Gucci Gulch may soon see fewer loafers. Once, all a trade group needed to impress its members was to hire a few Capitol Hill insiders at huge salaries and let them wine and dine lawmakers. No more: The Clinton budget removes most of the deduction for membership dues--and the fiscal incentive for businesses to join.
So the K Street band is under heavy pressure to show results. "Things are going to be different," says James Dalton, deputy executive director of the National Society of Professional Engineers. Dalton, an apostle of the quality management dogma popular in Corporate America, is showing other groups how to do things they slighted before. At the Valve Manufacturers Assn., for instance, staffers compete against their previous year's performance by trying to cut the number of phone queries they can't answer.
There's a long way to go, though. Dalton's group published a national membership directory last year, but some members complained it arrived too late. So this year, he improved delivery time
by six weeks. Unfortunately, Dalton learned from a poll that most members never wanted a directory in the first place.