When you create a strategic plan for your company, you refine a vision, outline goals, and build a business plan to achieve them. You basically create a road map for your company's future direction. Getting somewhere in business is a lot like finding your way on the road—you can do a lot of wandering without a good map. You can drive around in the general area, and eventually get to your destination, but there will be distractions, it won't be very efficient, and it could be unnecessarily expensive.

The NLBMDA staff and two dozen volunteer members met in March to create a new three-year strategic plan for the association. The lumber and building material retail industry has evolved over the past several years and it's critically important that NLBMDA establish goals and objectives so that dealers' needs are assessed and met. The March meeting was a follow-up to a discussion held last October when more than 80 members of the association weighed in on the strategic plan and indicated which items they considered important. NLBMDA's Strategic Planning Committee met primarily to refine those ideas and jump-start them on the road to reality in an effort to strengthen the national organization.

Over and over, the committee said that NLBMDA should position itself to be the “voice of the industry” that dealers, manufacturers, government officials, and the media can turn to when they're looking for answers to questions involving our sector of the supply chain. They asked National's staff to develop educational training materials to assist all members, large and small. They also asked us to focus on outreach projects and expand membership by seeking participation from all segments of the industry.

We are now developing a business plan to achieve these goals. Over the next several months, dealers across the country will be sharing their thoughts and ideas to be incorporated into the plan. Dealers are building National's road map.

They're ambitious goals. But great things don't happen by chance; they happen when people have a vision for what they want to achieve and analyze how they will get there. For example, John F. Kennedy set NASA on an ambitious path in May 1961 when he declared the United States would put a man on the moon in less than a decade. That was more than ambitious—it was risky. But, as Dr. John Maxwell points out in his book, “Failing Forward,” you don't make it to the peaks by just trying to get by. Check your strategic plan to see if you have included enough risk, Maxwell says. If not, look again; see where you might be able to push the envelope.

Even when our road map is fully drawn, it doesn't mean there won't be bumps in the road. But success also comes with perseverance. Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

According to Maxwell, the 10 most common reasons a strategic plan fails:

  • Poor people skills
  • Negativity; an attitude of “they've tried this before”
  • A bad fit—the wrong people doing the job
  • Lack of focus
  • A weak commitment by those who must carry out the plan
  • Unwillingness to change
  • A “shortcut” mindset
  • Relying on talent alone without a strong work ethic
  • Acting on poor information
  • An absence of goals.
  • NLBMDA's new business plan will create an organization that is stronger, healthier, and focused on the nation's LBM dealers. I invite you to be part of NLBMDA's “road building crew”—just give me a call. Hard hats are optional.

    Shawn Conrad is president of NLBMDA in Washington, D.C. 800.634.8645. E-mail: nlbmda@dealer.org.