Do marine industry bodies tick the boxes?

Boats at a marine in Cambridge, USA

It is critical for any industry body to constantly review its financial position, its management structure, its offering to members, its standing within government and the industry, the environment and the economic landscape it is operating in. There are many aspects to maintaining relevance and strong boards will continually undertake internal audits to review their efficiencies.

Maryanne Edwards, a representative for the Global Marine Business Advisors, asks whether industry bodies are reviewing their processes and following these key steps to ensure they remain relevant, efficient and purposeful.

1. Clear mission and purpose

A successful industry body has a clear and well-defined mission and purpose. It should have a compelling vision that resonates with its members and stakeholders, providing a sense of direction and purpose.

2. Advocacy and representation

Industry bodies serve as advocates for their members, representing their interests and concerns to policymakers, regulators, and other stakeholders. If an industry body can effectively advocate for its members and influence policy decisions, it can maintain its relevance and continue to provide value. Ministers and government representatives often prefer to talk to board members who own and operate their own business within the industry, verses paid association staff.

3. Adaptability and innovation

The business landscape is constantly evolving, and successful industry bodies are adaptable. They embrace change, anticipate industry trends, and proactively respond to emerging challenges and opportunities. This ensures that the organisation remains relevant and continues to meet the evolving needs of its members.

4a. Collaboration and networking

Industry bodies should facilitate collaboration and networking opportunities among members and foster knowledge sharing, best practices, and business partnerships. If an industry body can provide a platform for meaningful connections and collaboration, it remains relevant in facilitating industry growth and development. However, one platform does not fit all. It is critical events are tailored to the various membership sectors and association services, and sponsorship of these events by relevant parties provides much-needed revenue generation for the association.

4b. Collaboration with other stakeholders

A successful industry body collaborates with other stakeholders, such as government agencies, academia, other industry bodies and non-profit organisations. By building partnerships and alliances, the organisation can leverage collective resources and expertise to address industry-wide issues and drive positive change. A key emphasis recently for many industry bodies is looking at ways to attract skilled workers into the industry.

5. Information and resources

Industry bodies that provide valuable information, research, and resources to their members can maintain their relevance. But it is critical that data promoted to the industry is carefully scrutinised for accuracy as members make decisions based on this data. Utilise experienced consultancy firms to ensure credibility of data and process.

6. Effective governance

Strong governance practices and transparency are essential. The organisation should have clear policies, procedures, and accountability mechanisms in place. Transparent decision-making processes and financial management build trust among members and stakeholders. There should also be opportunities for members to step up to board positions and diversity within boards should be encouraged.

7. Member engagement

The level of engagement and participation from industry members can impact the relevance of an industry body. If members actively participate, contribute, and find value in the services and initiatives provided by the industry body, it will remain relevant. Australian industry body AIMEX, for example, admits getting member engagement in all activities is not easy as members see value in different areas. To counter this AIMEX offers a range of ways for members to engage with the organisation whether it be via newsletters, its industry magazines, networking events, participation at international trade shows, conferences, or the Australian Marine Industry Awards. The board and CEO also hold meetings in various states of Australia to ensure the organisation remains in touch with the grass roots. If industry bodies lose touch with the grass roots, member resignations and questions relating to relevance will follow.

8. Industry recognition

Governments prefer to deal with one strong organisation as opposed to many smaller ones. In the case of AIMEX, rationalising parts of the industry as AIMEX has done has reduced the overall cost to the industry as, rather than have three costly administration structures, they have reduced it to one.

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