In today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s not enough to simply go with the flow. To keep up with your ever-changing industry, you have to move beyond the traditional “business leader” position and adopt the role of “industry advocate.”
As an advocate, you’ll shape the trends, procedures, and legislation that will affect your future success. You’ll earn the respect and appreciation of industry peers. And you’ll have the opportunity to set the tone for the future of your industry, which will give your business an inside track on developments.
But becoming an advocate carries a lot of responsibility, and at times, it can be difficult. Advocating for innovation means your efforts will constantly be threatened by those who have made their living keeping things the way they are. However, you can’t be afraid to disrupt. After all, those who don’t innovate simply won’t survive.
What Is an Industry Advocate?
Advocacy puts you on the forefront of future innovations. If your industry has more potential for success, it’s your responsibility to recognize that and take action. It’s what will set you apart and establish you as an advocate.
Leaders know how to make their businesses succeed in their industries. They know how the numbers work and how to compete and serve the interests of their companies. But advocates go deeper than that. They understand the key issues affecting their industries as a whole — the strengths, challenges, and future possibilities. Advocates fight for the changes and protections that benefit everyone in their industries and ensure the future of entire lines of business.
A good example of an industry advocate is Jim Wurm, executive director of the Exhibit & Event Marketers Association. E2MA merged the Trade Show Exhibitors Association and the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association. When it developed new standards and consolidated data references, E2MA strengthened the entire concept of face-to-face marketing and completely revolutionized the trade show industry.
Become an Industry Advocate
Like Jim Wurm, you can certainly become an advocate. However, if you’re not sure where to start, the process can be difficult. Here are a few steps you can take to get started:
Think big, and dig deep.
As an industry advocate, you’re not working solely for your business. You must consider the challenges and trends that are affecting every business in your industry. Make sure you understand the problems and innovations thoroughly, and develop ideas that benefit everyone’s lives and businesses. If you can do this, the money will follow.
A sincere devotion to making someone’s job easier will pay dividends to your solution — and your position as an advocate. The more people can benefit from your solution, the more momentum it will gain. With everyone behind you, you’ll move farther and faster, and that will make your sector a better place to reside.
Build partnerships with other advocates.
Find the people in your industry who are advocating for different needs, and discuss ways you can work together for everyone’s benefit. You know you’ve found a good industry advocate if he’s willing to listen to ideas that will change the way things are done and offer suggestions. Find key individuals with solid influence — those who have the power to make changes in their sectors — and form an advisory board.
Tackle inconsistencies in your industry.
If the status quo is making your sector sour, don’t be afraid to disrupt. And if someone is blocking innovation, you need to speak up. It’s your job to position growth and success within everyone’s reach. Those who suppress positive change to secure their own profits shouldn’t be allowed to spoil things for those who are working hard to make improvements.
I have always tried to operate with these principles in mind. When I was working with my first software company, I had an exhibitor who complained about a specific problem. I started to work on a solution, but I quickly realized the other exhibitors weren’t going to benefit from it. When I looked deeper and saw how the activities of all the exhibitors were interconnected, I was able to develop a solution that benefited everyone.
At times, being an industry advocate might feel like you’re untangling a ball of fishing line. But once you realize that each knot is part of the same line, you’ll see that a solution for one means a solution for all. Tradition can be a powerful force. But in our world, the innovators are the ones who succeed. And more often than not, we all flourish when we find ways to work toward a better future for all.
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