A guild is an association of individuals with the same interests. According to Wikipedia, guilds are “organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel and a secret society.” That’s what I’m talking about-a secret society! I envision a close-knit group of like-minded surveyors that have the math, science and secrecy similar to the Priory of Sion and the Knights Templar. Cool!

OK-this society doesn’t exist yet. We do have the ACSM and NSPS, and they offer certain services to surveyors. But what they don’t seem to offer are retirement plans, health insurance that discounts policies based on the magnitude of members, job posting boards, resume building, resume posting, marketing for surveyors, educational and testing assistance for LS exams, study partnerships, and offers of products at discounted prices for members. You get the idea. And the items a guild could offer are not limited to the few I mention here.

I propose that we develop a nationwide (hey, let’s dream-international) guild for surveyors and those who work in surveying. This group could work closely with existing associations but would offer services not provided by other groups.

So let’s briefly examine some of the services that the NSG might offer.

Retirement Plans – The guild would allocate $10/month from members into a flexible retirement account that would allow for withdrawals in emergencies but overall would accrue toward a retirement payout after the member reached 70 years of age. This could be developed so that a $2,000 investment could be placed into a long-term bond that yields $30,000 in 30 years. Each member could augment this fund if he or she chose.

Health Insurance – The guild would offer an insurance plan to members that would help cover basic insurance costs. Perhaps an HSA could be established that would allow money to accrue that could be used for health expenses. Many organizations have these now. With the momentum of a couple hundred thousand members, perhaps the guild would have enough investment power to attract attention. The ASCE and the ACSM offer insurance assistance; however, they do not take advantage of the buying power that exists within the organizations. The service they offer is that they submit your information to three providers for a quote. According to the ASCE, the fact that 500,000 engineers belong to the group has no bearing. It’s a nice service, but there are no discounts based on group size.

Both the retirement and health insurance plans would be augmented by corporate contributions, and participating businesses would then receive a layer of benefits from the valued members. Engineering firms, suppliers and others might be well served to donate toward these efforts in order to receive discounts from members for services. For instance, members who buy houses could obtain lower-cost survey assistance on house locations or ALTA surveys. Of course, normal business contracts would remain unaffected, but the small stuff could be offered to employees of member firms when they purchase a house.

Job Posting Boards – It would be great if we could steer employers with job openings to the guild. In fact, the guild might even offer a resume service, a skill enhancement service and a referral service based on a guild-wide vetting of the applicant’s skills; in other words, a peer review recommendation. Currently there is no such thing, but perhaps it would add gravitas to job applications. The job board would be a central location where anyone could post job openings and contracting opportunities.

Resume Posting – There would also be a resume posting area (open only to potential employers) where people in need of a job could post their availability and skills.

Resume Building – Many members may have writing skills and would not mind assisting a fellow surveyor in need. Perhaps freelance writers and editors would be persuaded to assist in return for access to a guild service. In addition to traditional resumes, the resume building service could include assistance building a personal webpage, a Facebook page or a LinkedIn reference with all the benefits these modern social tools offer.

Surveyor Marketing – Perhaps developers would post opportunities to this area allowing surveyors to bid on projects. The developer would be assured that all bidders have a minimum competence (or they wouldn’t be in the guild).

Marketing Services – Along these lines, why not offer marketing help to surveyors? There are not many survey courses that offer assistance on how to market your skills or your business, and this void could be filled by the guild.

Educational and Testing Assistance - The current societies offer some level of education for members, but this training isn’t always effective, and it isn’t updated often enough to be really practical. We need in-depth courses on everything from technical to business, from administrative to regulatory, and everything in between. The guild could contract formal education services and offer them to members. These could range from short courses to several day-long educational opportunities on business accounting or surveying solutions (both hardware and software intensive). Courses similar to the Kaplan courses for SATs, LSATs and other exams could be assembled to help guild members pass the LS exams.

Study Partnerships – This forum could be created to allow members to join study groups and obtain lectures and webinar teachings from industry luminaries, suppliers or others.

Products at Discounted Prices – There would be no shortage of companies that would offer their products and services to the guild due to the membership access. Perhaps car dealers would provide an automatic guild discount if the guild refers members to their dealerships. I am sure there are other items that would fall into this category; I think you get the idea.

Membership to the guild would be granted on a peer-qualification basis; that is, the guild would check the skills, credentials and education of each applicant. Surveyors in good standing would be allowed to join, while perhaps others with ethics violations would have to serve a probationary time period. Non-licensed individuals would fall into a Class B membership and provided a pathway to attain Class A membership. A $25 monthly membership would ensue following acceptance.

If this is done correctly, many organizations would join as sponsors. A bank might help create the retirement fund in return for access to the member’s information for marketing. An insurance provider might provide a discount so they could offer homeowners insurance or car insurance to the members. Other surveyors would assist because surveyors are a tight-knit group who like to help each other.

So is this guild possible? I recently found out that Washington, D.C., has a union for operating engineers that used to allow surveyors to join. Sadly, they no longer do. This union has many of the same benefits I propose here, and the dues are only $25/month. So yes, it is possible.

What do you think? If we keep greed and high administrative salaries out of this, could it work? Please share your comments below.