Strategic Plan 2014-2017
Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce Strategic Plan 2015 – 2018
Seize the Future!
Tab II •
Table of Contents
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Introduction Mission Vision What We Value Critical Areas for Our Attention Summary
The Pillars . . . . . .
Focusing on Our Members Economic Development
Small Business / Entrepreneurial Development The Voice of Business / Public Policy Developing Leaders for the Future Telling Our Story
TAB III • Staff Session • Board SWOT Session • Member Input • 2014 Board Retreat Notes
This plan sets forth the direction of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce for the next four years (2015-2018). The plan outlines a direction with which the Chamber intends to align all of its activities.
The Mission of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce is to enhance the welfare of business and to promote and stimulate economic vitality in the Alamance County area for the benefit of its’ members and the community.
We are the principal resource, providing relevant, innovative, and meaningful programs, projects, events, and services that enhance the business climate, and thus, quality of life throughout Alamance County.
What We Value
Our values are the principles & beliefs that guide the board and staff as we establish policies, determine the important issues, the program of work, and actions that will be taken on behalf of our investors. Our values drive the culture of the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce. • • • • • • •
Integrity & Transparency Member Value Partnerships and Collaboration Results Advocacy Building Community Diversity & Inclusiveness
Critical Areas for Our Attention
The following areas were identified through the Board of Director’s SWOT Session, the Board planning retreat and staff & membership input gathered during the planning process. Focusing on Our Members • Return on Investment • Membership Growth & Engagement The Voice of Business • The Voice of Business / Public Policy Telling Our Story • Marketing & Communication Economic Development • Lead Role in Industry & Manufacturing Recruitment • Business Retention and Expansion • Small Business Focus • Business Development – Entrepreneurial Development Education / Workforce - Developing Leaders for the Future • Developing a Skilled Workforce • Developing and Engaging Community Leaders • Developing and Engaging Young Professionals Alliances & Partnerships • Focusing on Businesses throughout Alamance County • Reaching Out in Alamance County • Creating one strong business organization
Peter Drucker was quoted as having said, "The best way to predict the future… is to create it". The Board of Directors of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce, through the planning process, has taken a critical step in creating a future that will improve the business climate for the area and enhance the long term viability of the organization.
Planning is a management tool, period. As with any management tool, this plan will be used for one purpose only, to help the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce do the best possible job for its’ members, the health of the community, and for the viability of economic development. The plan will allow the Chamber to remain a truly meaningful, relevant organization to its investors and to the community in general.
The plan will allow the Chamber to focus its energy and resources to ensure that committees and task forces are working toward the same goals. The planning process has given the Board of Directors the opportunity to assess and adjust the strategic direction of the Chamber to meet the challenges of a changing environment. We are living in an era of exponential change, and the 2015 – 2018 plans allows the focus of the organization to remain on the key issues and programs for the foreseeable future. Businesses compete in a far different environment today than existed just a few years ago. And, it is an environment where the only constant is change. The Alamance County Chamber of Commerce must adapt to the environment in which our member businesses reside. That environment is characterized by these elements among others: • • • • •
Time Challenge. There is a time famine. The Alamance County Chamber of Commerce must create relevant programs and meeting structures that are worth time and that save time. Generational Values. There are multiple generations in the work place. We must communicate with them all by whatever method they prefer. We must be willing to be uncomfortable on behalf of the future of the chamber. Specialization and Consolidation. The large are getting larger. The small are getting smaller. More decisions are made at the corporate level. We must create programs that we can sell outside of our service area. Technology. We should lead the introduction of technology where we can. It provides the mechanism for us to track investor touches, especially for investors who will provide the majority of our resources. Return on Investment. How can we help our members work less stressfully, more productively and more profitably? We must be able to demonstrate the substantial return on investment that we provide to our members and to Alamance County.
The Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce is a 100 year old, highly successful organization that has strived over the past years to meet the numerous needs of the membership and itsâ€™ various other stakeholders, partners and other constituencies. There will be a number of goals that were established during past planning processes that will continue to be important going forward. The current planning process uncovered several additional areas of focus, along with some new objectives and action steps for existing priorities.
