Joining a trade group can be intimidating, and for many entrepreneurs it's an ordeal they'd rather skip. One option: if the existingtrade groups don't seem like a good fit, start your own.

In 1993, that's exactly what Dan Burnstein, CEO of Negotiation Pro Co., in Brookline, Mass., did. He founded TheManagement Software Association (TMSA) to support makers of a new category of management skills software. Although themembers compete with each other, Burnstein says the advantages of joining together outweigh the negatives."We're plugging each other," says Burnstein. "We have 17 people doing PR." That helps every company when potentialcustomers see that the category is part of a growing trend.

One leading software catalog gave TMSA a price break on a full-page ad devoted to members' products. Association memberseven feature one another's software in their own catalogs and go so far as to swap mailing lists. TMSA also acts as aclearinghouse for journalists in the trade press and the general press.

The American Society of Association Executives provides free information about starting an association. Call 202-626-2742.