So what? Who cares? What’s in it for me?
The International Association of Skateboard Companies (IASC) is the skateboard industry’s one and only nonprofit trade association. Organized and incorporated nearly six years ago, IASC’s mission statement dedicates its activities to promoting and developing the sport of skateboarding, and to the development of sound business practices for its member companies.
“So what?” you might say. “Who cares?” you might be thinking. And if that’s your mindset, then you’ll probably follow with thoughts similar to “What’s in it for me? What’s IASC doing for me?“
I didn’t invent these questions. Pete Jordano did. A successful Santa Barbara-based entrepreneur who’s been on the business-speaker circuit for several years, Jordano conducts a good workshop. He’s a great speaker for a business luncheon, and his message over the years about public speaking has remained much the same. When you’re speaking to a group, the audience (or client) is more than likely interested in the answers to three basic questions: “So what?” “Who cares?” and “What’s in it for me?”
If members of an audience can answer at least one of his questions, or if they can identify with his stated purpose, Jordano alleges they will deem his presentation successful. The “sale” will have been made. If the speaker can provide the answers to all three of those questions, then the audience will be fueled to respond accordingly–they’ll have purpose and an identity.
With this goal in mind I will now approach the podium, in the public-speaker mode, before those of you gathered today who are considering your role in the skateboard industry. IASC is the skateboard industry’s only nonprofit trade association. (So what?) IASC is also the only trade association representing the skateboard industry, and its stated purpose is to promote every aspect of the sport and the businesses of skateboarding. (What is a trade association?) Nearly six years ago IASC emerged from meetings initiated by Steve Douglas, Mike Ternasky, Steve Rocco, Paul Schmitt, and others. One main concern expressed during those meetings was the problem of pro and sponsored skaters jumping from sponsor to sponsor, and the subsequent effect upon production and retail sales. (That’s still a problem) There was also the concern of skaters being “taken” by other sponsors–promises of better contracts or better benefits leading to skaters’ decisions to “jump.” Concern is a mild word describing the allegations and threats. Particular individuals were pissed off, and they were going to do something about it. (What’d they do? What happened?)
Fists weren’t thrown during those first two meetings, but more specific threats and some bruises were certainly part of the immediate future. Production arrangements were rearranged. Some companies stopped doing business with each other. New alliances were formed as older ones dissolved. (What? People were going after each other? This is sort of interesting. What companies is he talking about?) Those two formative meetings led to a meeting held at the ASR show–an open forum where everyone was invited to discuss the state of the skateboard industry and what might be done about it.
I had been contacted by Paul Schmitt, who asked whether I was interested in becoming involved. (Schmitt Stix?) Eighteen months before, while I still worked at Powell Peralta Skateboards (my first board was a Powell), I had sent Paul and several others in the skateboard industry the suggestion that maybe it was time for skateboarding to do what the surf companies had done when they started SIMA. (Surf Industry Manufacturers Association) SIMA is a nonprofit trade association, and I had been on the board of directors for two years. (Who cares? Are we ever going to find out what a trade association is?)
My participation on the SIMA board brought to light its relationship with ASR, and clearly demonstrated there was the opportunity for skateboarding to create its own organization. (I heard SIMA used to get money from ASR to keep them from starting their own trade show.) A skateboard-industry trade association was possible. What the hell is a trade association?
The idea was to form an association–a group, a committee–of some sort that could provide a forum for skate companies to discuss what was going on in skateboarding, and what might be done to help solve some of the problems confronting the various companies. (Is that what a trade association is?)
From those early meetings emerged skateboarding’s nonprofit trade association, IASC. Trade associations date back to the guilds of Europe that formed during the Middle Ages. Masons and tradesmen would band together to help establish standards for construction, size, and quality for articles and services. Trade associations today are nonprofit organizations that represent a group of businesses (So, IASC represents skateboarding?). The companies work together to accomplish goals that no single company could reach by itself. A trade association may have only a few members, or it may have thousands of members. The size of the organization has little to do with the effectiveness of the organization, although it’s more important that the association include most of the companies in the industry. (Hmmm, what companies are IASC members?)
Trade-association activities include promoting business for the industry, encouraging ethical business practices, cooperating with other organizations, and holding conventions or trade shows. (Whoa, IASC could have its own trade show?) Trade associations also work to obtain good relations with the government, the industry’s employees, and the general public. Setting industry standards is another important trade-association activity. (Does that mean IASC could set standards for skateparks?)
