The Wayland Business Association had a 37-year run. It all came to an end in June.
WAYLAND – A generational divide is one reason why a business group has shut its doors for good.
The Wayland Business Association, after 37 years in existence, and billed on its website as “part of the fiber of the town,” disbanded at the end of June.
“We couldn’t offer what people needed,” Linda Thalheimer, president of the association at the time of the closure, told the Daily News.
Thalheimer owns an insurance business in Natick, and said when the WBA started nearly four decades ago, members weren’t just interested in networking and increasing profits. The association was just as much a place for socializing, connecting with local municipal leaders, and giving back to the community.
Today's business groups are “more specialized,” Thalheimer said, pointing out that business people are busy and only have time for meetings that will help them grow their bottom lines.
The WBA had 23 members when it closed, down from the roughly 60 when Thalheimer joined the association eight years ago.
Members tried to keep it going. Thalheimer said she and others reached out to 180 past members to see if they would like to return.
“There was no response,” Thalheimer said.
Most members were in their 50s, and meetings were held at night, which didn’t work for young professional with children. Another problem, meetings happened monthly, not often enough for today’s professionals who demand constant fine-tuning of their businesses.
Thalhimer belongs to Business Network International (BNI). It meets more often than monthly, and members pair off between meetings to discuss strategies, like ways to improve marketing.
Besides BNI, Thalheimer mentioned USA 500 Clubs and ProVisors as groups that cater to the needs of today’s business professionals.
There’s also regional Chambers of Commerce, with more resources, that have siphoned off members from smaller associations like the WBA. The chambers offer services the smaller associations can’t, such as paid staff to develop business plans and marketing programs for its members.
While the WBA is gone, its foundation is still around. It awards an academic scholarship annually to a Wayland High School student. The association also established an email list so former members can stay in touch and talk business.
“The Weston Business Association served all purposes at the beginning,” Thalheimer said. “There was networking, socializing, connecting with government officials, and giving back to the community.
“Now, you can go to specific groups to provide what you want,” she said.
Henry Schwan can be reached at email@example.com or 508-626-3964 or follow him on Twitter @henrymetrowest.