Economic Development is the cornerstone of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce. Participants in the planning process were emphatic in their desire for the Chamber to do the best job possible in this critical area. In addition to the traditional role in economic development, the Chamber must work to ensure that efforts are in place to assist small businesses and to encourage entrepreneurial initiatives and development.
Young Professionals programming and attention were thought by many participants to be critical to the sustainability of the region for the future. In order to achieve this, there needs to be a new level of focus and support from the Chamber. By intentionally building meaningful leadership connections at the Chamber and in the community, the Young Professionals can grow into a recognized and influential organization. We suggest that Young Professionals programming receive priority as a part of the â€œProgram of Workâ€? in 2017. Inter-community visits are an effective way to learn how other communities have dealt with issues that are important to the future of Alamance County. Many chambers of commerce throughout the United States have utilized this program to make elected officials, community stakeholders, and members aware of critical issues and how other communities have successfully addressed them. Topics of interest could include workforce issues, entrepreneurial and small business focus, and young professionals & talent development.
We encourage that the board of directors and staff begin planning in 2016 to utilize inter-community visits as a part of executing the strategic plan in year three (2017) and four (2018). Another ancillary benefit of the inter-community visit is the team building and sense of camaraderie that is developed among the participants. There is an opportunity for the successful Community Leaders Retreat to transform into an inter-community visitation program. Perhaps the process can actually begin by utilizing the inter-community visit site as the location for the 2017 Community Leaders Retreat.
Six strategic areas of focus have been identified during the planning process as critical to the future vitality and viability of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce and the business community it serves. The strategic areas of focus and the objectives identified will set forth the direction of the Chamber for the next four years (2015 - 2018).
The Areas of Focus (The Pillars) are:
Focusing on Our Members Economic Development Traditional Role Small Business / Entrepreneurial Development The Voice of Business/Public Policy Developing Leaders for the Future Telling Our Story
A well thought-out staff structure should be developed to best implement and execute the plan. Committees and Task Forces must be created that will need the volunteer resources that only the board, investors, and partners of the Chamber can provide. Strategic Partnerships and Alliances will be sought with other chambers and organizations that are headed in the same direction as the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce. The Board of Directors must now commit to the six pillars and be actively involved in their implementation. We look forward to following the progress of the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce.
The Pillars Strategic Goals and Objectives
Focusing on our Members
Business investors are the lifeblood of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce. In order for us to accomplish the strategic objectives outlined in this plan, we must reach our full potential in terms of investor support and engagement. We must create a mindset among the business community that investing in the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce is a wise business decision. The new model will be built around the following principles.
Objective 1: Grow the membership through the recruitment of new members and the retention of current members, by a net increase of 15% by March 2017.
Objective 2: Achieve a membership retention rate of 86% annually (in the top 10% of chambers in the country). Action Steps: Develop and implement a comprehensive Membership Plan that places an emphasis on customer contacts so as to impact retention in a positive way. • Investigate best practices of other successful chambers of commerce. • Create and implement a written plan of follow-up and frequent touches.
Objective 3: Continually explore and provide value-added benefits for members. Action Steps: • Survey members on a quarterly basis. o Focus Groups o Electronic surveys
Objective 4: Revise our investment structure to tiered levels of investment that permit investors to bundle products and services appropriate for their business.
Action Steps: • The first priority in re-inventing revenue generation should be the development of a Tiered Investment schedule. This model should permit investors to choose from offerings of products and services to achieve the value they need from their investment in a bundled package of dues and desired benefits.
Objective 5: Develop the Area Council concept so as to actively and effectively serve our outlying communities. Utilize key individuals from the various communities throughout Alamance County to identify and address the issues that are of importance to those particular areas. Action Steps: • Research other successful area council programs: o Catawba County, NC o Spartanburg County, SC • Determine the communities in which to establish area councils. • Establish the guidelines (policies & procedures) for the area councils • Identify the men and women who will initially serve on each advisory board.
