Monday, June 16, 2008

The Impact of Gas Prices on Associations and Their Members

Associations, like every other type of business, are feeling the impact of rising petroleum prices. The effect of high gas prices will be felt for the forseeable future. Associations must, therefore, decide how they will deal with the inevitable impact on their members, their employees, and their vendors and business partners. Unfortunately, none of us have the luxury of time to consider how to cope. That luxury has been available to us since the oil embargo of 1973, but few of us possessed the wisdom or the will to put that time to good use. Now, it's time to react quickly to what amounts to an emergency.

What effects are we going to have to face? I suspect no one is absolutely certain, but here are just a few that I believe are very likely:

  • Travel to Meetings: Members will be unwilling or unable to justify the frequency of travel we have heretofore enjoyed, thanks in part to high petroleum prices;
  • Airline Travel: Airline travel fares, which have already begun a rapid ascent, will spiral ever higher, making flying a business luxury rather than a business byproduct;
  • Close-in Renaissance: The exodus from cities to suburbs and exurbs will reverse course, making "close in" living a very highly sought after lifestyle for association staff (except in associations which have already fled to the suburbs) [while gentrification has already started this trend, it will accelerate];
  • Adaptive Zoning: Zoning laws will have to re-adapt to neighborhood-based businesses, as people are apt to insist on staying closer to home.
  • Telecommuting: Associations and their member businesses will have to institute widespread telecommuting in order to attract high quality workers.
  • Hyper-Local Employment Markets: The advent of more neighborhood-based small businesses will make associations and their member companies face a much more highly competitive and highly localized market for employees;
  • Long-Distance and Virtual Events: As face-to-face meetings become more and more difficult to orchestrate, thanks to high costs of travel, associations will have to invest resources toward creating educational "events" that take place long-distance, usings webinars, video conferences, social networking sites and processes, and other technological options; events may begin to take place over longer periods of time, with event components pulled together technologically as "virtual events;"
  • Hotel Transformations: Meeting-supported hotels will be forced to transform into localized technological resources for associations that cannot, or do not want to, invest heavily in long-distance meeting technologies;
  • Transportation Infrastructure: Public transportation systems will be much more likely to win competitions for transportation infrastructure dollars;
  • Potential Preeminence of Associations: Despite the challenges, the financial and environmental pressures to keep people apart (at least long-distance) are apt to have a highly positive effect on associations that are able to understand and take advantage of their unique capacities to be the "binding for the social fabric" of their industries or profession;
  • Ruinous Results of the Failure to Act: And, in spite of the potential for associations, their failure to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them could be ruinous. The ease with which social networking sites can be established by one person, by himself or herself, offers evidence of what can happen if associations fail to react quickly to the challenges facing their members and their employees (and, of course, I'm referring as well to AMCs as well as associations). The failure to act quickly could easily give other organizations or individuals the opportunity to act earlier and take advantage of the opportunities to lure away association members (and staff members).

As frightening as the rapidly-escalating price of energy is, it provides us with an opportunity to think about new ways to do business. We can work to be more resourceful and more attuned to financial and environmental realities. We can be more conscious of the fact that our business practices and personal choices as association members and association executives can affect the world around us.

No comments:

Post a Comment