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Are Trade Guilds Relevant Today?

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Benefits of Small Business in the Economy.

Post the Global Financial Crisis (2008) I began looking at my own small business. It had sustained me for over a quarter of a century. Let’s face it, when customers are stressed and time poor, a franchise business/supermarket with familiar isles that stocks familiar products are convenient. Such business models have price benefits of "Economy of Scale". However, if the customer desires to be more individual, enter the realm of the adaptable small business. My own journey of dealing in antique prints drew me to the world of custom framing. Clients often had heritage in need of restoration, required retro-fitting of conservation/museum materials or desired complementary frame presentations to suit past eras. There are other dealers in Antiques and other framing establishments, but not like mine. That is the thing about the adaptability of smaller enterprises.



“The Syndics of the Cloth Hall, Amsterdam” by Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606-1669)

Reasons for Trade Associations

Throughout the development of the Industrial Revolution (1650’s- 1850’s) Merchant guilds have been a constant. As members of a new merchant/middle class they invented, systemised and replicated utilizing new technologies to solve problems. As a group it would be more cost effective to band together on their similarities, then celebrate their differences. In 2003 I joined a newly established Picture Framers Guild of SA (PFGSA). In 2007 we amalgamated with the longer establshed Victorian Framer's Guild (PFGV). Thus was born the Picture Framers Guild of Australia (PFGA). Guild members gather together to socialize, network, share general knowledge and solve specific problems unique to our trade. Under the PFGA umbrella previously considered competitors become collaborators in a common goal, to establish and maintain higher standards of workmanship. “Come on guys, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel” being the chant of past PFGSA President Geoffrey Tolcher. Indeed our collective task was to get the best engine heading on quality tracks pointing in the right direction. No need to compromise members points of difference. The benefits made them less suspicious, more co-operative hence more powerful as an entity than individual businesses. Surely it is better to be a specialist with expertise than be ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’.

 Specialized Knowledge solves more problems.

As small business mentors often tell us “One inch wide and a mile deep”, aka “specialize”. Like our forbears, a modern trade guild or association can be more effective in negotiating trade deals with suppliers, insurance company discounts not to mention the aggregated trade experience with other members. This is now what we were offering our clents. We need not compromise our unique identity. It is about accountability that demands “Maintaining higher standards”. The Guild established recognized standards that guides its members in their individual pursuits.

ArtLab Australia Guided Tour

Benefits of Preserving Knowledge

Picture Framers are generally time-challenged small business operators: we have to regulate a variety of business activities such as safety standards, marketing, accounting, finance, insurance, training etc. Using modern communication techniques of social networking, skype conferencing etc dedicated trade guild enables beneficial support. This is not only among custom framers, but with those that supply the industry, and associates that complement our industry. In many ways we are vulnerable to volatile markets forces. However, we are small enough alter course and adapt our business models to meet new challenges. A guild is a conduit between Custom Framers, Framing Suppliers, and the Public's wants and needs. A Guild can provide a bigger target entity in matters of Government legislation and training grants to assist trade apprentices. The result is longevity to gain more experience to benefit our customers.


Professional support network ,long-term client satisfaction, word of mouth recommendations

Since being involved in the Guild I have been amazed at the dedication of key players who were always there to offer solutions benefiting other members. They recognize the strength in co-operation and what that potentially offers their own customers. Today the Guild continues to explore new & positive ways in which to add value to the framing industry in general. We said "Goodbye" to the traditional suspicions and Hello to greater mutual benefit.



PFGA information to members & customers issued by the to benefit.






©Sandra J Ker,
ANTIQUARIAN PRINT GALLERY (www.historyrevisited.com.au)
Member of the Picture Framers Guild of Australia (www.pfga.org.au),

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