No Sacred Cows – March 2015

On Belonging 

Grandfather, Major Jock Irvine Crawford, active military duty done, involved  himself  with the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH) which was founded to help fellow comrades in need.

No visit to his home was without mention  of  a  ‘comrade  in  arms.’  To him, these people were family. He cared intensely about them … most of whom I’m sure he had never met. So, to me ‘comrade’ came to mean a ‘brother.’

Fast forward about twenty years.

I was visiting Finland and my host, Aatu, suggested we break away to enjoy some  rural skiing south of  the  Arctic Circle town, Rovaniemi.

The first day’s skiing was marvelous. Inevitably,  the  post-skiing  sauna and liquid celebration meant a late start the next day.

Cresting a small hill, we encountered eight other skiers. The Kalashnikov rifles signaled that we were in serious trouble.“Comrade, looks like we’ve got a couple of spies.” I heard the words, “tovarischi,”“dva,”  and  “shpiona.”  The  latter  too close  to  the  Afrikaans  “spioen”  for  a pleasantry!

We had innocently skiied into Russia. The soldiers didn’t ‘buy’ the explanation and we were taken to back to camp for interrogation.  Theterm ‘comrade had suddenly lost granfather’s warm meaning.

I was terrified. Having been brought up on the threat of the Communist bogie man, I had doubts about ever getting back to South Africa.

After a seeming eternity … probably no more than an hour… I could sense that the Russians realised that we were just accidental tourist.  We were assured that we soul be taken back to the border the next morning.

We  shared  their  rations  and  vodka. They  were  interested  in  South  Africa. The evening turned from frightening to pleasant. In a few well-lubricated hours I learned a lot about the USSR and its peoples. And, of the pride the soldiers had in their country and the Russian Motorised Rifles group to which they belonged.

After a very sound sleep, we were taken back to the border in a military troop carrier and after many bear-hugs departed as friends, not enemies.

The original meaning of ‘comrade’ remained intact. Grandfather and soldiers   had   one   word   to   describe ‘belonging.’

My childhood came and went without the urge to ‘belong.’ From the earliest age,  I  never wanted  to  be  part  of  a team, instead following ‘lone pursuits’ … boxing, scuba- diving, go-karting and motorcycle racing.

There came a turning point … brought on by selfishness. I was smitten with the idea of building yacths. I could design, I could draw pretty well, but when it came to fibreglas, I knew nothing.  As a fourteen year old, I did what ever pre-Google research, but achieved very  little.  Long story short, I came acorss the British Institute of Plastics and (despite me being a wet-behind-the-ears-kid) was given immeasurable help.

Very soon my vocabulary extended to include FRP industry words like ‘catalyst’, composites’, gel coat’ ‘rovings,’ ‘ultraviolet inhibitors,’ and ‘mat.’ I soon became dab hand at producing complex moulds and finished FRP products.

I had seen firsthand what ‘belonging’ could offer. I confess that I never did give back to the Institute anything near I had received.

My involvement with Sassda was never as one-sided. Saying once that the Association was ‘an old-boys club’ brought about an instant challenge from a then Director: “Don’t complain. Do something about it!” It wasn’t much later that I became chairman of the Architecture, Building & Construction Sector … then Import Sector, followed by Fabricator Sector.

I have gained a lot through my involvement. Technical knowledge, industry knowledge, industry trends … the camaraderie of interesting persons and networking opportunities.

Do other member representatives get as much out of Sassda? Not if one takes participation as an indicator.

This has bothered me a long time. We have tried to encourage participation by holding joint sector meetings. We have had interesting speakers. With Bill Scurr at the reins, we concentrated on getting Sassda ‘back to basics.’ joint sector meetings.

With John Tarboton now in the driving seat, several steps vital to Sassda’s future have been taken. There is now commitment to Sassda being run as a company … with its members a most mportant market. And, a hard look was taken at its strategic direction.

For insight, John looked to CARISA (Centre for Association Research and Intelligence) and from its 2014 Summit tapped a gold mine of information which he shared with attendees to the recent

Sassda Strategic Session

  1. Double income families, joint parenting and longer working hours mean less time for association activities. Associations need to change the way they engage their members.
  2. It is critical to have a value proposition with a clear strategy. Approximately 80 percent of members complain that they do not see the value in being a member of an association.
  3. The digital age has changed the way we communicate. Simply, e-mails aren’t THE way of communicating with members.
  4. Greater specialisation and consolidation. Members have different businesses, different industries, different markets and different needs. Sassda needs to appeal to the different needs and satisfy them.
  5. General differences.  Does the the association offer benefits for different age groups? For a dynamic,  growing  association, attracting younger members and their involvement is a must.

These and other observations provided great food for thought at the Strategic Session. The resulting strategic direction will, I’m sure, be very good news.

Gone  are  the  days  when  there  was truth in Theodore Roosevelt’s words: “Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged.” However, it is still logical to ask “What can an association do   for   me?”The   answer could   be “nothing”

An association can do things with you, but not for you. Apply the same principle to your business … it can’t do anything for you unless you do something for it.

With its new strategic direction, Sassda will offer so much more … providing abundant reason for membership and involvement. Hopefully, much more of the latter, for that is truly belonging.

Leave a Reply