Thinking strategically, acting tactically.
Behind every successful endeavour is a well-thought-out strategic plan. In order to make effective short-term gains, forward-thinking companies and organizations base everything they do on eventually reaching milestone goals. CAAR is no different.
In late 2018, CAAR’s staff and board went a step beyond their established practice of meeting to cement the association’s goals on an annual basis, and undertook a multi-day strategic planning session to craft a long-term plan to direct the association’s actions over the next three-to-five years.
Mapping out its future in this manner means that CAAR can now craft highly effective annual plans for the association that include the right steps to make short term gains while furthering the association’s progress toward its long-term goals.
Start by Asking the Right Questions
Digging deep into the fundamentals and purpose of the association was at the core of CAAR’s approach to ensure the strategy the association came away with in the end would hit all the right marks.
“We reviewed each and every aspect of the association, right down to very basic questions,” says Mitch Rezansoff, executive director of CAAR. “We asked ourselves; ‘who is CAAR, why do we exist, what is our purpose moving forward and where should we focus?’”
Rezansoff says the diversity of CAAR’s board, with members from many different areas of the industry, was a “huge asset” when answering these questions and exploring emerging regulatory issues and industry trends across Canada, and internationally.
“The CAAR board represents a tremendous breadth and variety,” says Rezansoff. “It was very valuable for all of us to sit down and hear the issues that are bubbling up in each segment of the agriculture industry – from farmers, to retailers to suppliers.”
With each issue identified, the board discussed in what capacity CAAR could become involved and how it could work to reduce the impact of regulation on the industry and ensure retailers are being heard by the right people.
In the end, CAAR came away with a draft of its long-term strategic plan. At the plan’s core were four key areas of focus for CAAR to allocate its resources toward over the next three to five years. The four areas are: Advocacy, Business Intelligence, Membership and Member Value and Sustainability of the Business. Keep reading below to learn more about each of these four key areas, and some of the tools and tactics CAAR will utilize to make accomplishments in each area.
With increased time and resources devoted to these four critical areas, CAAR will be able to enhance and streamline all activities, creating benefits for members throughout all aspects of the association.
“CAAR’s advocacy is never going away. Overall, I think Canada’s regulation system is efficient, but we need to keep advocating on behalf of our members to ensure regulations don’t become a hindrance to their ability to operate a sustainable retail business.” – Rezansoff
With regulatory intervention in the transport, storage and handling of agriculture inputs expected to continue, it is essential that the agri-retail industry has a voice at the regulation development table. Previously, much of that work has been left to partner associations, however, CAAR members will derive even greater benefit from the association’s advocacy efforts by having a more direct influence. Increased advocacy capacity will strengthen the value for CAAR members and earn a greater level of influence for the Canadian ag retail sector.
Become a valued collaborator and influencer on agriculture production and crop protection products and services.
CAAR will continue fostering relationships with partner organizations to strengthen its advocacy position and will forge new connections with federal and provincial regulators, with a goal of establishing a tradition of communication and cooperation. To bolster positive public perception of ag retailers, CAAR will encourage setting independent standards of excellence among its members.
“The ability to benchmark against other retailers will give our members a competitive advantage. To assist them with their business decision making, we want to give members a map of industry trends, their rate of adoption in the industry and emerging best practices.” – Rezansoff
Through examining opportunities to enhance membership over the next three-to-five years, providing current and prospective members with up-to-date market data on ag retail in Canada was identified as a valuable undertaking that would give retailers a competitive edge. The breadth of CAAR’s membership and its strong relationships with industry partners puts the association in a unique position to be able to gather and share aggregated data on many aspects of product and service sales and costs.
Establish a comprehensive system for collection and dissemination of relevant agri-retail data to members.
CAAR will canvas its membership to establish what type of industry data retailers want to possess to bolster their business. CAAR has identified an opportunity to partner with a market analysis and reporting group to create industry data reports for retailers, illuminating relevant industry trends. Information will be made available to CAAR members through an online portal.
Membership and Member Value
“There is strength in numbers. Building membership across Canada ensures that CAAR is able to deliver strong, unified and consistent messaging on behalf of all Canadian ag retailers.” – Rezansoff
Increasing representation of Canadian ag retail sites beyond the majority is an important opportunity for CAAR. Achieving over 50 per cent membership will strengthen the retail voice where the industry needs to be heard, allow for greater investment in relevant products and services to members and solidify the organization’s financial underpinning. To bring more members into the fold, CAAR will make greater efforts to reach prospective members, understand their concerns and work to enhance the value CAAR offers.
