When I interviewed with the PPAI Executive Search Committee last summer, I presented my vision and goals as president and CEO of this amazing organization. The presentation, An Evolutionary Approach to Future Association Success, centered on a theme of clarity, communication and commitment, and included six fundamental tenets for future Association and personal success:
1. Accessible, empathetic leadership
2. Redefined leadership paradigm
3. Meaningful volunteer engagement
4. Values-based association management
5. Responsible industry relationships
6. Strategic dialogues on market realities.
It was also clear that in order for us to succeed in erecting these foundational pillars, we, as volunteer leaders and staff, would first need to acknowledge two unflattering realities.
First, that our broad membership landscape and diverse member needs challenge us to have all member-owners believe they are being heard and understood. Second, that there exists a perception that PPAI’s volunteer leadership, management, decision making and spending are out of step with board/member values and needs. This created an organizational shift in focus for staff and every volunteer leader.
Over the course of three days in late March, PPAI’s board of directors and senior staff will address these realities and lay the foundation for what will become PPAI’s Strategic Plan. With the assistance of an outside facilitator, the plan will be written to focus on a three-year period—from Spring 2012 through Spring 2015. What we create will likely include a broad organizational mission statement and a handful of thoughtful, significant organization-wide goals that will serve as guideposts for the future success of the organization and the industry.
The current strategic plan, created in 2008, has served PPAI and the industry well. Its vision is clear and concise: The Promotional Products Association International advocates the power and value of promotional products in the marketing and advertising professions to ensure the success of its members and the global industry.
The organization-wide goals are simple, relevant and motivating:
Goal 1: Deliver Great Member Value. Deliver products, services, experiences and a community essential for member success.
Goal 2: Advocate for the Industry. Advocate on behalf of the medium and its professional practitioners to expand and protect the industry.
Goal 3: Partner for Power. Create strategic alignments with other organizations to broaden and strengthen the industry.
Goal 4: Manage an Efficient, Professional Organization. Effectively utilize financial, technology, staff and volunteer resources to advance the goals of the association.
Goal 5: Lead the Global Industry. Position PPAI as the leader in the global promotional products industry.
Each of these goals is supported by dozens of key objectives and hundreds of tactics that rounded out the dynamic document, making it measurable and largely attainable.
A well-crafted and thoughtful strategic plan is especially important to an organization such as PPAI due to the scope and breadth of the membership and the industry. As I’ve pointed out in my recent town hall meetings—with PPAI’s membership of more than 10,000 members ranging in size from less than $100,000 to hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue, with business tenure from a few months to more than a century, and with people involved in activities from manufacturing to sales—it is difficult for PPAI to meet the needs of every member.
For an organization with a membership as varied as PPAI, it is important to communicate a vision with a thoughtful and resonant approach to leading an industry. More important than any single member benefit, the vision of the organization becomes our promise to the membership. In that regard, the new strategic plan we create will be the Association’s promise to you, the current and future member-owners of PPAI and the entire industry. I can promise you: It will be meaningful, forward facing, relevant and compelling.
Likewise, I made promises in my presentation to the Executive Search Committee that I intend to keep.
First, to address the perception that PPAI’s volunteer leadership, management, decision making and spending are out of step with board/member values and needs, I promised to foster an inclusive, empathetic leadership structure that solicits and values member feedback. Have we succeeded in achieving this? Not fully, but we’re making strides. In the past seven months, we’ve engaged members with dozens of member visits, regional town halls, blogs, personal letters, Twitter and Facebook updates—everything and anything we can do to get create a dialogue with our member-owners and let them know what we are doing here at headquarters.
The second part of that promise was to communicate a well-publicized strategic plan that reflects the goals and vision of a progressive, forward-facing association and industry. First, it is important to know that the current PPAI Strategic Plan is a strong, relevant and meaningful document that serves as the template for everything we do as an organization. Where we’ve come up short is in communicating the goals of the Association so when our board or staff makes significant decisions that you, the member, understand why the decision was made and why it is important for the Association to move in that direction.
Since its founding in 1903, PPAI has led the industry through challenging economies, breakthrough technological advances and dynamic global market shifts. The development of PPAI’s latest strategic plan will continue in that tradition of leadership.
Communication of relevant goals, clarity of message and commitment to a progressive, compelling vision is my and PPAI’s promise to the industry, to member owners, to you. As we work to create and evolve PPAI’s strategic plan, expect regular updates from me in PPB, via social media, and at regional and PPAI events.