NFIB Being Unfair to Members?

So what’s up with the National Federation of Independent Business? I’ve engaged in a Tweet-a-thon with them @NFIB in which I’ve tried to point out inconsistencies of a member organization soliciting other members in direct competition with many of their own members. As a matter of disclosure, I work with hundreds of printers, copy shops as well as small businesses engaged in packing and shipping throughout the United States, many of whom are NFIB members, as is my firm. Fact is, I encourage and recommend the organization for it is an efficient voice of small business, and their basic model is great. They survey the opinions of small business owners and pass them along at the highest level in Washington as well as most state capitols. That’s a great service for all of us. What got me riled was the NFIB promotion of FedEx Office. Note I didn’t say FedEx Shipping, I just object to their branch formerly known as Kinko’s being promoted to fellow members. FedEx Office has shops throughout the US (and abroad) that copy, pack, offer computer services and other services just as many of the readers of Quick Printing magazine and NFIB members themselves do. Oh yes, in addition, they are a drop off point for FedEx—again, just like many of us (NFIB members) are. More disclosure: I have written for QP magazine for 25 years or so and remember Paul Orfalea (founder of Kinko’s) at NAQP (National Association of Quick Printers) meetings back in the 1970s. We all did and do much of the same stuff, and Kinko’s was a good competitor over the years. No harm or foul in that. In a previous distant life, I was an executive with a local Chamber of Commerce. In a chamber, just like at NFIB, we had a bunch of local business owners. One thing we didn’t do was to give one member preferential treatment over others. Imagine a local chamber promoting one restaurant over their other restaurant members. A self inflicted wound is how my boss would describe it. So, imagine my surprise when @NFIB began tweeting things like: "@NFIB NEW Member Benefit: Save up to 20% on FedEx Office Enroll Now: http://bit.ly/hC9vq4 #NFIBbenefits" Well my tweets received the following response from NFIB -> NFIB @TomCrouser: Our free webinars help members with small biz needs. Guest speakers come from all industries & companies, so overlap occurs. I say they missed the point. What other benefits does NFIB offer that directly competes with their membership base? FedEx shipping? No. We small businesses don’t have anyone who has an international network like FedEx or UPS. I looked around the NFIB site for a similar conflict as was intimated by their tweet. Small business health plans? Don’t think so, as most of us aren’t insurance companies. Sure, we have some agents and representatives but we aren’t large insurance companies so brokering a deal with them seems reasonable. What about offering credit cards or credit card processing? That seems reasonable as well, as that’s not what we members offer either. In many states, NFIB has group rates, discounts, and/or potential dividends on workers compensation coverage. Hey, I’m all for it. It just seems to me, and I admit I have a simple mind, that NFIB is not doing itself a service by encouraging other NFIB members who aren’t in the copy, printing, packing, or shipping business to select FedEx Office over their other hundreds of members who provide the same service. I have no way of knowing, of course, how many of the twenty-some thousand printing companies out there which compete with FedEx Office actually are members of NFIB, but I suspect a substantial number are. So, as Frank Sohn use to say, it’s a self-inflicted wound that they are promoting. They don’t need it and many of us don’t appreciate it.

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