Imagine your future.

  • By: Al Smith, President/CEO of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce

Recently, your Board of Directors completed their Annual Planning Retreat. Staff and Board Members gathered for a day and a half to review the previous year’s accomplishments and look forward to what actions the Chamber might embrace as we enter the new year of 2014.

Traditionally, this exercise has been about planning for the next twelve months. However, this year, we did something different.

In this ever changing, quickly evolving world, the thought was that maybe we should be looking out further. Rather than year to year, it might be helpful to imagine what a Chamber of Commerce (including ours) will need to become to further its mission of membership value and programs as we continue to work toward a strengthened local economy.

I had just finished reading a book authored by Ira Zingerman entitled “A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business.” In it he talks about the value of visioning. He states that he has “consistently seen the visioning process contribute to the organization and personal lives of those who use it.” He adds, “Without visioning, it is easy to be dragged down by all the pressures around us, to get overwhelmed by the ever-present problems and roadblocks.” He encourages us to imagine what we would be and look like – not one year, but five years in the future and from that viewpoint, look back to develop the strategic plan to get there.

Taking that advice, we asked our entire Board and staff to write their vision of the Chamber five years out. “It was hard”, one member wrote. And while there were more than thirty creative heads around the table nodding in agreement, what a fascinating experience it was.

We visualized growth and efficiency. We searched for increased ways to bring the business community together. We explored different ways of communicating to each other. We dreamed of an amplified ability to influence government in protecting free enterprise and explored methods to ensure business friendly government officials were elected to office.

Many of the visioning statements were detailed, some were far out and a few were laced with humor.

But at the conclusion of our gathering we had listed on our pad numerous, creative ideas. There were way too many to implement, but what an inspiring menu to select from as the group began narrowing them down to a manageable few!

We began developing the vision and from that will come our strategic plan. As we move into the next year we will be sharing the details of the ideas we visualized.

I mention all of this to share the insight we, as a Chamber, are seeking in order to better serve you, our members and our community as well.

I also mention it as a suggestion that you might want to consider for your organization.

In our case, the effort unleashed a multitude of ideas we had never considered and brought our Board Members and staff much more aligned to the path we are seeking as we move forward. It might also work for you. As the old saying goes, “Try it. You’ll like it”.


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