Good times can mask serious problems – Strategic Planning, Part I

by Edward Henkler on April 2, 2013

In 2003, a non-profit Board for the Blind was approaching the end of a very successful cycle.  The Board included a number of successful members of the community, including visually impaired consumers.  A capital campaign, strong connections with the local community, and a well respected and capable staff had ensured a robust endowment, bolstered by ownership of the primary facility.  Superficially, everything seemed fine but a number of challenges would soon arise to erode that position.  Changes in the economy were negatively impacting many non-profits as service demand increased but funder support eroded from corporate, government, and individuals.  Compounding the challenge, the baby boomer generation was expanding the consumer base and demand for services in the foreseeable future.

Businesses can be a lot like a river.  When revenue is high, everything looks good.  When revenue begins to dry up, many obstacles can appear.

Businesses can be a lot like rivers. When revenue levels are high, everything looks good. When revenue begins to dry up, many problems and obstacles may appear.

A few reactive measures were applied including suspension of one of the better loved programs, but the reasonably strong financial health of the organization masked much of the erosion.  A fairly static Board membership also conspired to mask the problem through a “business as usual” approach, with complacency limiting the vitality and introduction of new ideas.  The Board President during this period recognized the developing gap and recommended that a strategic planning exercise be conducted, including a current state assessment and creation of a future vision.  This exercise involved many of the Board members over a period of months and produced a well crafted recommendation suggesting focus on the following:

  • To energize and increase involvement of the Board in pursuit of the mission
  • Increase total revenues by 15%/year through 2006
  • Improve quality & delivery of all services and plan for growth
  • Create and implement an integrated Public Relations plan that will attract new significant funding, volunteers and clients

Under different circumstances, the strategic plan might have provided sufficient impetus to trigger a new period of growth.  Unfortunately, challenges noted with the Board coupled with a staff that was dedicated to service provision but less focused on the hard core business aspects, relegated the strategic plan to the proverbial book shelf.

Are good times masking underlying problems in your business?  Do you have a strategic plan?  Do you use it?

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: