What’s ahead for your business?
As you look to the months and years to come, what are the greatest challenges you are facing, the biggest opportunities you see?
And how are you going to build the future you envision for your organization?
We’re in the midst of this very exercise here at the National Coffee Association, USA. Our current Strategic Plan was written three years ago. At that time our priority was to evolve NCA, rapidly and efficiently, and catch up with a changing world.
Our 2015-2017 plan called for us to update our infrastructure and communications (websites, newsletters, social media) and add member benefits (discount programs, Coffee Career Center, Business Directory, webinars).
Even as we were making these changes over the past three years, our day-to-day agenda grew exponentially. We took on new projects ranging from science and health issues (like last year’s review of coffee and cancer by the World Health Organization), to Federal regulatory developments (like the proposed Border Adjustment Tax).
All of which raises the question:
What’s next for the NCA?
Before we can answer this, we need to understand how the needs of our members are changing. Are there opportunities for NCA to serve members differently – or to attract new and different members?
It is important for us to understand our own competitive context, as well: How are trade associations changing, and what does that mean for NCA?
This is why the NCA Board of Directors and invited guests will be meeting in New York City next week for two days of meetings, including rigorous strategic planning. We’ll be reviewing interviews we’ve conducted with key influencers, poring over data from member and non-member surveys we conducted earlier this year, and hearing from experts at other Associations and organizations. Our goal is to draft a high-level plan for the next phase of NCA’s ongoing evolution.
Although we don’t know the outcome of those meetings, it is already evident that many of our members are most concerned about growing their own businesses. The next issue is compliance with the increasingly complex regulatory environment.
As we consider what members are telling us, we’re also looking at the varying demographics of our members: big companies vs. small; B2B companies vs. B2C; coffee-centric companies vs. those with broader portfolios. In short, the strategic planning process at NCA is no different than at your own organization – a deliberate, thoughtful review to assess customer needs, evaluate current offerings, review business models and the competition, and take stock of resources.
In fact, one of the greatest misperceptions about nonprofit organizations is that they are not subject to the same pressures as for-profit companies. To the contrary, the same factors that affect for profit companies – increasing costs, constant competition, keeping and managing talent – also shape our operations.
Which is why our guiding principle here at NCA is to “run it like a business,” where the return is not measured in financial dividends to NCA, but dividends to our members – our “shareholders” – that take many forms: a more open regulatory environment, useful market data, a networking platform to connect with leaders, advocacy about coffee, and other member benefits and services that support your business.
And as we plan for the future, now is a good time to thank our current members for their commitment to NCA. Being mission-driven makes us somewhat unique – and this, in turn, means that our members make NCA possible. To put it more succinctly, “No members, no mission.”
Speaking of gratitude, we all owe our thanks to the volunteer leaders and experts who will be meeting next week, with a special “thank you” to NCA Chair, John “JD” DeMuria, Volcafé USA, who has assumed the weighty responsibility of leading us through our meetings, and through the creation of a strategic plan that will successfully guide NCA into the future.
So if you responded to the survey we sent to members and non-members, we have your feedback, including the many verbatim comments with specific thoughts.
If you didn’t get a chance to complete the survey, or have further thoughts, I invite you to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below – we always invite your feedback, but now’s an especially good time to make your voice heard as we move ahead.