Monday, August 31, 2009

Salute to Mentors

Most organizational leaders need mentoring from time to time. A mentor can be a great objective advisor for group development, conflict resolution, and often, change management, just to name a few. Mentors are usually experienced, trusted industry leaders who can offer sound advice, ideas, and objective feedback. Mentors could be people that you admire; have special skills relevant to your industry or agency and provide you with honest, objective, and sincere advice. How do I know if I need a mentor? Well, look closely at areas where you personally could use some help or could benefit from outside counsel and the answer may become quite clear. Please share with me times when you needed a mentor to take your organization to the next level or share with me a time when you acted as a mentor to someone else?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Budget Trends

There is a trend blossoming in and among nonprofit and profit firms alike where the firm is getting innovative and creative when building and establishing budgets during this economic downturn. In order to make intelligent management decisions, savvy CEOs and CFOs are building quarterly budgets that position the firm to make quick, positive and decisive changes that are counter to economic conditions. Quarterly budgets mean more work for staff and board members, but the firm is better able to quickly change course before any real damage is realized. The benefits seem to far outweigh the inconvenience allowing staff to remain productive and the firm to remain mission driven. I really love the idea and concept of quarterly budgets, especially tied right to a performance based program of work, but wonder what the downside is, if any. Help me to see the other side. Tell me why I should NOT go to quarterly budgets or tell me if you agree with the idea of quarterly budgets.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Special Thank You to My Staff

Economic development is simply a variation of sales. Let's face it, economic developers are selling a community to prospective companies that are in an expansion mode. The expanding company has very specific needs that are being addressed by the economic developer through the use of specific community assets (industrial parks, infrastructure, human capital, transportation routes, etc.). They are, indeed, selling the community. Now, it becomes much more complex than this, obviously, because expanding companies must look at the community's cost of doing business (labor costs, taxes, worker's comp rates, utility costs, etc.), location, availability of labor, proximity to markets, etc. So, the sales process must be enhanced with "tools." The "tools" that I refer to are, in the business, called "incentives." All things being equal - labor, location, taxes, etc. it often boils down to "incentives." The community with the best tools often wins. And, by wins, I mean gets the jobs and the investment. So, it stands to reason that the community that equips their economic development sales team with the proper tools - wins! Well, in PA, we are not so well equipped. In fact, we have NO "tools" to speak of. This is not to say that the State of PA has no tools, because they do, this is to say that "we" (locally) as sales people have no tools. And, this is an oddity in economic development circles. How do you not equip your sales team to sell? So, there must be economic development reform at the state level in order for individual communities to get their fair share of jobs and prosperity (but, that is for another day :-).

Now, to the point of today's blog. I want to thank my economic development staff for the incredible job that they do to create jobs and prosperity for the Oil Region. They have been able to attract, on average, 3 new companies to the Oil Region since 2005. In addition, they have been able to help over 2 dozen local companies to expand and become more modern and efficient, and they have been able to secure enough funding to increase the skills of over 1,000 incumbent workers. This is incredible considering the obstacles that are placed in front of them as they work to succeed for the community.

And, if you really want to be amazed, you need to examine what is required to get around these obstacles just to land 1 company. You have to sell the customer; you have to sell the state and convince them to use "their" tools to help your customer; you need local "buy-in" and support from the local elected officials; you have to rally the utility companies and workforce investment groups; you have to properly inform the local planning commission, and any and all state departments that might have to play a role in providing the "tools" needed to land this company (please keep in mind that this is not typical - usually one group is EMPOWERED and TRUSTED to speak for all of these entities). This process could take 3 months or longer. So, as you can see, many committed, talented, and caring people are involved to make this happen. The success is not of, or by, the Oil Region Alliance alone. This is a community effort. The Oil Region Alliance could not possibly get over such near impossible hurdles without the help of many fantastic people in the community. And, we thank all of the "partners in progress" for helping us do our job! Remember, this is what is required to land 1 company. Imagine juggling 3 projects like this!

So, thank you to John Phillips, Senior VP of Economic Development, and his staff Deb Lutz, Local Industry Manager and Deb McNerney, New Industry Manager for all of your hard work! Despite the odds!

I have other departments like tourism and heritage preservation and the staff of these departments work very hard as well. They do a tremendous job of working to make this community a special place to work, live, and play. Thank you for all you do! I will save their story for another day. please let me know your thoughts?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In or Out!

There is no bigger distraction to the mission of an organization than a difficult and negative individual. It has been said that 1 negative person can take down an entire 1,000 person company. How sad! And, I have witnessed this way too many times in my career. They come in many different "wrappers" but they all have the same self righteous justification for their idiocy. Look, if you are not part of the solution you are the problem! Everyone should be mission driven, period. I don't care how you try to justify your actions. You're either "in" or you're "out." Give me an idea of how you handle your difficult and negative individuals?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Board Development Plan

It is rare for a nonprofit agency's board development strategy to be in writing. Boards will perform bits and pieces of the elements that make up a full board development strategy, such as board orientation for new members, but elements for board member selection, member training, and board motivation are often skipped. A written strategy for board development will help put focus on these important elements. In addition, according to "Nonprofit Board Answer Book" (BoardSource 2002) added elements like a board reference book, a board mentoring program, an annual board retreat, and periodic self assessments will go a long way to ensuring that board members know what their roles and responsibilities are, as well as, the mission and vision of the agency. What can we do to ensure that enough emphasis is put on board development? please give me some ideas.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Board Development

The Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism is a 501c(3) dedicated to the mission of increasing the prosperity and population of the Oil Region. This is done through economic development initiatives (new industry recruitment, local industry retention/expansion, workforce development, and international trade), tourism intiatives (eco-tourism and outdoor recreation - hiking and biking, hunting and fishing, and "Geo-Caching"), and heritage preservation (preserving and enhancing local assets related to the the oil industry). The agency is governed by a 25 member board of directors and is funded through membership dues, municipal contributions, state and federal grant money, and revenue generated from agency owned property. Our operations budget and the economic development marketing budget is primarily funded through our membership dues. Membership dues are down because of (membership response) a weak national economy. The 25 member board does not feel that increasing membership dues is their responsibility. Give me ideas on how to help a nonprofit board take an active interest and role in raising membership money for the agency?