Have you ever been on a road trip where you aimlessly drove around with no set destination or path in mind? It’s a wonderful thing to do on a warm Sunday afternoon in the spring.

But it isn’t the most reliable way to get where you are going. Likewise, strategic planning is a key element of success for any individual, business or association.

Those who attended The PPAI Expo or Expo D2U earlier this year may remember PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham sharing a preview of the pillars of the Association’s new plan. If you were unable to attend or slept in that morning in Vegas, the last two issues of PPB have covered elements of what it stems from, PPAI’s new vision: “Promotional Products are universally valued and essential to every brand,” along with the Association’s new mission to “Be the voice and force to advance the promotional marketplace for the benefit of our community.”

Your PPAI Board and leadership team go through a process every few years to refresh the Association’s strategic plan. There are many ways to tackle developing a strategic plan, but it generally involves the following:



  • An honest self-assessment with feedback from both internal and external points of view. If you are in sales, get input from your customers, suppliers and support team. Businesses often use a SWOT format to organize the assessment, outlining the firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. There is a ton of content on the internet about SWOTs if you are unfamiliar with this term.
  • An action plan to highlight strengths, remediate weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities and weaken threats. Using a Lean Six Sigma Affinity Diagram (Google this—it’s a great multi-use tool!) is an easy way to organize your team’s brainstorming ideas on this point. Use sticky notes on a conference room wall for old-school flair.  
  • ROI statements, priority lists and resource plans. Remember that you can’t do everything at once, and if you divert a resource to something new, you’ll have to give something else up. This is a great time to think about things you need to stop investing in so you can make room for new initiatives. If you are investing time or treasure, be sure to include a return of investment analysis in your priority evaluation. How much will I spend? How many months will it take for this investment to pay for itself? Spread things out between the short- and long-term, in order to get boosts all along the way.

As a Board, we often invest several days into strategy planning. If the plan comes quickly and easily to you, it probably isn’t something that will move the needle or has not been viewed from diverse enough perspectives.

Who doesn’t like to look around every once in a while and dream about a new destination? If you have not taken time out to do this in a long time, whether as a leader or an individual contributor, I encourage you to do so. Who knows how far you will go?  

Dawn Olds, MAS+ is chair of the PPAI Board of Directors.