Chart a Course for the New Year

January 9, 2024
by NHLA
Chairman's Message

I am always enthused at the beginning of a new year. What lies ahead? How can we take advantage of unforeseen opportunities and unforeseen obstacles? The New Year is always a time to start again, try something new, and engage new ideas. 

Our team has finished the year-end accounting, completed employee reviews, finalized our best thoughts for next year’s budget, and prepared our plan to implement a portion of our company’s strategic plan.

It feels good to finish all those year-end tasks and finally get to the new year and a time for action, not simply planning. A few years back, the idea of implementing a portion of a company-wide strategic plan was entirely foreign. Where are we going? What are we doing? Who are we? What do we want to do?

For many years, our strategic plan was to produce lumber quickly, safely, and on grade. While these objectives were commendable, they lacked the depth of a true strategic plan. The absence of a comprehensive strategy meant that proposed improvements were approached haphazardly, lacking structure. This lack of direction led to inefficiencies, as every new idea became a distracting novelty, receiving undue attention and consuming valuable time without a disciplined approach.

Enter a new year and a New Year’s resolution…a strategic plan! A strategic plan can be a complex process, or it can be straightforward. Sometimes, the strategic plan is to operate the next day! Other plans might be a 12-month, two-year, or 5-year plan. Strategic plans might be concrete, such as installing a new gang saw or molding machine center. Other strategic plans might be vaguer, like increasing safety or becoming the low-cost producer in a segment of your business.

Whatever the plan, once adopted, adherence to the program is critical. All the spokes on the wheel help support the hub, just as with a strategic plan. All decisions, whether daily or weekly, support the strategic plan. A singular goal is excellent, laser-focused, and an eye on the prize, but the hardwood industry is entrepreneurial. How does that work with a strategic plan?

A well-structured strategic plan encompasses broad overarching goals and concepts. Within these larger objectives, there exist specific, measurable milestones. For example, I needed to enhance the value of my log supply; my goal was to maximize the hourly yield from each head rig. This involved sourcing higher-value logs or developing a way to extract the high-value lumber hidden inside. I didn’t know how to successfully achieve my strategic plan, but my entrepreneurial instincts led me to discover a solution through Microtec. Consequently, my strategic focus shifted towards implementing log scanning equipment as a project within the revised plan.

Consider making a New Year’s resolution to dedicate January to evaluating your existing strategic plan or, if you haven’t established one yet, to initiate and implement your inaugural strategic plan. Challenge yourself to engage in the classic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats discussion (SWOT analysis). Change is ever-present, and change is happening faster than ever before; having a strategic plan that creates focus and discipline in the direction you think is best for your company is a good New Year’s Resolution! Good Luck!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read through my article. I hope it has spurred on some thoughts of a strategic plan for your company and maybe even your personal life!

I hope this letter finds you and your families in good health this New Year! Happy New Year to all of you.

Jon Syre
NHLA Chairman | Cascade Hardwood

by NHLA

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