The Rise and Fall and Re-Rise of Associations

The textile cleaning industry has a Fabricare Forum that has over 1,000 members (see the textilecleaning.com website menu for information on joining) consisting of cleaners, suppliers, manufacturers and others involved in the industry.  It is open to anyone, anywhere who is involved in the cleaning of textiles or providing to those who do.

On the Fabricare Forum recently it was brought up that the Ontario Fabricare Association in Canada would like to reinvigorate their association by initiating some new direction in order to bring professionalism back to their industry.  There were a lot of comments made by some of the forum members of the ideas that are beginning to be considered, some positive and some negative.  (To join the Fabricare Forum look in the Textile Cleaning menu for the link)

Maybe all association membership has been in decline for a lot of years simply because the value was not there for the membership fees requested.  There, now that is out of the way.  I have always felt that drycleaning associations were supported by business people making their living from cleaning clothes and they tend to look at things as a business decision.  A good investment will pay off and money spent should have a good return on the investment.

Lorne Tontegode, I think, is on the right idea bandwagon of re-invigorating the Ontario Association with a lot of value for the money and rules and regulations to keep the integrity of the association meaning something that the customer (member) can actually rely upon, and Darcy Moen made an excellent point in that all cleaners are not needed nor wanted as association members, just like a drycleaner does not need everyone who walks in the door as a customer.  Unfortunately it appears the associations have been struggling to just get dues money through the front door while reducing their member services and going off on tangents that most cleaners cannot relate to.

All associations need to get back to their basics of standing for something good in the customer’s eyes, and an excellent source of information and services for members.

I suspect there are a lot of ten and fifteen year old IFI decals on doors and windows that should have been removed nine to fourteen years ago due to non-membership, or that were simply on the doors when the business was bought by a new owner.

Associations were originally set up for the members then some morphed into being for the Executive Directors and Board Members, and just maybe, pawns of some of the suppliers to the industry.  This is when the decline began, and now that the cleaning business is in the toilet for all various reasons, this is the time when operators should be seeking membership to get help during the tough times.  The associations also should be there with ideas, marketing and tools for generating business for its members

If the state, provincial or federal governments will not make licensing mandatory, with teeth, then perhaps a group of interested and committed textile cleaners can by banding together, making a set of business ethics to go by and encouraging the regulators to actually do their job of regulating and enforcement of existing regulations.  This can be backed up by individual members or association board members doing something for the industry except going “Through the Chairs” of their local, or whatever association.  It is all a good ego boost but not terribly productive for the industry.

Any association needs a good, strong, wise, dedicated association Executive Director who will not control the board but will do their bidding, in a professional manner.  There should be distinct functions of each officer and the Executive Director.  With an association that has all officers and members pulling together it is much easier to be a strong force in the industry.  Too often it is “Us” and “Them”.

Associations should offer camaraderie, information, instantaneous help with technical problems, customer service and information, have an excellent relationship with manufacturers and importers, A place to go for regulation interpretation and be a source for management, accounting, marketing, advertising and advertising specialties,  training and educational classes that are convenient to the members and others in the industry need to be readily available.  This can be done through volunteer distributors who can offer facilities and technical expertise and there are some excellent independent trainers and educators available to the industry.  This is by no means a complete list of things the association can do for their members but a few of the more important things an association owes its members.

As the National Cleaners Association (NCA) has shown that they cannot survive on 1960’s technology and methods of doing business. Any progressive association needs to be current and up-to-date with their thinking, technology and commitment to their members.  They must be member (customer) oriented and give the member more than what they pay in savings, knowledge, training and unbiased information to help them make decisions.  The NCA needs to be commended for their technological and forward thinking and sharing it with their members.  I saw their booth at the recent Clean Show in Las Vegas June, 2011 and was amazed how much they have to offer their members and their concern for each member, and what they can do for each one.

I hope the Ontario Fabricare Association can accomplish their goals of becoming the premier association in Canada.  There seems to be a strong British Columbia Fabricare Assoc. and hopefully there can be a lot of coordination on programs between the two.

Association membership is not for everyone in the textile cleaning business but it is sure valuable to those who want to better their working environments, processing, knowledge, profits and advancement.