why we need a trade association and why you should join
Often people in the trade will ask this question, often coupled with or replaced by “why should we pay to be a member?” and, “what benefit do I get from the association?”.
Many people are looking for a material benefit, something tangible that they can see more of a return from than outlay.
For most things this may well be a perfectly reasonable way to look at a cost to your business but, when it comes to an association membership we would suggest that, on the surface at least, this may be a wrong way to look at membership of the WTA or indeed any trade association.
The fact is that government will call upon trade organisations, largely trade associations, for opinion on legislative change. The reason for this is that trade associations tend to be more impartial than a commercial organisation and have to represent the majority of their membership.
Due to this the opinion that is gleaned carries more weight as it is more representative of an industry as a whole and, not just one company’s or, even a few companies agenda.
This is why that the WTA is a not-for-profit organisation and why it has no commercial interests whatsoever. Its sole aim is to represent the members and to present the member’s opinions to government and/or others.
In order to be as effective as possible in this endeavour the WTA needs to have a credible membership in both volume or, number of members and also in the quality of those members. To those ends the subscription fee is extremely low to encourage membership and the Code Of Practice (COP) is simple and easy for any reputable repair business to adhere to.
The more members we have the greater influence and the more we can do for members.
The effect of this is that the WTA is “in the loop” as it were with what is going on in government in respect to legislative change that can affect our members. In turn this allows the TA to keep its members informed and advice them of any change that they may have to make to comply or, if they can avoid compliance as it is not relevant and so on.
If there were no WTA this would not be possible and whilst there is no “material benefit” most people will realise that being aware of this and having an organisation fighting your corner is worth having.
The WTA is often approached by companies looking for service agents in certain areas of the country. Sometimes and, commonly on an almost weekly basis, this is for a specific region and normally once or twice a year by a company looking for much broader coverage, often nationally.
Because our members are pre-vetted for public liability insurance, adherence to the COP, legislative requirements and so on it is far easier for them to choose to contract WTA members as opposed to having to vet all of that themselves. It is therefore not at all uncommon to find that WTA members are selected in preference to other methods.
Some companies will even insist that their contractors are WTA members or they will not employ them.
On this topic in order to clarify how this works in practice, the WTA is completely transparent.
When we receive an inquiry it will be answered by a list of all members in the postal area with a list of skillsets; laundry/cooking/refrigeration/gas/refrigerant gas
It is then down to the company that wishes to contract work which member, if any, that they choose to use and is suitable.
We do not differentiate between members nor offer advice on who to use or attempt to steer work to any party, it is completely at the client’s discretion.
We will try to negotiate and acceptable base rate per call to work from however, this is not a set rate and any negotiations on rates beyond this point are a private matter between the client and the members.
The effect of this is that members are liable to be first in line for selection for new or changing contract work and that all members are viewed on an even footing by potential clients.
The WTA’s role is to bring this to members and allow them to choose what does and does not suit individual members as WTA members are under no obligation to accept any contract at any time.
Once more whilst not a tangible “material benefit” of membership it is a very real benefit that many have benefitted from, some repeatedly and whilst there will be members that have perhaps not seen a benefit from this yet, they may well do so in the future.
The more members that we have, the more approaches that we receive as better levels of coverage by members makes it ever easier for potential clients to employ WTA members over other solutions.
The WTA regularly deals with enquiries from the media, especially so when there is a story that breaks in relation to appliances and attention is focussed on our industry.
The fact is, that members of the press are, just like government, looking for as unbiased, honest opinion as they can get and they are far more likely to get that from a trade association of many members than from a commercial PR department of a large company.
Members meanwhile are far too busy running their own businesses to have the time or inclination to deal with media enquiries.
As a part of the role that the WTA performs, it deals with this area and will do its level best at all times to get across the views of the membership at large. Whilst we don’t run a professional PR department we do at least make the best effort that we can given the resources available to us.
However, where appropriate we will steer the media to members where this is appropriate for specific requirements.
One example is that we steered BBC’s Watchdog program to several members to help them in several investigations that, on at least one or two occasions, has led to WTA members being featured on national television.
The benefits of this are far less well defined other that, the WTA doing this does assist in conversation with government as it becomes more “recognised” along with the obvious benefit of the members being promoted generally through various media channels.
The commercial reality of the highly competitive modern business world is that, in order to get substantial deals that will save members money and be of worth is incredibly difficult to achieve.
This of course does not in any way stop the WTA from trying to get deals for members that will offer them a direct financial benefit however, it is often the case that any we have achieved will not suit all members.
We have of course brought deals for members on insurances, fuel and other items over time but the success of those has been limited. In part this is often due to a low take up of the offers by members as we are unable to negotiate from a position that all members will take up any single offer because members run their own businesses as they see fit and, as suits them. This does limit the effect in this area.
That said, in order to get compliance in some areas in respect to legislative changes we can and will negotiate on behalf of members to ensure compliance with both existing and upcoming legislation to ensure that all members are compliant.
For 2015/16 an area that we are focussed on is compliance with the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 where we are working towards making all WTA members not only compliant but allowing our members to operate beyond the minimum requirements.
Other direct benefits are being worked on all the time on the membership’s behalf and we hope to be able to share more in spring of 2016.
These latest efforts are wholly aimed at furthering the notion that WTA members should be the first companies that are looked at in respect to contract work as they represent the best and most compliant companies to deal with.
The WTA hosts two conferences per year.
The Autumn Meeting normally at the end of September and the larger Spring Conference normally held towards the end of February every year.
The Autumn Meeting is a traditional largely informal meeting of engineers primarily where general events are discussed, updates on any progress within the WTA and other matters are all open for discussion. It is a vibrant and very friendly meeting which is very down to earth in approach.
The Spring Conference is one of, if not the, largest meeting for solely the domestic appliance trade held in the UK.
Attendance will regularly exceed 150 and there are talks and presentations on many interesting topics along with trade stands letting members see and access new products, spare parts, new work and business services.
Whilst more formal than the Autumn Meeting don’t worry about dress code or anything like that, these meetings are primarily for our members benefit and have a deliberately relaxed atmosphere.
For both, members can attend completely free of charge.
The benefits of these meetings which, would not be possible without the WTA, are that members have two fantastic opportunities to network with new people in the industry, catch up with old friends and acquaintances, see new products, access new services and, most of all, be kept up to date on all that is happening in the trade.
We strongly encourage as many members as possible to attend where you will be made welcome and, hopefully, get many benefits from.
Most people that attend these meetings come again, many never miss them. We think that tells you a lot.
We would like to thank you for taking the time to read this document and we passionately hope that, like us and all the WTA members, you come to understand the importance of a strong trade association to represent our industry.
The association needs to be clear on what it does and, importantly, what it does not do and we hope that this document serves as a good indicator at the very least of what the role of the WTA is and how it benefits its members to remain and new members to join. We fervently hope that people that were unsure of the need may better understand why we need the WTA.
In so many areas, the more members that the WTA has, the more sway that it holds.
In turn, the more it can do for its members.
As a trade association we are here to try to protect the interests of our members, to help and guide them and to represent them as a whole.
We want to have the very best of our industry as members and we put as little barriers in the way of accomplishing that as possible.
But we need your support in order that we can support all that the WTA does for the entire domestic appliance repair trade.