Trade associations also act as an information resource about their industries. They may issue bulletins on business trends and provide statistical information. Some trade associations publish their own magazines and newsletters that can even be distributed to the general public.
The productivity and performance of any trade association is directly related to the involvement of its members. Because of nonprofit organizational regulations, member businesses must join trade associations voluntarily, and the association must be managed cooperatively. (How is IASC managed?) No strong-arming allowed.
The current membership of IASC includes Action Sports Retailer, Alien Workshop, Birdhouse Projects, CCS, Chocolate, DC Shoe Co., Destructo Industries, Duffs, Dwindle Distribution, Eastern Skateboard Supply, Element, Emerica, Etnies, The Firm, Girl, Independent Trucks, Jessup Grip Tape, New Deal, Planet Earth, PS Stix, Reef Brazil, Santa Cruz, Surf Expo, Toy Machine, Tum Yeto, Vans, World Industries, and Zoo York.
When IASC was first incorporated, it was decided that membership was to remain available to any company with interest in supporting skateboarding. It was important to dispel any relationship to the Big Five. (What the hell is the Big Five thing, anyway?) It was also deemed essential that IASC membership be affordable to member companies, and to this day membership fees remain at 1,500 dollars per year. The big question seems to be what a member company gets for the annual fee. Potential is the easy philosophical answer, but the practical answer is summed up in the power exhibited by the member companies when they reach agreement.
Three years ago IASC member companies agreed to attempt to change California’s liability laws. It took time and effort, but the success has changed skateboarding forever.
Previously in this column I attempted to alert the skateboard industry to the fact that, ready or not, hundreds and thousands of public skateparks will be open and be opening over the next few years. That fact is a direct result of IASC activity. IASC member companies made something happen that never happened before. IASC changed the law, and as a resu
lt, the way Americans perceive skateboarding changed. (So that’s what it does! IASC changed the laws!) Thus, whether or not an individual company belongs to or supports IASC through participation, that company and its skateboard-related products are going to directly benefit from IASC’s efforts. (That’s who should care–everyone involved in skateboarding!)
Over the past six years, those IASC efforts read like a definition of what a trade association is supposed to do: provide information, cooperate with other organizations, promote its businesses, issue bulletins, work to develop good relations with government, and work together to accomplish its goals. More importantly, IASC membership provides a unified voice, a strength, and a greater opportunity for the common good of skateboarding.
The challenges facing today’s skateboard companies seem to hinge upon one basic principle: What can we agree upon? The X-Games? Too much television? Not enough television? More programs like Tony Hawk’s Gigantic Skatepark Tour? Who controls our sport? Keep skateboarding small, keep it ‘core? A new amateur series? A national amateur championship? A national campaign to legalize skateboarding (eliminate frivolous laws prohibiting skateboarding)?
The sport and the businesses that supply skateboarding’s products are today confronted with a new reality created in part by its own success. There are more skateboarders skateboarding in more public skateparks than at any time in the sport’s history. There are more skateboard companies making more products than ever before. The future of skateboarding remains in the hands of today’s skateboard companies, and today, more than ever before, the industry needs to utilize its one and only trade association to help guide, develop, promote, and secure skateboarding’s future. (That’s what’s in it for us–the future of skateboarding!)
Finally, open the August issue of SKATE Biz (Volume 12 Number 1), the one with Tony Hawk on the cover. Go to the Company List on page 58. Imagine the impact if every skate company listed was an IASC member, and then imagine the impact of an IASC spokesperson sitting with a broadcast-corporation representative or an event producer. Imagine if skateboarding would agree to agree. Or even agree to sometimes disagree, but to agree there are certain fundamental things each and every IASC-member skate company wants. “So what?” that person might think.
So what? What if IASC were to do something else, that’s what. Who cares? We care. Skateboard companies care, otherwise this would be a simple process, and there wouldn’t be companies screwing other companies. What’s in it for them? Good question. Why are they interested in skateboarding? Is it skateboarding they’re interested in?
The answer, my friends, isn’t blowing in the wind … it’s right here. It’s in the skateboard industry, where it should be. Skateboarding is skateboarding, and skateboarding’s own nonprofit trade association needs you to suck it up, get involved, join IASC, and get on with the business of helping create skateboarding’s future.
Jim Fitzpatrick is executive director of the International Association Of Skateboard Companies, skateboarding’s nonprofit trade association. IASC can be reached at (805) 683-5676, skateboardiasc.org, IASCsk8@aol.com, or by mail at: IASC, P.O. Box 37, Santa Barbara, California 93116.