Every strong organization has a plan, a vision of where they want to be five, ten or even twenty years in the future. A strategic plan outlines that vision, the company’s future objectives, as well as how we plan to meet those objectives. It provides everyone – staff, board members and customers – with a clear direction.

The importance of planning is evidenced by our recent rating upgrade by Moody’s. We had a goal of increasing our financial strength, and although it wasn’t always easy, we stayed the course and were rewarded with a positive outcome. This also reaffirmed the need for a formal plan, something that addresses each aspect of Heartland and a clear path for achieving our goals on every front.

Several months ago, Heartland started our strategic planning process. Staff and board members worked together to assess our current situation and lay out our goals. We identified our strengths, weaknesses, and key performance indicators, performed an industry analysis and laid out a financial model to assess potential results of opportunities pursued.

After working on individual sections of our plan, we decided to bring in an outside perspective to help us tie it all together into one comprehensive strategy. We retained the services of Brian Bonde, who over the next three months will be facilitating a board strategic planning session, interviewing customers, and helping us to roll out the final plan.

As we discussed the necessary elements of the plan, we realized it was vital to get customer input. At our upcoming Annual Meeting May 9, we will be holding roundtable discussions to do just that. All customers in attendance will be able to share their thoughts and ideas on the direction of Heartland. Brian will be working with staff in advance of the meeting to prepare an activity that will provide meaningful feedback.

In addition, Brian will be conducting interviews with a select group of customers, most likely members of the Customer Connections Committee, to address the strengths and perceptions of Heartland. While the conversations will be reported back to us, it will be done in a way as to keep the identity of the specific interviewees confidential. We feel this will be important to ensure honest feedback.

It is our hope to roll out our strategic plan at our Summer Conference in July. While it will take time to analyze and summarize all of the information gathered at our board planning session, annual meeting and in customer interviews, as well as complete the final plan, having this plan in place is a priority, and we want to complete it in a timely manner.

The intent of all this is to have a guiding document, something we can look at when making a decision and say, “Does this fit with our strategic plan?” This is not something that will get put aside once complete and left to collect dust. A good strategic plan is a working document, something that is re-visited often and revised as needed. We will use this as our roadmap as we move this company forward.