Hire a Member

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Recently, I was talking with a member who could not understand why air shows were hiring non-members to work their shows when they could hire an ICAS member offering more or less the same services.

As the conversation progressed, I tried to understand this gentleman’s position.  Were there significant cost differences between him and the non-members, I asked?  Well, yes, he conceded, he was a bit more expensive than his competitors.  Was the product or service exactly the same? No, actually; he didn’t offer quite as much as his competitors.  Were there other considerations that might have affected the hiring decision…traveling expenses, for instance, or hotel room requirements?  Probably, he admitted. His group would be a bit more expensive to host than some of his competitors.

By the end of the conversation, it was clear to me that the air show had determined that – member or not – this performer’s particular act was not suitable for their show.  But it was not so clear to the caller. “I’m an ICAS member,” he insisted “They have to hire me ahead of these non-members.”

I must confess that when I have this kind of conversation with an ICAS member (and they actually take place more often than you might think), I can’t help but fantasize how much easier membership development would be if all of our event organizers were obligated to hire only other ICAS members.

But these conversations almost always end badly. I am seldom able to explain to the member’s satisfaction why event organizer members cannot be obligated to hire performers or support service providers simply on the basis of whether or not those performers and support service providers are ICAS members.  The member hangs up convinced that he is not receiving all of the membership benefits to which he feels entitled.  And, more to the point of this message, I am left feeling that ICAS should play a more active role in developing a dialogue on this issue.

Clearly, it would be unreasonable to expect an event organizer – no matter how devoted an ICAS member he or she might be – to feel obligated to hire a performer or support service provider simply on the basis of their ICAS membership status.  Air show performers must be safe, entertaining, cost-effective and comfortable for the event organizer to work with, among other things.  Support service providers must offer quality products and services at reasonable prices. They must have strong references and it wouldn’t hurt if they could be flexible when necessary. In short, both performer and support service providers must meet the specific needs of the shows for which they hope to work.

That said, I do think that ICAS membership should play a role in the hiring decision…not because one ICAS member is obligated to hire another, but because it is in an ICAS member’s best interests to hire another ICAS member.

Ours is a small business.  And, within our business, ICAS plays an important, highly visible role as the organizational rallying point for our entire industry.  The annual ICAS Convention is our industry’s annual gathering point to educate ourselves on the business of air shows, prepare for the upcoming air show season, and renew friendships. Our Principles of Conduct and Professional Ethics have helped define ethical business practices in the air show community and provided our industry with the ability to sanction those who choose to operate outside of those ethical guidelines.  Though it can sometimes be a lightning rod for controversy, the ICAS-administered ACE program is recognized as THE system for determining aerobatic competence.

Membership in ICAS indicates that the member recognizes the critical role that our trade association plays in this business. More important, it indicates that the member has made a deliberate decision to become a part of the air show community, to play by the rules established by the air show community, and to be held accountable to those rules.

Individuals and organizations that choose not to participate in ICAS send a very different message.   They suggest that they are not involved enough in or don’t care enough about air shows to stay up to speed on news and developments within the business.  They suggest that they don’t feel obligated to pull their own weight…that they feel comfortable letting others fund the organization that works on behalf of all air show professionals.

Recognizing, of course, that it’s an entirely self-serving position to take, I respectfully suggest that these may not be the kind of individuals and organizations with which your organization would want to be involved. You are committed and far-sighted enough to make ICAS membership a priority for you and your organization; shouldn’t you expect at least as much of the individuals and organizations that you hire for your show?

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John Cudahy
John Cudahy, ICAS President. | John Cudahy first joined ICAS as the organization's president in June of 1997. He has worked his entire 36-year professional career in association management, including more than two decades as the chief executive officer of ICAS. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Cudahy holds a private pilot certificate and is married with two adult children.