Driving Growth: Inside the Strategic Shift of the International Car Wash Association Towards Business Development
Associations use insight and foresight to respond to the disruptors in their respective industries. They also shoulder a big responsibility to make structural changes within the association that put them on a winning path. The changes may include staff and role restructuring, component and affiliate changes, and realignment of partner relationships for mutual benefit.
The International Car Wash Association (ICA) seized the opportunity to make an intentional shift from a sales-only approach to a business development approach. We sat down with Kendra Johnson, VP of Business Development at ICA, to discuss the transition.
How important has the business development role been to your association’s growth?
The business development role is essential to the growth strategy of the association. Our goal was to exceed, not just meet, the expectations of our stakeholder audiences. Without a dedicated team leader at the management level whose focus was anchored in new and emerging business opportunities, we would have likely continued business as usual.
Having an internal stakeholder ready to push the boundaries allowed us to discover the true uniqueness and effectiveness of our organization. The role permitted us to explore new relationships and question the status quo. We could entertain new opportunities while remaining committed to our key partners. We walk a tightrope each day, but accomplishing these goals positions our association for the future.
Eric Wulf, ICA’s CEO, knew a business development focus was key to revenue growth. “When ICA had the opportunity to consider the future of sales management, I knew it was necessary to create the space for a business development role. This opened the door, not only to support revenue growth, but it has also given all departments the chance to collaborate and ideate on how to position their outputs to be more financially sustainable and strategically anchored in where we hope to take the association over the next few years. To support the association’s strategic vision, shifting management of our revenue efforts from strictly sales to business development was an intentional and essential pivot for ICA. The business development role on our team is anchored in the continued concierge support of our top investors while also cultivating new and emerging partnerships for the association.”
What are your top priorities in the business development department?
Commitment to existing key partners who invest thoughtfully and with forward-thinking intention is a priority. The goal is to remain committed, supportive, and available to those key partners while focusing on prospecting new markets and growth opportunities for static investors. We are prioritizing the need to balance the care for existing relationships with the need to dedicate time and resources to crafting new opportunities within emerging markets. Lastly, we provide a blend of tried and tested offerings along with the latest innovations to keep our target audience engaged and satisfied.
What is an asset audit? How would an association conduct an asset audit?
One of my favorite exercises is an asset audit. It is a valuable exercise for associations to assess their offerings and resources, such as member directories, podcasts, tradeshows, online communities, and social media feeds. These opportunities, services, and benefits are considered assets, many of which generate revenue. To conduct an asset audit, associations should evaluate existing inventory, especially during strategic planning sessions, to maximize their use before ideating or purchasing new additions. We recommend performing an asset audit annually as part of the budgeting process. You never know what you will find in the association’s closet. It can reveal a treasure trove of opportunities within the existing resources.
What role does ideation and innovation play?
Ideation and innovation go hand in hand and are integral to the business development strategy. They are essential components of a business development professional’s mindset. A core competency of the role includes generating fresh ideas and pursuing innovation. It involves thinking creatively, moving outside of conventional approaches, and observing innovations, industry leaders, and adjacent markets to explore bold new ways to engage customers and grow the business.
Continuous disruption is a constant aspect of a business development role. Internally, it involves exploring association assets to identify and uncover new growth opportunities. Externally, it means bringing in new business offerings and alternative solutions designed to compete with longstanding suppliers. When approached with empathy and intention, disruption can be a bright light. It stimulates creative solutions and keeps the market responsive to customer needs.
What is ICA’s current (or future) business development focus?
We’re moving beyond market exploration into a new phase. In the coming year, ICA will focus on attracting new partners and offering support to emerging partners. We are also focused on retention of our current partners, ensuring they receive full support as we focus on growth.
There is a delicate balance between pursuing new opportunities and supporting emerging partners. However, due to the rapid growth and increased popularity of the car wash industry, ICA is excited about the future. The organization is dedicated to identifying creative solutions that enable car wash operators to work smarter.
A Few Final Thoughts
Business development plays an integral role in an association’s growth trajectory.
Incorporating a dedicated team will be a game-changer.
- It supports an intentional shift in growth strategy.
- It puts people at the center of collaboration and constructive improvement.
- It creates a forward-thinking culture anchored in the mission and values of the association’s foundation.
Your association already has resources that could be generating extra non-dues revenue. You just need...