Increase member representation to over 50 per cent of ag retail sites in Canada.
CAAR has identified a need to increase its social media presence to communicate with members. As well, CAAR intends to use online media to raise the profile of our members by telling their stories and sharing their dedication to sustainability, customer experience and safety. CAAR will also increase the level of direct outreach from CAAR staff to individual retail locations, seeking their feedback on CAAR programs and services.
Sustainability of the Business
“To ensure we can support our members in the operation of sustainable businesses, we need to make sure CAAR is sustainable. CAAR is limited in funding and resources, so any services or solutions we offer must have legacy to them, allowing us to build the capabilities and longevity of the association.”– Rezansoff
CAAR’s primary revenue streams are membership dues and the annual conference. CAAR has an opportunity to drive new and expanded revenue streams like training and compliance support for members and market intelligence data. Although membership and conference fees will continue to be core, they are open to adjustment to ensure continued relevance.
Establish a sustainable business model that generates revenues through a range of valued products and services.
CAAR will analyze the feasibility of introducing new structures for both membership dues and conference fees, ensuring they remain core to CAAR’s funding. At the same time, CAAR will also explore new and expanded revenue streams that come from training and compliance services, along with examining new communications methods and their relevance to retailers. *
*Please note the above objectives are part of CAAR’s Draft Strategy and are subject to change.
Optimizing Programs and Services
A significant focus for CAAR in the coming years will be to review and refine the training programs, CAAR Perk$ offerings and other valuable services it provides to retailers.
“We are moving the association from delivering services on an ad hoc basis to delivering programs and services that have legacy behind them,” says Rezansoff. “A three-to-five-year plan is required to allow us to make the necessary investments and commit the required resources.”
By mapping out their actions in this way, Rezansoff says that CAAR will continue to build the sustainability and value of the resources it offers to members, taking member feedback into account every step of the way.
Everything we do comes back to what our members need and expect.
“Everything we do is based on member feedback,” says Rezansoff. “Like the programs and services we seek out and bring into the fold, everything we do comes back to what our members need and expect.”
The benefit of developing partnerships with like-minded industry organizations, both traditional partners and industry groups CAAR has not traditionally collaborated with, has been a recurring theme in The Communicator throughout the past several issues.
By committing to building relationships with industry partners, Rezansoff is confident CAAR can have a lasting positive impact on the sustainability and profitability of its retailer members.
But the only way to do this, Rezansoff says, is to start planning joint activities one or two years in advance. This allows the necessary time for multiple boards to weigh in with their input, the right approvals to be secured, and the necessary funds to be budgeted among all stakeholder groups.
“If we are having proactive discussions with partners and potential partners, one or two years out, we can develop much stronger, focused plans,” he says. “You’ve got to think long-term to accomplish in the short term.”
You’ve got to think long-term to accomplish in the short term.
Another key benefit to building partnerships is the credibility Rezansoff says they lend to CAAR, and by extension, all Canadian ag retailers.
“If what I am proposing is being endorsed by two or three other organizations, to me, that’s credibility,” says Rezansoff. “From the perspective of our members, if multiple associations have come together to deliver a solution, to deliver a message, that builds credibility and proves that you are doing the right thing.”
Thinking Near and Far
By keeping the overall strategic goals in mind with each and every activity CAAR undertakes, CAAR staff will improve the efficiency and purpose of the association’s short-term operations.
“Having a long-term strategy will make it significantly faster and more efficient to put together an annual plan,” says Rezansoff. “Because we won’t be starting from scratch every year, we will be able to spend more time addressing how to improve on what we have started, rather than working through the minutia every time.”
Rezansoff says each year as they develop an annual plan, CAAR’s staff will review the long-term strategy, making tweaks and changes as necessary to ensure the association’s plans continue to align with the direction in which the retail sector is moving.
“This will make us much more efficient, and it will allow us to focus on what we need to do on a long-term, short-term and daily basis,” he says.
As CAAR begins to implement the elements of the strategic plan, Rezansoff, along with the rest of the staff and board of directors, looks forward to sharing updates on its progress with the membership. Watch for news on CAAR’s activities in future editions of The Communicator and CAAR’s online media platforms. And of course, don’t miss your chance to get the latest information first hand, ask questions and share your feedback with CAAR at the 2019 CAAR Conference, Feb 12-14 in Winnipeg, Man.
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