How we developed a strategic platform for the future

Over the last two months, members, staff and the board of directors of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce set the strategic direction of the organization that will facilitate big thinking and define specific regional and organizational outcomes. The strategy will bring together all divisions and programs of the Chamber, Council for Economic Outreach, FloridaWorks Business Services and iG.

This new platform will be built out with specific strategies and tactics based on recommendations from Avalanche Consulting, iG Advocates and task force members, and chamber members and leaders.

The process brought together key elements of research-based methods of strategy development and goal-setting. At the core of the process is first, creating a shared view of current reality and second, creating a shared vision for the future. Peter Senge most clearly outlines the importance of this approach that focuses on systems thinking written about in The Fifth Discipline.

The first step is to establish a clear understanding of the final strategy document that we worked towards. The desired outcome all along was a strategy that taps into all potential synergies within the organization and region, identifies outcomes, clarifies priorities and provides a framework for the organization to make decisions going forward.

At the end of two months of input, we have an updated vision and mission that captures the iG momentum and community-wide vision to become the global hub of talent, innovation and opportunity. Secondly, we identified the organizations overall brand. Lastly, we incorporated the balanced scorecard for nonprofits by mapping (from bottom to top) our learning/growth priorities, followed by our internal strategies, then our financial priorities that will, lastly, feed our member and audience outcomes.

Additionally, the second phase of iG will produce economic metrics that will help focus the organization on improving impact and be used as a measuring stick on our progress.

To start, the staff leadership team established current reality by conducting a SWOT analysis and completed Jim Collins’ “Hedgehog Concept” proposed in the book “Good to Great,” and further refined for non profits in his monograph “Good to Great and the Social Sectors.” The outcome of this leadership team discussion was reviewed in a workshop by the full staff for their input.

THE HEDGEHOG CONCEPT IN THE SOCIAL SECTORS
CIrcle 1: Passion – Understanding what your organization stands for (its core values) and why it exists (Its mission or core purpose).
Circle 2: Best at – Understanding what your organization can uniquely contribute to the people It touches, better Ihan any other organization on the planet.
Circle 3: Resource Engine – Understanding what best drives your resource engine, broken into three parts: lime, money, and brand.

Once these strategic questions are answered, the process begun to identify vision/mission/motto and then the core values/desired brand attributes. This joint process with the staff leadership team and board planning committee occurred once the strategic questions were answered by the leadership team and proposed to the planning committee. The full staff will workshop the core values/desired brand attributes component and their recommendations will be proposed to the planning committee.
At this point, staff began to strategy map priorities based on the balanced scorecard described above. Member interviews helped at this point to clarify priorities. Once this mapping was put in its final draft form, it was presented to the planning committee for discussion and input.
Finally, the executive committee and board of directors reviewed all strategy components outlined above in a workshop format, which was the last step before adoption.
Now, the organization has its strategic direction and a decision-making matrix for ongoing use. This document will also serve as the basis for annual operating plans. The document fits on one sheet of paper and will be used as a “placemat” at board meetings, online and in staff meetings to reinforce implementation, understanding of the organization’s priorities and facilitate focus on the mission.

Small businesses are critical to our economic future

Small businesses are the economic backbone of nearly every community and employ a significant number of employees. Therefore, the more successful small businesses are in generating revenue and in growing their workforce, the greater the benefits to people living in that community. It is a very simplistic view of economic development, and it is the core reason why chambers of commerce exist.

One could argue many factors are at play in supporting small business, and you would be right, but one of the most critical roles the Gainesville Area Chamber plays in supporting small business is advocating for the business community at-large and providing a unified voice for business. This is why we have a Public Policy Committee to debate issues and bring forth recommendations to our Board of Directors to take positions. Also, this speaks to the hiring of Kamal I. Latham, a seasoned U.S. government diplomat and international business consultant to lead our public policy efforts at the Chamber. Through Kamal’s efforts and expertise, we aim to create an environment in Gainesville, Alachua County, and the surrounding region, that fosters the growth and success of small business.

In May, we hosted our first small business growth dialogue with City of Gainesville leaders to discuss current regulations and ways to either continue what works or develop ways to improve what hasn’t benefitted business growth in the past. After hearing from several business owners in different stages of growth, we released our Small Business Growth Report. The report highlights 27 different recommendations for the city commission to implement based on six key business principles: Accessibility, Accountability, Simplicity, Consistency, Affordability, and Efficiency. Once adopted, the report will help the City of Gainesville provide economic opportunity to every business in the community by using the recommendations and principles as criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of city policies that affect business within city limits.

Stimulating small business growth isn’t confined to city policy. In recent weeks, the Gainesville Chamber hosted another small business growth forum, this time focusing on the cost of energy. Earlier this year, we created an Energy Study Group to focus on energy concerns in our community in an effort to ensure our competitiveness and establish an advantageous platform from which to grow from in the future. We anticipate the release of another report highlighting the opportunities for energy solutions in Gainesville and offering recommendations to benefit the growth of our business community.
Small businesses create jobs and are a key economic driver for our region. Their success is tied to our success in building a sustainable economic future for all businesses.

A new era

As we head into a brand-new year, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce ushers in a new era by kicking off 2013 at our annual meeting, ‘Toast to Business.’ Hundreds
of business leaders will gather to welcome the 2013 Chairman of the Board, Mitch Glaeser, and celebrate an evening of prestigious honors and special announcements.
The Toast to Business celebration fittingly follows the Council for Economic Outreach’s
recent Value Statement, which highlighted major accomplishments over the last two years regarding the development of the Gainesville economy, recruitment and expansion of business, and the creation of over 700 jobs and nearly $7 million in capital investment in Alachua County.

