If you’re an IT consultant hoping to expand your networking opportunities, you might want to check out the Independent Computer Consultant’s Association (ICCA). Headquartered in St. Louis, the nonprofit organization has nearly 1,500 chapters across the United States. The word from some ICCA members and the chatter on the site’s discussion forums indicates that a lot of its active members’ business comes from referrals.

“All of the computer-consulting contracts my company has landed since I began consulting on a full-time basis have come either directly or indirectly through my company’s ICCA membership,” said Robert W. McAdams, President of both Fambright consulting and the Northern New Jersey Chapter of ICCA.

“Some have come directly through one of ICCA’s referral services, which currently operate at both the national level and the chapter level, while the rest have come through contacts I have made by attending ICCA conferences. The revenues my company has gotten as a result of its ICCA membership would pay its ICCA dues for several centuries.”

The cost/benefit ratio of ICCA membership
ICCA’s membership dues are determined by firm size. The maximum cost is $275 per year for firms with 10 or more consultants. Individual consultants’ dues range from $35 to $100 per year based on the chapter they choose to join.

ICCA’s Web site states that it was formed to:

  • Promote professionalism within the industry.
  • Make the business community aware of the products and services available from independent consultants.
  • Provide group-type benefits to members.

To promote professionalism, ICCA members must agree to abide by a Code of Ethics, and are encouraged to adhere to the standards and practices set forth on the group’s Web site.

The organization keeps the business community aware of ICCA members’ products and services through its participation in trade shows, publication of directories, and publicity and advertising on a local level. ICCA also offers a referral service through its Web site, where potential customers may search for a consultant by specifying a skill, a location, or a firm name.

The “group-type benefits” include group-rate health insurance, discounted long-distance services, and legal services, among others. Joyce Burkard, ICCA’s Executive Director, said that the group tries to provide independent consultants assistance with finding any business services (and discounts to purchase them) that they would normally have access to if they were working for a large firm.

ICCA member Howard Eichenwald posted a comment on ICCA’s public forums regarding the benefits he’s enjoyed over his 10-year membership:

“I joined primarily to be with and around other computer consultants. We all do different things, but the same theme applies to all of us, that we are in a small business in the computer field, therefore we all have some of the same concerns and problems. The membership offers a number of miscellaneous benefits that are worth far more than the dollars to join, such as the local chapter directory, and the national Web page for each member. Business exposure through these two areas is worth far more than the cost, and the other miscellaneous benefits of insurance accessibility, [the] standard contract, [and] other discounts can just add icing to the cake. Everyone I have met has joined for different reasons.”

Who are the members and where can I join?
Burkard reported that about 60% of ICCA’s members are individual consultants. She said that about 30% of them work in groups of two to nine, and the minority (about 10%) has 10 or more consultants working together. The organization is geared toward consultants in the United States, but there are no residential restrictions on membership. Burkard said that there are currently a couple of members in Canada.

The ICCA chapters meet face-to-face on a monthly basis. The “At Large” chapter meets online monthly, and consists mostly of those who do not live close enough to another chapter to physically attend monthly meetings. The entire organization meets annually to offer members a chance to network and have face-to-face encounters with members from other chapters.

“The ICCA has helped me to keep abreast of new developments in the computer industry and to stay informed about legislation that affects computer consultants,” McAdams said. “I’ve also learned a lot through the chapter meetings and conferences about how to effectively market my company’s services.”

For additional information about ICCA and its members, or to locate an independent consultant in your area, visit the ICCA Web site, or contact the national office in St. Louis at 800-774-4222 or 314-892-1675.
What have you gained from the organization? Are you a member of another consulting organization that’s been a valuable resource? Send us an e-mail and let us know, or post your comments below.