Palm Springs and winter meeting in San Francisco).

He also manages a number of other local and regional associations. Lenander has withstood all of the pressures that association directors typically have placed on their shoulders, and he remains someone who really listens to what others have to say.

To that point, I recently asked Lenander what he thought would be the single most important issue facing alarm dealers that he talks to.

He thought about it, and slowly started to respond as though he were thinking through the solution to the issue as well. The issue he noted was not singular but multifaceted: Where do all alarm dealers go to get training, education, financing, product knowledge, insurance and of perhaps the greatest importance, the camaraderie and bonding that comes with talking and brainstorming with other alarm dealers?

His answer: Belong to an association! What, did you expect he would give any other answer?

Association Benefits Can Influence Long-term Growth

Because we’re good friends, I told him I should’ve expected that … after all that’s his business and his passion. Lenander went on to explain, “Most associations only attract one out of every 10 or 20 alarm companies in their region. That means 90% to 95% of the alarm companies in any area are probably not members of any association, don’t go to meetings, and don’t go to receptions that can provide meaningful environments for brainstorming.”

That’s an astounding number for an industry that is going through not only its own identity crisis, but a reality crisis as well. Who supports the associations? Dealers. Who supports the dealers? It’s not so easy to answer.

Like Lenander, I have a unique perspective on associations, both on a regional as well as a national level, with a little bit of international thrown in. For 40+ years I’ve been a featured speaker at virtually every local, state, and national association known in the industry. Attendance for these events has ranged from substantial to miniscule.

My smallest audience? One person — Rudy Alva from the San Francisco area, came despite one of the worst storms they’ve ever had there and listened to me pontificate on everything it takes to run a business successfully. I’ve bombed occasionally, been fairly uninspiring at times, but have also received standing ovations for the ideas I’ve presented.

Even now, I’ll get one or two emails a week from people who sat in my seminars from long ago and mention the impact it had in some way on their efforts to achieve growth in business. This is not meant as a boast, but rather my point is that thanks to associations and their meetings and events — if you multiply the number of talks I have given (well over 1,000) by an average number of, say, 25 dealers — I have reached more than 25,000 alarm dealers through my talks, seminars and writings.

So when Lenander speaks about belonging to an association what he’s really saying is that one of the greatest opportunities open to any alarm dealer usually takes place once a month, in most cities that have local associations — but also by his count that means tens of thousands of people in this industry are not gaining the benefits that could be garnered by attending an association meeting.

Do Some Due Diligence & Put Yourself Out There

Many dealers pay dues. Many of them proudly display their membership certificates on their walls. But also, many just don’t really care. I don’t know if it’s that they don’t care about the industry, or about their own growth, or another reason why they’re not taking advantage of these opportunities.

Here’s an idea: Go to one of Lenander’s meetings, he manages them all over the country. He can be reached at the CAA; ask him to ask all of the dealers who attend the next meeting he puts on our standard Big Idea question, if they had one really great idea to share with the industry, what would it be?

You know what Lenander thinks, and for that matter I would echo, it would be join an association, participate, make new friends, network, and watch your company grow as a result of just that small commitment. Seems to be a no-brainer, don’t you think?

As Lenander would say with that kind of crooked smile on his face, “It’s all pretty simple. All you have to do is put yourself out there, ask a few questions and watch what happens — it’s amazing!” Here’s hoping we see you out there, and you’ll see what it’s all about.

About the Author

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Ron Davis is Security Sales & Integration's "What's the Big Idea?" columnist and contributing market analyst. He is president of Davis Marketing Group (DMG), a full-service consulting firm serving the security industry, which also includes GraybeardsRus. He has 35 years of industry experience, including founding Security Associates Int’l in the 1980s.

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