Importance of Volunteering on a Board

By Mike Hartnett

Industry Awards- Mike HartnettI became aware of HIA, CHA’s predecessor, in 1979 when I was hired as Assistant Editor for an industry trade magazine, Profitable Craft Merchandising. I had no idea what a trade association was or what it did.

I quickly realized how important a trade association is to the success of its members and industry. It provides a venue for members to conduct business (trade shows); educates its members (seminars and webinars); and is the industry’s public relations arm (awareness). If I care about my readers’ success, I better help HIA.

As time went by, I served on various committees, and then on the HIA Board; I followed that by serving on ACCI (another CHA predecessor) committees and the Board. Finally, I served on the CHA Board.

Why did I spend so much time doing all this? Looking back, it was the best investment of my time in the industry. Here’s why:

If you’re on a committee, you can make real changes. For example, years ago, CHA MEGA Show exhibitors of a certain type were not scheduled together in one area of the Show floor. Why? Major Paint Company A did not want the booth to be anywhere near Major Paint Company B. Finally, retailers got together and complained to the Trade Show committee, whose members recommended a change, which the Board approved. So, now the Show has sections and the paint buyer doesn’t have to walk two miles to see three particular exhibitors.

When I was on the HIA Board, designers formed a committee and petitioned the Board for money to produce a pamphlet listing all of the freelance designers’ contact information and areas of expertise. That never would have occurred to me (because Board members and the staff aren’t mind-readers) if not for that committee; it was a great idea. Often new manufacturers have a product, but don’t know any designers who could create projects for them. The brochure helped both manufacturers and designers, yet it never would have existed without input from members.

The time required for serving on a committee is not much. Usually, there is a meeting at the Show and a few conference calls each year.

As for serving on the Board, you get a much broader view of the industry and how it works. It’s truly a revelation. If you’re a retailer, you’re focused like a laser beam on your business – as the overall industry continues to change all around you. The same is true if you’re a manufacturer, publisher, importer, designer or distributor. It’s so intellectually stimulating to focus your brain on a broader picture for a change.

More time is required – two weekend Board meetings a year; however, even that extra commitment is worth it because of the wonderful friendships you make with fellow Board and staff members.

Truly, serving on committees and/or the Board is well worth it.

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