Friday, February 22, 2008

A Good Concept for all Associations: Operating Surveys

Operating ratio surveys and reports tend to be considered only for trade associations. That makes sense, because Quick Ratio, Current Ratio, Average Debt Collection Period, Debt to Asset Ratio, and various liquidity ratios, etc. typically have little or no relevance to individuals in professional societies.

But, operating practice surveys, or something like them, can be extremely valuable to members of professional societies, as well, when couched in terms and reported in ways that are relevant to members' enviroments. Let's look at some hypothetical examples.

The members of the hypoethetical Global Association for Vertebrate Pest Elimination (GAVPE), an association of vertebrate pest control specialists (people who help control rats and possums and squirrels in the attic, etc.) might find it extremely valuable to know the average number of attic pests found after a homeowner reports an infestation. The same people might find it extremely helpful to know the average number of days from first efforts at control until control is achieved. The most expedient and the most efficient way for them to know these numbers is for large numbers of other professionals to share them in such as way that they can be aggregated and expressed in some meaningful form. GAVPE is the ideal vehicle to orchestrate the collection and reporting of those numbers. Members of GAVPE can then look to the Association for information, such as (remember, this is hypothetical):
  • The average number of days from control initiation to control achievement is 10.2
  • The average number of rats in a typical infestation is 3.2

That information is not just "nice to know"'s the sort of thing a homeowner who's confronted with a rat infestation would want the GAVPE member to tell him. It's information that helps convey upon the GAVPE member a sense of professionalism and gives the homeowner a reason to put his faith in the member.

Another hypothetical example may help further express the value of operating practice surveys. The Association of Freelance Administrative Support Professionals (AFASP) might serve its members' needs very well by conducting a survey asking, among other things, the length of time of the average "first contact" freelance assignment. The average time of that assignment can help the freelancer establish a base service commitment. So, for example, if the average from the AFASP study reveals that the average assignment is 16 hours, the member who has not yet established a contract minimum might decide to set a minimum at 75% of the average "first contact" assignment, or 12 hours. Again, this in not just "nice to know" information, it's information that the member can use in a practical way in his or her role as a professional.

The previous sentence, ultimately, is the value of associations. They can give members, whether businesses or individuals, practical tools to be better at what they do. Operating ratios for businesses and operating practices for businesses or individuals are features of membership that can deliver tangible benefits.