Economic Development Traditional Role
Without question, traditional economic development activities are cornerstones of the responsibilities, efforts, and programming of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce. This Pillar requires planning that is focused solely on the efforts of this major area of focus. We will utilize the appropriate people and process in planning the programs and activities for our role in what we consider traditional economic development. We will continue to proactively serve our partner organizations as the lead agency in the recruitment and attraction of targeted business and industry to the Alamance County market. . In order to ensure the economic sustainability of Alamance County, we must also effectively retain business & industry that create quality, higher paying jobs for our citizens. As a part of our programming, we will a conduct an aggressive business retention and expansion program.
Small Business / Entrepreneurial Development We understand that small businesses are the driving force of the business community. This sector of our economy faces numerous obstacles and issues. To ensure that our smaller enterprises have every opportunity for growth, success, and profitability, we must provide meaningful programming and support that will assist them with their ongoing challenges.
Objective 1: Provide specialized forums for the various business sectors in our community.
Action Steps: • Design small group programs for our members to interact with other members to exchange ideas and best business practices. • Conduct regularly scheduled meetings in various business sectors to bring members together for meaningful discussion and networking. o Develop “roundtable” peer discussion groups for small businesses. o Make certain that new members are aware of this value added benefit.
Objective 2: Create an environment for the growth of new businesses through small business and entrepreneurial development programming.
Action Steps: • Utilize partner organizations to offer small business and entrepreneur counseling and training and to provide programs, projects, workshops, seminars, and services that meet needs of our small business members. •
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Establish an economic gardening initiative to connect potential entrepreneurs and existing small, emerging growth companies with needed resources to grow and create jobs. o Utilize Elon University, Alamance Community College and other appropriate organizations. Work with the appropriate agencies to develop information and resources to assist entrepreneurs in moving their ideas from daydreams to reality. Explore the establishment of a Alamance County Entrepreneurs Resource Network (ACERN) Establish a series of workshops to educate and train potential entrepreneurs. • Establish an Entrepreneurs “Boot Camp” to offer entrepreneurial training. Examples: o One evening per week for 6 – 8 weeks of intensive education. o Benchmark other chamber programs that are successful. o Develop a small business / entrepreneur resource portal to our website. o Develop an Entrepreneurial contest with cash awards & in-kind services. Spartanburg, SC – Main Street Challenge Durham, NC – Store Front Window Knoxville, TN – Big Ideas! • Utilize SBA and other appropriate organizations to determine best approach.
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Strengthen our relationship with the Alamance Community College Business Center. o Educate small businesses on “best practices.” Build a partnership with Elon University’s communications (Live Oak Communications) and business school Offer a series of educational workshops to assist small businesses in understanding how to become compliant with government regulations; permitting processes, etc. (utilize local governments, IRS and SBA). Post information and appropriate links on website (i.e. Small Business Support Hotline and SBA). Post legislative and regulatory concerns of small business on Chamber website along with current actions of our Government Liaison committee.
Objective 3: Work with other appropriate organizations to develop a business climate that makes it less burdensome and stressful to enter into, and operate, a business in the area. Action Steps: • Develop a task force of business owners, city & county staffs and others to review the process of getting into business. • Identify obstacles and constraints. • Suggest and offer, when appropriate, solutions. Objective 4: Create programs and projects that will retain, grow, and engage our minority-owned business sector.
Action Steps: • Host focus groups to determine the unique needs of our ethnic / minority businesses. • Use appropriate organizations to create programs to meet identified needs. • Create mentoring programs for ethnic, small business owners.
The Voice of Business / Public Policy The Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce is committed to serving as the champion of private enterprise in our community. To ensure that our members have every opportunity for success and profitability, and are able to compete on a level playing field, the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce must be the true voice of business. We will develop & maintain excellent working relationships with our elected and appointed local, state, and national governmental leaders. We will also play an active advocacy role on key issues impacting our business community. Objective 1: Develop the annual public policy agenda of the chamber and actively advocate for the passage of our critical issues.
