Collective Advocacy: Strength in Numbers

By Phill Domask, Construction Materials Evangelist

Experience is the best teacher, and I remember the lesson as if it happened yesterday.  At least one member of the Wisconsin State Capitol police force hasn’t forgotten, either.

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Two-hours early for a Wisconsin Ready Mixed Concrete Association meeting, I walked across Carroll Street and into the state Capitol building.  Standing in the middle of the empty rotunda, I decided to test a lobbying axiom:  “A lone voice lifted at the Capitol echoes briefly, but quickly dies.”

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I tilted my head skyward, focusing my eyes more than 200 feet above on the circular rotunda ceiling mural, ‘Resources of Wisconsin.’  Then I sang, with as much gusto and deep emotion as I could muster just past sunrise: “The halls come alive … with the sound of music!”  The sound (melody is a mighty stretch) reverberated throughout the almost-empty state facility.

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One of the Capitol’s finest made sure I did not entertain thoughts of an encore.

Strength in Numbers

A lone voice lifted at the Capitol in Madison does indeed echo briefly, and quickly die.  But many voices, united in purpose and lifted in harmony, can create and sustain great things.

Trade associations exist to do great things, primarily by uniting stakeholders and advancing industry-interests though education, promotion, and legislative action.

Industry stakeholders possess great potential.  For example, ready-mix plants serve each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, all of Wisconsin’s 1,259 towns, and every incorporated and unincorporated municipality in the state, employing local residents, fueling local economies, contributing significant revenues to state and local community tax coffers, and providing the foundation for the high quality of life Wisconsinites enjoy.  Approximately 3,000 persons (by my estimate) are employed directly in Wisconsin’s ready-mix industry, and an additional 2,500 persons (again, my estimate) support the industry through provision of equipment, materials, services, and supplies.  United, they could create a formidable army of ready-mixed concrete ambassadors and powerful local, regional, and statewide voting constituencies.

Unfortunately, many Wisconsin ready-mix companies prefer the lone- voice-in-the-Capitol approach to promotion, education, and legislative advocacy, and state ready-mix stakeholders forfeit industry and personal success from these go-it-alone efforts.

What About You … and Your Industry?

Was your association membership a cost-cutting casualty of the Great Recession?  Do you and your company take the lone-voice-in-the-Capitol approach to industry advancement?  Or are you an active member of your local, state, and national trade associations?

These associations work hard to protect and advance the common goals of their members and to give united voice to industry interests.  They monitor legislative and regulatory activities to protect members from discretionary enforcement, support member legislative-advocacy, and create, defend, and expand markets by advancing your industry’s legislative agenda to local, state, and federal officials.  They provide educational opportunities for personal and professional advancement.  They help your customers get what they want through effective industry promotion.

But they cannot sustain these actions on your behalf without your active involvement – time, expertise, and financial support.

If you prefer the lone- voice-in-the-Capitol approach to industry advocacy, re-read the (mis) adventure of my solo performance in the rotunda and realize the power your company and industry forfeits from your go-it-alone efforts.  Anything less than full stakeholder participation surrenders your industry to the forces of commoditization … and industry voices (lone or collective) will be ignored.

Let my state-capitol experience be your best teacher: Become an active member of your local, state, and national trade associations.

Phill Domask

Construction Materials Evangelist