Value v Cost
BVAA’s Director & CEO Rob Bartlett comments on the ins and outs of trade association services and membership.
But at this time of year, BVAA is sometimes challenged about our subscriptions – which incidentally have not been raised for 3 years - and the value delivered back to members in return. Sadly this discussion often starts with a member company’s accountant, not a sales or technical representative who ‘gets’ the BVAA.
Indeed our BVAA offer package is so substantial, it does take some time to explain comprehensively and in the detail necessary to do it justice. With 200 members, that could easily become a fulltime job in itself!
To set the scene, it may be useful to cover some ‘BVAA basics’…
1. BVAA is a highly professional yet ‘notfor- profit’ organisation.
2. BVAA has no share capital, no dividends payable to anyone. Our goal is to invest every penny in services delivered back to members.
3. BVAA is wholly self-funding – we receive no Government grants or handouts.
4. Our aim is to deliver as much as is practicable within our subscriptions structure.
5. In doing so we must remain at all times in compliance with the stringent requirements of the Competition Act and other relevant legislation.
6. We also aim to deliver a complete range of services in line with the demands in ‘The Model Trade Association’ and Lord Heseltine’s ‘No Stone Unturned’ report.
7. BVAA is operated as a business – indeed charitable status is not an option.
8. We alone represent the British industrial valve sector.
So, some of this is very simple, other elements seemingly more esoteric or nuanced, but I can assure readers of vital importance!
Technical is a great example. A trade association member ‘expects’ its association to be the pinnacle of technical authority, and indeed that’s been BVAA’s mainstay for nearly 80 years. To do this effectively, it firstly requires a great deal of volunteer-input from members’ representatives in the working group (WG) deliberations, and thus the support of their managers.
But few if any BVAA WG meetings carry a charge, with all meeting costs and networking coming out of what are referred to as ‘association funds.’ Taking that work forward into the standards fora incurs further costs.
BVAA then also provides travel and subsistence funding to assist BVAA delegates, who in return report back the developments to the wider membership. Since EN, ISO, API and other meetings can be held at any global location, sometimes these costs are substantial, and the BVAA funding reflects that. We also play our part in hosting these meetings.
We also issue free of charge to industry our technical guidelines and position papers, some of which have been adopted around the world, and also publish the industry’s leading technical manual – something we’ve been doing for 50+ years and which is held in very high esteem by customers, who again often receive this without charge.
In addition, BVAA of course provides technical consultancy to members and influential bodies. We have a lead technical consultant in Martin Greenhalgh C.Eng., F.IMechE, but also several others we call upon. These services are not rendered free to us, but are delivered back free of further charge to members. To get the very best, as we do and must do, members will understand such knowledge and experience does not come cheaply.
Training is essentially very similar to Technical. BVAA could not very well enhance industry’s knowledge-base with inferior training materials and outdated sample products – many of which cost several thousands of pounds. Nor without our highly reputable and knowledgeable lecturers, who are at the very zenith of their experience. It just would not work.
The feedback we get on our courses is of the highest praise – but that is due to the investments we make on industry’s behalf – and it is worth remembering half of our customers are actually members’ customers, to whom we often deliver without charge to cement relations and facilitate opportunities for the wider membership. Even when we do charge, this is often way below market price, and massively discounted for members.
Market Statistics & Forecasts
Another mainstay of the ‘model trade association’ criteria. The industry itself produces no publicly available market stats, and the UK ONS stats are often far too late, retrospective and of questionable use, so useable material must be sourced externally. Yet again, to have credibility in the market place, this must be provided by highly reputable suppliers, who are few in number.
To have the knowledge, experience and - critically - depth of research capability to pull together an extensive, global, userfriendly forecast in multiple formats, they can and do need to charge an appropriate rate. The sums involved are colossal from a trade association perspective! Yet once again BVAA delivers this report annually to its members without further charge. If the report were available on the open market, its cost alone would be many times a typical member’s subscription fee – again returning extraordinary value for money.
Perhaps less well-known is that BVAA provides a free of charge HR, Health & Safety and Company Law service for all its members. Again, a typical cost for such a service would be approximately ˝ of an average BVAA member’s annual subs. However if bought on an ad-hoc basis – or worst still not at all - the resultant costs to members would be huge.
BVAA provides this industry-leading and highly-professional magazine at no cost to you our readers, and indeed members’ editorial is featured free of charge too. We do carry advertisements from members, but like a great deal of our work, these are subsidised through association funds.
I was recently shocked to learn that a comparable commercial engineering magazine, same size and also issued quarterly, had a dedicated workforce of more than twice the size of BVAA’s entire staff. Yet we all have other jobs too! It is very difficult to put a value on the impact and penetration ValveUser has had in the marketplace or for members, but the day before I wrote this it was described to me by a member as ‘the best thing BVAA has ever done.’
As can be deduced from the recent activity report on page 18, these hugely popular events take a considerable amount of effort to win, and then stage, often requiring significant investment in time, travel and expertise. BVAA has a highly competent Business Development Consultant meeting or engaging with potential hosts on an almost daily basis – and again that carries a significant cost to deliver a highly desirable outcome for members.
Other Commercial Activity
BVAA also represents members at major external exhibitions around the world, ones where many of our members have little or no chance of attending themselves. We also facilitate – and often subsidise - groups stands at major shows like Valve World and effectively provide a ‘base camp’ for all our members who do attend, complete with our unbeatable foc hospitality. We also operate a number of industry websites, enquiryrouting services – with some spectacular successes – conferences, supplier days, networking events and an annual Dinner Dance that always delights. Plus much, much more.
BVAA - The Place & the People
Despite existing for 8 decades, and being itinerant yet never in debt, BVAA existed essentially on paper with few, if any, tangible assets and in a rather parlous position. The phenomenal growth in BVAA size and activity in the last few years allowed us to put down roots and finally purchase our first freehold property in 2014 – and what a facility it is too! It comprises the association’s offices, meeting rooms and also the Peter Churm Technical Centre – the home of our training arm. It is a facility of which the association members can be extremely proud - and once again - can use free of charge. BVAA HQ is the association’s most significant purchase and our second-greatest asset.
Our greatest asset however is the people! An association is nothing without its members. More so however without committed and competent staff. Trade association work is like no other I have encountered – essentially, we are all things to all men! The work is so diverse, and the requirements on the staff so varied. Ask a BVAA staffer what their job is and the likely answer is ‘which one?’ Two of us here alone share 50 years’ of trade association experience, and all of us come from backgrounds or professions highly relevant to our role and are of the highest calibre. A typical day’s work can encompass legal, accounting, marketing, commercial, training, technical, event management, printing, publishing, journalism – the list is endless – and on occasion also includes agony aunt and counsellor.
Can all this be delivered ‘cheaply?’ Possibly. But effectively deliver the value for money that BVAA delivers? Not a chance!
So, what is the BVAA value proposition? I would say,
“As a member of the BVAA, your company belongs to the only organisation that represents all the main sectors in the UK valve industry; namely manufacturers, distributors, repairers and suppliers of valves, actuators and related products and services. Membership of the BVAA gives your company a voice in shaping the industry’s future and a measurable return on investment in networking, training, technical support and new business opportunities that can only come from engagement with the BVAA.”
Interested in BVAA Membership? See http://www.bvaa.org.uk/how_to_join.asp - or contact BVAA on Tel: 01295 221270 / email email@example.com
Published in Valve User Magazine Issue 42
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