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Putting the ‘business’ in Business Association

Posted on the 14 June 2011 by Center For International Private Enterprise @CIPEglobal
Putting the ‘business’ in business association

Hammad Siddiqui, CIPE Program Manager, facilitating a workshop for women's business associations in Pakistan. (Photo: CIPE)

After having worked with over 100 business associations (chambers, trade association, women chambers) in Pakistan and several international locations such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan etc, I can confidently say that the missing piece of the puzzle for many chambers is their marketing function.

In the developing countries, bringing professionalism and reducing politicization in business associations is a daunting task. In such countries business associations are generally formed by a group of influential business people, and despite several years of election process, what I call “Founder’s Syndrome” remains the dominating factor. Elected leadership is still bound to take ‘guidance’ from the founders who are now retired and have little interest in providing service to members.

Astonishingly, most founders I have interacted with do not consider business associations a business. Their concept of non-profit is an organization that is NOT required to make profits and run more like a charity! As a result, many of the chambers I have encountered over the years are lacking in key business functions.

As Peter Drucker says, “Any business enterprise has two and only two, basic functions – marketing and innovation. Peter emphasises on the importance of marketing: “Any organization in which marketing is either absent or incidental is not a business.” My opinion is that business associations are required to focus on two major areas: service and marketing.

Innovation, service, marketing and branding are closely intertwined. Innovation introduces products or services, marketing understands these products or services and creates a brand value for this customers, in case of business associations, their members.

In my view, there is a need to engage business associations in debate on becoming “innovative” and forward looking organizations and essentially introducing a completely integrated marketing function within. That perhaps is the best route to bring these business associations in tandem with the modern dynamics of business organizations.

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