SPE Membership—The Best Money You Will Ever Invest

Playing the accordion at ADIPEC to promote SPE membership.

Here is the value proposition: Value beyond calculation.

How much did you pay for dinner the last time you went to a nice restaurant? What’s it cost to fill the petrol tank in your vehicle? How much do you spend in a month at a brand name coffee joint, which I will call Fivebucks?

OK, let’s think about it. How many visits a week do you make to Fivebucks? It’s the place that makes the lattes and nice drinks close to the office, and maybe even a nice Americano or a chai on a weekend morning. In any given month, I would say the average member splurges on about 20 of these (I’m probably low). And what do you get out of that experience—probably weight gain, increased pulse rate, and your contribution to the growing landfills all over the globe (unless you actually recycle the whole container or use your own). Although, I’m sure it tasted good.

For about the same amount of money, you can pay your annual membership dues for SPE, and have no weight gain, an occasional increase in heart rate due to a healthy technical discussion, and actually help to solve the problem of methane gas from landfills (and other methane and hydrocarbon production issues). In addition, you can ensure that you are part of the greatest society on the planet—one that does a stellar job of engaging, stimulating, and educating our members in local meetings, workshops, conferences, webinars and a host of other activities. All that, plus you pay 65% less for quality technical papers downloaded from OnePetro.

I think I’ve made my point.

I do have a great deal of fun occasionally helping SPE staff in the membership booth at our events across the globe. They are bound by a number of rules and protocols of politeness, but I can’t really be fired, so I can ask whatever I want of the enquiring prospective or lapsed member. There is a bit of shock factor when the guy behind the booth asks how much their last dinner bill was, or how much a hotel room cost for that weekend away, or what’s the cost of a fill-up at the pump. Pretty hard to continue the line of reasoning that SPE membership costs too much.

Several phrases come to mind, including “suck it up, buttercup.” Yes, I have great sympathy for recently graduated or transitioning members who really are struggling to pay the membership, and I don’t want to belittle the situation. But really, the excuses are very lame. If you are in between jobs, you need to contact the folks at the nearest SPE membership office because you can get relief for dues for 2 years. And, thanks in part to Melanie Papp from the Calgary section (who bent my ear on this issue back in 2014) and SPE Regional Director Cam Matthews for holding me accountable, I now know that we even have a way for unemployed members to access a number of OnePetro downloads for a miniscule fee.

SPE membership is one of the best ways you can invest in your professional career—period.

Another classic lame excuse is that the company only pays for one professional membership and the local jurisdictional professional engineering body is where that expense is directed. I agree that your local certification is the first priority, but really that overall excuse is so lame, I find it funny. The average professional member spends far more on coffee from Fivebucks or eating out than on the yearly dues. Based on average wages in the latest SPE Annual Salary Survey published in the November JPT, the dues are very affordable. SPE takes a very serious approach to making sure that you pay an amount relative to the cost of living in your home region. It’s a carefully priced scenario that is debated quite rigorously by the international SPE board members and staff, and I have never found the amounts unreasonable or out of line.

Recently in Abu Dhabi, I joined Joy Isaiah, a Dubai-based SPE marketing specialist, at SPE’s ADIPEC booth. I had a blast. In fact, I decided to add some levity to the proceedings, declaring that I would busk for members. The photo tells the story. I pulled out my trusty accordion (we all carry those, right?) and played annoyingly above a sign on my case that stated:

I’LL STOP PLAYING WHEN WE SIGN UP 20 NEW MEMBERS

It was probably Joy’s persuasion skills that did it, but we had our 20 new members in about an hour and a half. Then I stopped. Joy said she had never seen business so brisk. I had a lot of fun. I hope we really don’t have to resort to stunts to get new members because it should be very obvious what the benefits are. In case you need more of a refresher on SPE membership benefits, you receive discounts on conferences and workshops plus books and magazines. You even receive invaluable career advancement opportunities. (Have you still not clicked the renew membership link?)

Another thing I hear from time to time is that “SPE makes so much money from memberships, they should lower it in tough times.” Really? Check out our annual report and you’ll see the proof that we actually don’t make money from memberships. In fact, in some geographic locations, most of the membership fees go into printing and mailing your monthly JPT. The truth is that the bulk of SPE’s revenue comes from meetings.

This subject brings to mind another point—student memberships. Chevron currently pays that bill. It is not free. Thanks, Chevron, for that generous financial offering. Before that, student membership was paid by Halliburton, so thanks to Halliburton, too. These are very important and generous contributions that have a defined end date.

There may come a day when students must pay their own membership dues. If it comes to that, I assure you the fee will be reasonable, similar to the cost of a couple of Fivebucks drinks. Students often ask why the student dues won’t always be free, and they often are surprised by my answer—the truth is we have a disproportionately large number of student chapters because there is no charge to join. In some cases the retention rate from student to professional is very poor. Something with “no value” can often be perceived as just that. A small fee does assign a value and might help with our goal of member retention after graduation. We want quality student chapters, not quantity. It’s a touchy subject, but we want motivated and engaged SPE members both before and after graduation.

Oh yes, I forgot the other lame excuse: “I forgot to renew.” OK, I’ve even done that one; it’s called procrastination in some places or laziness in others. And yes, it’s easy to get the renewal form and put it in the stack labeled “later.” You know, the one with the cobwebs on it. And then the SPE staff spend most of your membership dues for the year trying to track you down to renew it.

So, here’s a tip: pay it right away. (Since it’s January and you are reading this article, you might want to pause and take a look in that “later” file—I’ll still be here when you get back). Hop online and select the 3-year option. And, please, when SPE offers the lifetime membership once you reach a certain age, grab it and you’ll never have to forget again for as long as you live. I did this, and it was a very quick calculation and decision. I determined that every year I didn’t do it, I was losing about 20% of the value of the offer.

Here is the bottom line: If I’m having one of those rare occasions working the booth with a staff member and you come whine about the high cost of membership, I’m going to have some fun with you. And I’m probably going to win the argument. So unless you are clothed in a burlap sack with rolled up newspapers strapped to your feet for shoes, if you whine about the cost of membership or how your company doesn’t pay anymore, my answer will likely be something along the lines of “What’s it cost to fill up your car?,” or maybe even just “Suck it up, buttercup!

Avoid that embarrassment. RENEW NOW!

SPE Membership—The Best Money You Will Ever Invest

Darcy Spady, 2018 SPE President

01 January 2018

Volume: 70 | Issue: 1

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