Decades of work have been put into building what Gainesville is now, a talented workforce, strong education system, a vibrant startup scene, thriving arts and culture, growing businesses in growing industry sectors, and a very high quality of life. As we move forward into 2013, the foundations of an innovation-based economy are in place. Decades of work have been put into building what Gainesville is now, a talented workforce, strong education
system, a vibrant startup scene, thriving arts and culture, growing businesses in growing industry sectors, and a very high quality of life. The goal is to not only maintain and sustain
these accomplishments but to continue to build momentum and develop talent in our ever increasingly competitive global economy. Historically, chambers of commerce organizations
have been created and sustained by providing businesses with a vehicle to accomplish what no small business could accomplish alone. We will use this strength to win the global talent war.

To recognize and capitalize on the opportunities that 2013 will bring, we will lean on our economic development initiative, Innovation Gainesville, and work collaboratively to ensure that the new era will be one in which Gainesville sets a model for the nation.

Gainesville Chamber President & CEO Announcement

(As released by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce on July 27, 2012)

The Board of the Directors of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce selected Tim Giuliani as the new president and chief executive officer following a national search.  He and the Chamber’s leadership team will work closely with community, educational and business leaders to advance Innovation Gainesville and create an environment where businesses can succeed.

“The Gainesville Chamber is leading our economy forward through the Innovation Gainesville initiative led by a collaboration of committed leaders.  Today, our community gains a leader who will propel our initiatives forward and take our nationally recognized organization to the next level,” said Mike Gallagher, chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors and President and CEO of SantaFe HealthCare and its affiliates.

Gallagher said, “Tim is already highly familiar with our chamber and Gainesville, having served as our director of Membership from 2006 to 2008. During his tenure he added 200 members to our organization. We expect to see the same level of success from Tim in this new role.”

Giuliani returns to Gainesville from Tallahassee where he served as vice president of Corporate Outreach and Engagement for the Florida Chamber of Commerce since February 2008. In that role, he managed statewide outreach, fundraising and grassroots efforts for the state’s largest business advocacy organization.

The Chamber Board of Directors established a search committee led by chair-elect Mitch Glaeser following the resignation of Brent Christensen, who took a position to head the economic development efforts for the Mississippi Development Authority after leading the Gainesville Chamber for 10 years.  After reviewing information on prospective candidates compiled by The PACE Group, a national search firm, the selection committee chose Giuliani after interviewing several candidates. They made their recommendations to the Chamber Board of Directors on July 20.

“The board unanimously approved the selection of Tim and we are confident that our 5-Star chamber is bringing in the best of the best by conducting a thorough national search,” Glaeser said.

Through collaboration with the University of Florida, Santa Fe College and others, the Innovation Gainesville initiative has already begun to show strong results.  Dr. Win Phillips, senior vice president and chief operating officer at UF, and a member of the search committee said, “The University has made a long term commitment to Innovation Gainesville and the relationship between the chamber and university is strong and is good for our entire community.”

Sonia Douglas has served as interim President and CEO since the departure of Brent Christensen.  “Sonia and the rest of the leadership team have provided exemplary leadership during the transition period.  The staff is top notch and I look forward to what we can accomplish together,” said Tim Giuliani.

“I am honored and excited to be selected to lead such a distinguished organization at a time when the need for economic leadership and job creation are so vital,” Giuliani said.  “My wife and I are University of Florida alumni, we consider Gainesville home, and we are looking forward to being very involved in the Gainesville community.”

Giuliani earned his bachelor’s in economics and communication from Florida State University and his M.B.A. from the UF Warrington College of Business Administration. Giuliani and his wife, Sarah, both from St. Augustine, FL, have two sons and a daughter. He is expected to start in his position in mid-August.

Consider this when evaluating events

Evaluation_graphic

How you evaluate your events matters.  Some nonprofits are built to use events as a financial mean to a financial end.  However, many others use events as part of their strategy and/or to further enhance their brand.  The challenge is to make the decision, “why do we do events.”

By asking this question, you can readjust your performance matrix to be in line with the goals of your events.  This will better align your organization and get everyone on the same page, particularly if it generates a great debate about “why.”  Just remember, you can’t fix the “how,” unless you address the “why.”

This isn’t to be overlooked or done once and then put to bed.  Due to the rate of turnover in many nonprofits, many staff people inherit events that they didn’t launch.  Is your staff clear about the goals for events and is that what you are using to evaluate results?

 

What to do about too many member benefits

Intuitively you know your organization is trying to do too much, yet it seems like every force of nature keeps you from cutting back on your number of products, programs and services.  It is easy to ask “why do we have so many offerings or benefits,” but very difficult to make a focused change.  For instance, view the York County Regional Chamber website, full of member benefits.  I had to point out one organization to make my point, but this list of benefits is more common than not.

Prune your benefits

Look no further than the city of Boston to get a sense of what you up against.  Have you ever wondered if they knew the concept of “city planning?”  Have you wondered who designed their roads?  The answer is very insightful.  Years and years ago, early city developers and city officials paved over cow paths to create many of the roads that still make up the streets of Boston.  I’m sure you could do some research in your organization and find interesting answers to “why did we start this offering?”

Sometimes, the answer to these challenges can be found in nature.  Taking a hard look at programs and services can be equated to pruning.  Spend 3 minutes reading the Wikipedia.org entry for pruning and you can begin to understand why this exercise is so important.  Remember Pareto’s 80/20 rule.  I believe you will find that new benefits have been added because new leadership or staff have wanted to “make their mark.”  I’m sure you’ll also agree with the observation that a board has never seen a program or service that it didn’t like.

If you want to make a significant improvement in your organization, build a case for “pruning” your programs and services.  Because of the recession, you’ve never had a better time!