Batter Up: How CSA Membership Can be a Game-Changer for Independent Dealers

By Katie Bodiford
CSA Director of Meetings & Membership

Membership. Webster’s defines this word as “being a member of a group.” Although it’s sort of a cardboard description of the term, that truly is the basic meaning.

Having spent the past 22+ years serving as an association executive in several different industries, the term “membership” has been the sole focus of my career. For me, membership is at the core of what I do and it matters deeply how that word is viewed by the companies that comprise our organization.

In June of last year, the CSA Board of Directors gathered to discuss the strategic vision of our organization as we navigate through the next three years. One of the directives that came out of that discussion was to focus on increasing our number of dealer members by 60 over that three-year span. Not only would additional members enhance the association by adding a broader mix of companies with which to interact and learn, but it would also strengthen our voice as we represent independent dealers on issues like inventory tax and other forms of regulation that impact your bottom line.

But, for most companies, the decision to join an association is not a quick one. Out of necessity (and good business acumen, of course), many companies want to weigh the expense of association membership against the benefits they’ll receive once on board. The challenge on our end is conveying those “intangibles” that members often report as the reason they belong to a group like CSA.

That takes us back to Webster defining membership as BEING a member of a group. Is it enough for some to pay their dues at the beginning of the year or does the real benefit come through participation and actively engaging in CSA programs and services? I’m sure it varies from company to company; however, a common thread that runs through many of CSA’s long-term members is the perceived value of sharing challenges and learning from one another.

In a recent users group for one of the software platforms utilized by our members, an attendee remarked out loud, “Oh! I’ve been trying for months to figure that out!” In a similar session, one of our members exclaimed, “That will save me so much time and money!”

Those are the moments when you realize that CSA membership is more than simply BEING in a group. It is taking advantage of the access to other folks in your industry who either share your frustrations or have possibly figured out solutions to everyday problems that could help you do business better.

When is the last time you had a group of your peers walk through your yard and give you an honest critique of how you might improve your operations? Have you sent employees to a CSA seminar—maybe on estimating or safety—having them come back with knowledge and ideas that can be put to work in your own business? Sometimes being in a group and getting the most out of your investment are two different things. Often, stepping off the sidelines and taking advantage of all the resources that your membership offers can provide a huge return on your dues dollar.

If you have yet to take that step from “mailbox” member to active participant and would like to know what all is available to you, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at CSA. We are here to make sure you are completely satisfied with your membership experience. But, if you are currently active and recognize how your involvement in CSA is benefitting you as an independent building materials dealer, then we need you.

(Just imagine the famous Uncle Sam poster pointing at you as you read this)

The best way for us to reach prospective dealer members and share with them the positive aspects of joining is through fellow dealers in the industry. There is no better ambassador for our organization than someone who is investing in CSA and enjoying a tangible return as a result.

So, how can you help? Here are a few ways we can work together to build a stronger, more robust CSA membership:

1. If you know dealers in your area/region that are not members, tell them about CSA. Plant the seed. They may already be aware of our group but hearing about it from a fellow dealer goes a long way in the credibility department.

2. Tell CSA about them. Simply drop a quick email to me ([email protected]) so I can send them some information about the benefits of joining. This will not subject them to endless calls or email blitzes. It just helps us make the introduction.

3. Invite them to lunch (on us!) or even invite them to participate in an upcoming education event to give CSA a try. Just like driving a car off the lot will help someone make a buying decision, trying out a CSA member benefit can showcase how being involved really does make a difference.

The bottom line is that any membership is what you make it. I have belonged to many membership organizations where I paid my dues and maybe read the occasional newsletter. The difference? Those groups—whether social or maybe alumni-related—didn’t have the potential of helping me reduce risk, save money, hire the right people or simply run my business more efficiently. CSA can help its members do all of that and then some.

At CSA, it’s not our goal to get as many members as we can. It is our goal that we make the benefits that we offer available to as many independent dealers as possible. Why?  Because we know from experience that going from sitting in the stands to active participation truly can be a game-changer for some companies. If you are a member but haven’t given any of the programs or services a try...what’s holding you back? And, if you are involved, how can you help us share those benefits with others in the industry?

Is it time for you to step up to the plate?