What 3 things will your association do well this year?

As association executives, we all know we must evolve our business models to remain relevant. It’s not enough to do what’s always been done. That’s why at The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA), we’re “focusing on focusing,” a not-so-strategic term for being more selective with where and how we spend our time and resources.

We’re applying a laser-focused view to our work across the organization—from how well we deliver value through specific programs, to progress made in meeting goals for internal operations, Society governance and risk management.

Why is focusing important? Early in my career, a new boss and mentor told me, “The smartest executives in the world can do five things well. So, what three things are you going to do?”

His words were an important reality check. The most successful organizations and people don’t succeed by trying to do everything they possibly could. They set priorities and goals and stick to the plan.

How can your organization remain focused? Here are some ideas.

Develop a strategic planning process.
Most associations develop a strategic plan. But is yours accomplishing what you need? At OSCPA, we pared down our goals to four priority areas. Our strategic planning process ensures every initiative, business decision, new hire and program is contributing to advancing at least one of the four priority areas. If it’s not, we’re not doing it.

Budget around the strategic plan.
The strategic plan and the budget must be aligned. After determining your priority areas, build the budget around the programs and initiatives which will support the plan for the coming fiscal year. Our budget naturally flows as an extension of the strategic plan, ensuring we have the right resources to meet our goals.

Make sure staff understand how they drive the plan.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking strategic planning is only the responsibility of your executive staff. If you’re going to achieve your goals, staff members must understand how their role and responsibilities directly contribute to making vision a reality. This may mean some roles must change or evolve, and that’s okay. If you have buy-in from all levels of the organization, your goals are much more likely to be met.

Evaluate and tweak.
It’s easy to develop a plan, build a budget and then go back to business as usual. Accountability is crucial in executing your vision. At OSCPA, we hold business reviews monthly, when business owners provide updates on the progress they’re making to move forward strategic priorities. If something isn’t working, we acknowledge it and tweak our approach.

At the end of the day, focusing is all about running our business as efficiently as our members are running their businesses. If you agree focus is critical to moving your association forward, what three things will you do well this year?

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