November is a month for reflection, not only because it is the month before we get into the hectic round that is the run up to Christmas and the New Year, but because traditionally this is a month when we have few meetings, the membership invoices for 2011 go out and we get a chance to draw breath and reflect on events and developments after the Conference. Next month I am afraid you will have to put up with my reflections on the year and thoughts on 2011 (something to look forward to!) .
So why this topic? For the very simple reason that those invoices will be arriving this month and it would be pretty amazing if the one or two Finance Managers, Managing Directors, Board Members or one or two senior Executive didn’t ask that question – “Why do we pay this money to RDO?”. Likewise I don’t think I’d be doing my job properly if I didn’t ask myself that same question ,if only to ensure that whatever RDO is doing, it is doing for the benefit of its members.
But let’s be clear from the very beginning, I am not going to try to prove the impossible, in other words I recognise that as a pure question of a commercial return, RDO can never hope to establish that an individual member will receive the full value of his/her membership in terms of Euros and cents or pounds and pence. But I suspect that is true of most trade associations, I don’t know of a single such organisation in Europe that a member joins because they believe they will get a return on their membership .
Organisations and individuals join trade associations because they want to benefit from the security gained from pooled experience, for their industry to be represented in Europe with the powers that be and for their business to be safeguarded wherever possible from the most damaging elements of legislation and where applicable, for the benefits of the product to be publicised wherever possible. Broadly I would say these are the main aims of most trade associations and they are what RDO aims to achieve.
I don’t intend to justify today how well RDO has done in achieving these objectives in 2010 and clearly there are a number of others that flow from these main ones. However, considered at this level, I would say that RDO has fulfilled those key objectives and I can see no reason why they shouldn’t go on doing that in 2011 and onwards (and again I will come back to that next month!).
So why do we still have a small but significant handful of developers in Europe not members of RDO? Is there a rationale behind this? Is it because these developers don’t believe they can meet RDO’s Code of Ethics and are operating outside the law? I think not, I am pretty convinced that both their reputation and their size means that they would in any event be working within the ambit of our Code. Are they members of another rival association? Unlikely, as there isn’t an alternative association that represents the industry in front of the media and legislators of Europe.(We do of course have TATOC representing timeshare owners in Europe and a good job they do too).Is it the cost? I would be very surprised if these organisations at the end of the day would have trouble meeting the membership fees and levies applied by RDO. So what is the reason?
Sad to say, I believe it is a combination of reasons – part historical in that there will in the past have been a falling out or a political disagreement between the developer and the trade association and even now some individuals or organisations are just unable to grasp that nettle or overcome that prejudice and get back into the club. In other cases I concede that there may be an economic reason why they hesitate, but here there is a fundamental dishonesty, because those organisations are only too happy to slip stream behind the work RDO does in Brussels and the Member States on proposed or existing legislation, or to pass on complaints from their owners to RDO’s Enforcement Team to track down fraudsters, thus they are happy to let others shoulder the cost of this work but see nothing wrong in failing to bear their share of the costs associated with these activities.
So where does that leave us? I have strayed considerably from where I originally started, but it is a fact that any trade association is only as strong as its membership and the more you put into such an organisation, the more you get out of it .For too long RDO has tried to reach an accommodation with those few developers who remain outside RDO, perhaps the time has come for RDO to cease to try to persuade them back and withdraw any benefits or co-operation they may currently enjoy?