Case Stories

Sometimes You Have to Lead the Industry You Serve

19. Sometimes you have to lead the industry you serve

This story is true, but names and details have been changed to protect anonymity.

Trade organizations have it hard. Not only must they deal with their own issues, they have to deal with all of the issues of all of their members. It can be difficult for trade group leaders to keep track of which is which, especially when their own organizations are feeling the effects of decline. “We’re losing relevance with our members” is a common refrain when members are also losing relevance in the marketplace.

We were invited to sit in and critique the annual management meeting of a global trade organization in which members of the management team presented their strategies and plans. We heard a lot of tough questions. “What is our goal with this? Why are we even still doing it? Who benefits? Why are we trying to boil the ocean?”

These questions were more than just questions, they were a cry for help. Trade organizations are created to meet the needs of the industries they serve, but as those needs and those industries change, so must their trade organizations.

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