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When Cutting Expenses, Don’t Eliminate Association Memberships

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Monday, November 26, 2012

In a down economy, falling revenues, and a slow market - such as what many surveying and mapping firms are experiencing today - wise business owners and managers are implementing numerous cost cutting strategies. Nonessential expenditures are being eliminated, belts are being tightened, and even some employees are being laid off.

In these perilous times, one expense that entrepreneurs should resist eliminating is membership in key associations. Such organizations provide a return on investment that can help a firm survive a recession. Terminating a firm’s membership in an association can be short sighted – penny wise and pound foolish, to use an old expression. Here are a few reasons why.

The geospatial community is very different from other professions, as well as industries in other fields. Today, surveying, mapping and GIS projects require a multitude of skills, talents, capabilities, specialties, and capacity. Often, one firm cannot reasonably or profitably accomplish a full project. Rather, firms engage in teaming, partnering and prime/sub contracting on many projects. Many associations are a great way to stay connected with "coop-etition” or "competimates” – firms that are sometimes competitors but also a partner or source of business.

Bob Hickey, Senior Vice President of Photo Science, Inc. West Chester, PA, says attending MAPPS conference is an enormous savings in time and money. "I can see 20 clients - principals of firms we work - with, at a MAPPS meeting, where it would take me weeks, and thousands of dollars in airfare, hotels, and other expenses to see these same colleagues separately.”

Numerous MAPPS membership surveys have indicated that such networking is a top rated benefit of membership in MAPPS. Many firms use their membership in the association as a primary business development strategy.

"When we joined MAPPS, we immediately recognized it as a venue to develop sources of business,” said Dave Hart, President of Continental Mapping Consultants, Inc., Sun Prairie, WI.

Membership in associations also often leads to referrals. The more the staff of the association knows about your firm, the more likely they are to provide a referral. The MAPPS office regularly gets calls from entities seeking a firm for geospatial services. We always give multiple recommendations, or refer the inquirer to the MAPPS web site, but when a specific capability, technology or geographic area is requested, it is helpful that we know the MAPPS members’ specializations.

The MAPPS staff is also a cost effective resource for its member firms. We save our members time and money responding to inquiries that would otherwise take a firm hours to investigate. Questions about small business set aside policies in the Federal government, where to get SF330 software, who offers professional liability insurance for mapping firms, how is the Service Contract Act implemented, or who has an aircraft and camera in South America are just a few of the questions we’ve recently answered for members. The cost of membership in MAPPS, and access to the staff, is significantly less that the cost of using an outside attorney or consultant to answer these questions. While the MAPPS staff does not provide legal advice, we often have information about laws, regulations, legislation and government policies at our fingertips. In many cases, our knowledge is first hand, as we’ve been involved in working with Congress or the government agencies on these issues.

MAPPS is also a great advocate for individual firms. When a member firm of MAPPS encounters a government agency engaging in unfair competition, for violating a Brooks Act requirement, that firm can bring the incident to the attention of MAPPS staff for action. Such breaches of MAPPS-endorsed policy are brought to the attention of proper authorities for remedy and rectification, in the name of MAPPS in order to protect the anonymity of any firm. Correcting a wayward government agency’s action that violates MAPPS principles, and does not result in favoritism of one member firm over another, is a service MAPPS staff provides to its members. Again, retaining outside help on such a matter is not only costly, but exposes a firm in front of the very client-agency with which the firm is attempting to do business.

How can one cut costs? Firms are looking at more cost effective ways to market, sell, promote, partner and collect information. One business development executive recently said rather than having a booth at some conferences, he’s opting for a sponsorship. That provides exposure without all the expense of the staff, shipping and materials of the exhibit hall. Another said he is cutting back on production personnel attendance at technical conferences in favor of business development employees attending conferences where potential clients, with "coop-etition” or "competimates” are in attendance.

Relationships are not like a spigot. They cannot be turned on and off and expected to always be the same. They take care and feeding. A short term absence from membership in MAPPS can lead to long term damage.

In an economy where you are counting every dollar, it’s good to know you can count on MAPPS.

Tags:  Associations  Business  Economy  MAPPS 

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