Action Steps: • Survey the membership to determine common critical issues. • Government Liaison Committee will review the key issues and recommend policy positions through a legislative agenda to the Executive Committee and Board of Directors. • Include cities and Alamance County, when appropriate, in the process of establishing our legislative agenda. • Identify and represent key issues to make the business community attractive and competitive. • Develop an annual legislative business agenda to be championed in Raleigh and Washington by our delegations. • Develop a member "grass roots" effort to assist in passage (or defeat) of critical issues. • Host programs, forums, and events that will inform the business community of issues impacting business and economic vitality. • Host programs, forums, and events to inform city councils, county commissioners and the general populace of issues impacting business and economic development. • Develop a Speaker's Bureau consisting of well spoken, informed officers and staff of the Chamber to proactively seek opportunities to communicate the issues and policy positions of the organization. • Utilize local and other appropriate media to communicate with and educate the public. • Work with surrounding chambers (Triad and others) and economic development groups on issues of common interest to the region. • Utilize and work with the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (CACCE) on appropriate key common issues. • Provide Legislative updates at chamber functions. • Partner with and send the "legislative update" made available through the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce to all of our members. • Educate members and citizens on how current issues affect business.
Explore radio program and a column in local newspapers. Report to the membership on our successes – create a score card.
Objective 2: Grow and nurture appropriate relationships to build trust and allow the Chamber to effectively serve as the “Voice of Business” in Alamance County.
Action Steps: • Host regularly-scheduled informational meetings to include members of cities & county commissioners, state, and federal elected representatives. • Have Government Liaison Committee members periodically attend meetings of city councils and county commissioners' meetings. • Present chamber's public policy agenda to members of city councils & county commissioners and work proactively for the approval of those positions. • Host meetings that allow elected officials the opportunity to update and educate chamber members on issues of importance. • Sponsor "Alamance County Day in Raleigh" and "Washington Fly-in" programs. • Develop other forums for presentations by, and dialogue with, our elected and appointed officials. o Stump Meetings o Eggs & Issues breakfast meetings o Speed networking events with members of delegation • Maintain a strong relationship with the Legislative Delegation so as to be able to effectively pursue the Chamber’s legislative agenda. • Establish a win-win relationship with the staff of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce so as to be more effective in moving our legislative agenda forward. • Establish excellent relationships with local and other appropriate media officials so as to "have the ear" of those capable of assisting us in telling our story.
Developing Leaders for the Future 2015 is the year that Generation X and Millenials’ are projected to replace Baby Boomers as the majority in the workplace. Engaging young professionals in the work of the Chamber and in the life of Alamance County is crucial to our future success. Developing leaders for the future is an obligation that we take seriously. We must develop and deliver programs that will not only train leaders, but place them in key leadership roles in appropriate organizations within the area. K-16 education will continue to be an important part of our efforts through the strategic plan.
Objective 1: Review current programs and events to ensure they are meaningful to our mission. Enhance our efforts in the area of K-12 programming that our members view as important to the future of Alamance County. Current programs include: • Classroom Collection • Education Council • Tuesday Tour for Teachers • Teacher of the Year • Educator Expo • A Vision Plan for Public Education • Farm to Table • Career Exploration Opportunities Objective 2: Enhance, promote, and deliver a meaningful Leadership Alamance program to the satisfaction of participants and their sponsors.
Action Steps: • Review the curriculum to ensure a relevant, meaningful program. o Expand the leadership skills component in the program curriculum. o Provide timely, interesting, and interactive sessions. o Utilize appropriate Board members and other influential, engaging community leaders as program speakers. o Establish a scholarship program to assist qualified participants who need financial assistance in order to participate.
Objective 3: Enhance the Leadership Alamance Alumni Association to perpetuate the leadership desire and engagement of our graduates. Action Steps: • Benchmark successful Alumni programs in other Chambers. o Lubbock, TX o Spartanburg, SC o Greensboro, NC
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Appoint a Steering Committee to review and establish policies and direction (with approval of Chamber Board of Directors). Establish an active process to place graduates on Boards, Commissions, and other volunteer and elected leadership positions in the community. Create a Speakers Bureau consisting of alumni to address civic clubs and other appropriate organization as to the role & importance of Leadership Alamance.
Objective 4: Conduct Alamance Youth Leadership Academy (AYLA) to middle school students in our service area.
