Krawczak: Choose your strategy to get moving

At the end of each year, like many organizations, the Alpena Chamber of Commerce sets a strategic plan of action for the upcoming year. For 2013, the Chamber will be focusing on six key areas. First, we will increase activity with our government relations committee. Second, we will take steps to demonstrate the value of a strong business community. Third, we will continue to focus on further enhancing our relationship with our economic development organization. Fourth, we want to take a more active role in leadership development and mentoring. Fifth, as part of a larger goal of creating a more entrepreneurially supportive community, we want to take a leadership role in the Local College Access Network project to help increase our area’s educational and training attainment levels. Finally, as our sixth area of focus, we will also be playing a role in strengthening the relationship between the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center and the community.

So why am I sharing all of this with you? Sharing our plans with others helps to hold us accountable. By letting others know what we are planning, we are more likely to stick to our plans and push toward success in each action. Telling others is a great way to help you stay accountable. I also want to use this to illustrate ideas I’ve written about before.

We get hundreds of ideas proposed to us every year. There is no way we could get everything done, even though most of the ideas pitched to us are great ideas. So, instead of folding under the weight of the ever-growing wish list, we pick a handful of items to accomplish every year. We focus on those actions, and on getting them done right. Then we move on to other ideas the next year. Having too many action items can be paralyzing. But picking a number we know we will have staff time and resources for allows us to focus and, in the long run, accomplish more.

With just a small staff and only 365 days in a year, our action list might seem quite lofty. It appears even more challenging when we add to it the other activities that we are responsible for and that keep our staff very busy. It also might seem a bit crazy to add this much to our agenda when what we are currently doing seems to be working “just fine.” Some people might wonder why we do this to ourselves, and that’s a great question because we could indeed maintain status quo and be fine for several years. If we maintained status quo, we likely would maintain our membership trends, our budget, and do some additional good for our members.

But eventually things would stop moving forward. If, in 2013, we decided to stick to status quo, we would experience another year of growth, based on residual good feelings from past accomplishments and high expectations for the year. This would be followed by a year or two of plateau without growth or decline. And then we would start to experience a decrease in membership, budget, and effectiveness. Not wanting to experience that pattern, we keep pushing forward.

Do you have your goals set for 2013? Have you shared them with anyone? How are you going to hold yourself accountable to your goals? Have you picked achievable goals and avoided overwhelming yourself with too much at one time? The Chamber team looks forward to working on the actions we chose this year. We know that each step forward, no matter how small, is a step that helps move the community forward. Just like every step you take, and every action you achieve brings you that much closer to your ultimate goal. But if you decide to take no steps, eventually you will start going backwards, so choose your strategy, and get moving!

Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.