Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.
I wanted to throw my two cents (and Canadian at that) into the ARVC- State Association discussions floating around right now. I know it is a bit of a volatile subject but hey, faint heart never won a fair woman.
In my seventeen years in the business I have seen this ongoing situation manifest itself many times. The tension between the state associations and ARVC has always been there albeit to a lesser degree. From my perspective instead of this huge tug of war for the attention and dues from individual parks, why can’t we just drop the rope? I am not saying they have to work together but there is certainly space for all these organizations.
It is all about value in today’s marketplace. It is about which organization can deliver the most value to the campground owner. The one who can do that will get the business. What if they both got the business! If I am not mistaken it is the job or mission of the state park associations and ARVC to look after the lobby affairs of their “constituents”. The parks realized way back when that you cannot fight city hall, so they banded together and formed associations that fought the fight on their behalf at the state capital level and in Washington. Yes I am sure there are other ancillary benefits that come with banding together but I believe that is their main focus. At least from my somewhat skewed perspective.
I have found lately that both of the trade associations have gotten away from that. They are becoming all about driving revenue to the bottom line in order to stay in business. They offer buyer bulk discounts, take money form vendors/suppliers such as myself to promote their products and generally do what they have to do to stay in business. However they are not a business. To quote Peter Drucker , “Business is about building things and selling them”. These trade associations do neither.
I have a couple of good examples. About 10-12 years ago we were invited to a state association trade show. We purchased some space, flew down there with our booth, rented a car, rented a hotel room and generally spent money on the road. When we got to the show one of the associations board members announced over the public address system that his son was also in the software business and had a booth. Please go visit him as he is a lot cheaper that Campground Manager Software® and the state association will get a commission on every system he sells. We packed up and went home. We have never been back and will never go back. I have no problem with buddy’s son starting a software company but don’t wrap in the cloak of the state association and expect me to participate. We have enough trouble competing with competitors that we don’t need to compete with the trade show organizers also.
I have another good example. Recently we decided to launch an iPhone and iPad app for our Bookyoursite.com booking system. So in order to make it a user friendly feature enriched app we needed some campground data. We approached an association (of which we are a long time member) about using their data. They turned us down because they are launching their own iPhone app and we would be a competitor. Huh? I thought you were a trade association.
I get that there is strength in numbers and the benefits are many when people group together. However I just think these associations have lost focus on what their mission is. Once they refocus and get back to doing what trade associations do (acting on behalf of their constituents at the government lobby level, advertising, setting standards, education, political donations) then it will be much easier to “drop the rope”.
Your comments are welcome.