Strategic Planning: If Only We Had Autopilot - From the Chairman
Construction Equipment Distribution magazine is published by the Associated Equipment Distributors, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1919, whose membership is primarily comprised of the leading equipment dealerships and rental companies in the U.S. and Canada. AED membership also includes equipment manufacturers and industry-service firms. CED magazine has been published continuously since 1920. Associated Equipment Distributors
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SECTION: From the Chairman

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Strategic Planning: If Only We Had Autopilot

By Walter Berry

Article Date: 02-01-2005
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

We could put in the start point and where we want to go, and let GPS do the rest.

As a pilot, I'm often reminded that throughout any given flight I'm seldom exactly on course. In fact, the autopilot is continually adjusting the track. First, we are a little to the left, then a little to the right. But with today's technology, we can use a GPS to navigate. We put in the starting point and then where we want to go next, and so on. The GPS is constantly comparing where we are with where we want to be and making small corrections. The business world is not all that different, except we don't have a GPS or an autopilot.

In the business world, we have to manually review where we are, where we want to be, and how we are doing along the way. We call it strategic planning. At our company, we didn't start doing any really long-term strategic planning until a year ago.

AED, on the other hand, has performed strategic planning for many years. Every five years, our association reviews its Vision, Mission, Strategic Excellence Positions, and Objectives. This planning was last done in great detail in 2004.

At that time, we reviewed AED's long range goal: "To become the global association for construction and agricultural equipment; to be the preferred resource for suppliers of work equipment and related services worldwide."

Now this Vision was a stretch goal, something way out there. For example, we don't currently have many agricultural dealers, but our industries do have several attributes in common; therefore, we wanted to periodically review what synergies we might have. In addition, with respect to a worldwide focus, we currently are dominated by distributors in the United States and Canada, although we do have a dozen distributor members in other countries. It's worth exploring the potential value of expanding that reach in the future.

We also looked at AED's Mission, which is to "Enhance the success of our members". This process included reviewing who we are and whom we serve as well as what we provide and what we value. Out of this analysis, we created nine Strategic Excellence Positions or SEP's. These SEP's are the critical issues we must succeed at in order to attain our Vision and Mission.

The Strategic Excellence Positions are:

  • Business Information, Analysis and Benchmarking Services
  • Access to Expertise and Business Services
  • Extending the Market Reach of Member Companies
  • Industry Interaction and Networking
  • Distribution Channel Advocacy
  • Public Policy Advocacy
  • Professional Education
  • Workforce Development
  • Membership and Financial Strength
As part of each SEP, we have developed both short- and long-term objectives that will drive our behavior and be used to determine the progress we are making.

Therein lies the purpose of the Strategic Planning Process: to drive our behavior. Or to put it another way, for us to spend our time doing the things that are most important, have the greatest payoff, and will get us to where we want to go.

Like flying an airplane, I had better keep in mind my destination or who knows where I'll end up. As Stephen Covey says, "Begin with the end in mind." 

I know this Strategic Planning Process has been good for AED, it's been good for Berry Companies, and it would be good for your organization. If you haven't done much Strategic Planning, it can be intimidating to get started. I know it was for my company. But there is no better time to start thinking about what you want your company to look like next year or five years from now than today.

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