As an association, NATSO is tasked with bringing value to our members and our partners, and to ensure we continue to do that, NATSO’s board of directors and staff have been working together on the association’s long-term strategic plan.
Strategic plans help us stay focused while also enabling us to move forward. What’s more, when we create a common understanding of where we're going, we can tell others and invite them to join in. If everyone is pulling on a rope the same way, it makes the task at hand easier.
But what exactly is a strategic plan? I define it as an organization’s process to find its strategy and to allow it to effectively allocate its resources in pursuit of that strategy. In business, our strategies can include entering a new business channel, planning for longterm growth, and preparing to exit one business and deploy capital into another area.
Planning is crucial to our success. We all strategically plan on a daily basis to some extent. When heading out for errands, we think of the order in which we do those to minimize miles traveled, and when we leave on a roadtrip, we plan out our routes. But how often do we as business owners sit down and map out a long-term vision for our operations?
The process of writing out a plan can seem daunting. We might worry that we’re goingto make a mistake or if our vision will work, but it is important to start somewhere, and the first step is to decide to develop the plan.
When crafting a plan, some organizations use SWOT and sit down to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. That can help us set priorities to address within the plan. It is also helpful to involve our key people in the planning process. In my case, my wife always reminds me two heads are always better than one. Also, there is nothing wrong with getting outside help to assist with a strategic plan.
Once we have our plan, we have to commit to it and effectively communicate it to everyone in the organization. We also have to be ready for Plan A to morph into Plan B or Plan C as situations and the competitive landscape changes. New challenges will arise, so we need to be nimble and flexible, but we can always ask the question, what are the next steps we need to take to fully implement our strategic plan and reach our ultimate goals?
We recently experienced the fruits of successful planning during NATSO Connect. NATSO’s board and staff worked hard to create an experience that brought operators and our industry partners together to learn and share, and the surveys and feedback from attendees, sponsors and exhibitors ranked it as one of the best gatherings we’ve ever had.
When we come together to focus on a clear, common objective, we can become motivated and energized in a whole new way. I look forward to working with NATSO’s staff, board and members on our strategic plan, and I am especially excited to see how our plan can bring us together, advance the interests of the industry and bring value to all of you.
Photo credit: Brittany Palmer/NATSO
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