Action Steps: • Review curriculum to ensure a program that provides leadership skills training and community overview information so as to prepare the participants for a desire of lifetime service to the community. • Work with school guidance counselors to identify and attract qualified middle school students interested in leadership skills development and community service. • Develop a desire among participants to return or remain in Alamance County following college graduation, post – secondary education, military service, etc.
Objective 5: Research and develop a Senior Leadership Alamance County program aimed at utilizing the talented retirees living throughout Alamance County.
Objective 6: Develop and grow the Alamance Young Professionals into a model program in the state of North Carolina. The program will offer social and professional development opportunities and focus on attracting and retaining young professionals in Alamance County. The program should connect, engage, and inspire our young talent through professional development and social interaction.
Action Steps: • Benchmark successful programs in other chambers of commerce. Galveston, TX Gulf Coast, MS • Determine the unique needs of our younger professionals. • Appoint an ad hoc committee (made up of young professionals) to develop and establish the outline for a meaningful, beneficial program for our young professionals. • Identify the champions and leaders for the program. • Develop the unique program of work & activities – suggestions: o Educational Breakfast / Luncheon series o Collaborative learning / professional growth opportunities o CEO Luncheon meetings utilizing key business executives o Opportunities to interact with business and elected officials. o Service Projects to learn about philanthropic needs within Alamance
o After Hours Networking & Business Relationship Building Develop marketing materials and social media communications tools designed to attract and retain the desired members.
Actively engage young professionals in the critical issues and work within our area. Develop programming so as to attract and train younger board members, develop effective board governance, and foster excellence for the important nonprofit service sector impacting the quality of life in Alamance County. Include training that fosters excellent board governance and program delivery. o Governance & Leadership o Financial Acumen o Strategic Planning o Fundraising o Volunteer Recruitment & Care
Objective 7: Leverage the annual Community Leaders Retreat to offer key young professionals the opportunity to participate and present to this prestigious gathering.
Telling Our Story Good communication is the key to telling our story and to providing timely information that can help our members more efficiently and profitably run their businesses. In order to effectively communicate our programs, projects, events, and services, we must implement a meaningful communications, marketing, and public relations plan and look for ways to enhance our current communications initiatives.
Objective 1: Develop and implement a comprehensive communications plan to ensure the dissemination of meaningful information. The plan will provide professional, timely, and accurate publications, media items, news stories, and communications to our members and our secondary audience including the media, governmental elected & appointed officials, and the general public. Action Steps: o Develop and implement a written plan that can be shared with directors and stakeholders. o Partner with Elon University’s Live Oak to coordinate our marketing & communications program. o The plan should include diverse vehicles for communications, awareness, and marketing including, but not be limited to: o Reviewing our Brand and message; o Weekly E-mails of important information featuring opt-in opportunities for members to receive targeted email content; o Social Media to include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Create a Social Media Ambassador Team o Business Directory and Resource Guide; o Annual Report of the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce; o Membership Marketing & Sponsorship Opportunities Guide;
Publications; and, Press Releases
Objective 2: Focus on stories and articles that are of interest to our members and our secondary audiences. Action Steps:
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Highlight member businesses on a weekly basis Spotlight an ambassador / volunteer of the month Utilize member testimonials about how the chamber has impacted their
• Articles on various facets of the strategic plan’s areas of focus and our efforts and successes
Objective 3: Develop, maintain, and market meaningful, user-friendly website(s).
Action Steps: • Continually monitor and enhance alamancechamber.com o Sell banner ads on website for member visibility and chamber non-dues revenue o Marketing effort to drive members and public to website • Market our website(s) in all our publications and marketing materials.
Objective 4: Develop an excellent working relationship with area media to establish a "go to" or "top of mind" status for interviews and information on all business related issues.
Action Steps: • Maintain regular contact with appropriate members of the media. • Enhance the appearance and oversight of our media advisories and news releases. • Establish a regular presence on all available media outlets with relevant news. • File electronic and hard copies of all printed and electronic media articles regarding the Alamance Chamber of Commerce for historical documentation and purposes.