June 15, 2018
Congress success about sticking to the plan
Landscape Ontario’s Congress trade show now has a clearly defined purpose and goals.
Landscape Ontario’s Show Committee is responsible for steering the direction and success of the Congress trade show and conference. Many of the new ideas, improvements and successful marketing strategies implemented at Congress in 2018 were in large part due to the work the committee has done to create a detailed strategic plan, outlining the purpose, goals and key priorities for the annual event.

Facilitated by current Show Committee Chair, Nathan Helder, the committee carried out a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) back in November 2016 and created a one-page stragtegic plan document listing a number key objectives or goals for the 2018 show and beyond.

A volunteer on the committee for about 10 years, Helder says even before he became chair he would constantly ask questions at meetings, such as “what is our purpose here?” and “what is our goal?” Due to the ongoing success of Congress, Helder says the typical response was “we are here to do what we did last year.”

Every business needs a plan

The president of Gelderman Landscape Services and principal consultant at Southbrook Consulting, Helder is also president of the Golden Horseshoe Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute (CCI).

Helder has gone through the process in his own business at Gelderman and with other businesses and associations like CCI.

Helder says one thing he has learned over the years is that operating any successful business starts with having a good strategic plan. He compares it to having a good roap map. The map clearly shows you where you are, where your destination is, and should be referred to often to make sure you are still on track and not going in the wrong direction. If you do happen to get off course, referring to the map will quickly show you what direction you need to go in order to get back on track.

When creating the strategic plan with the Show Committee, Helder says the collaboration of ideas came very freely due to the fact that volunteers already shared the common purpose of making both Congress and Landscape Ontario better. “Everyone is very proud of the organization we are in, and Congress is basically an example of that,” Helder explains.

Keeping Congress relevant and leveraging LO’s total connection to membership is stated on the one-page document as the factor for success. Helder says one way to remain relevant is by having current stakeholders around the table who can provide their input and feedback.
Nathan Helder
The Congress strategic plan process is facilitated by Show Committee Chair, Nathan Helder.

Everyone on the same page

Helder says setting and achieving those goals give purpose to the committee and the process also helps to get everyone working together towards clear, common goals that also generates a lot of excitement and enthusiasm among the participants.

“For me, it’s about rallying the troops around you, empowering everybody to do their part and getting everyone on one page together,” Helder says.

By setting long-term goals, it also gives committee members a sense of purpose and generates a lot of excitement about the potential benefits of realizing those goals.

Review and adjust every year

At a meeting in February 2018, the Show Committee reviewed their 2018 strategic plan and updated it for 2019.

“Of the seven key priorities for 2018 we achieved four of them,” Helder says. Key objectives or goals that were not met were also discussed to determine why they may not have been achieved. Those that are still relevant are kept, some are removed, others are more clearly defined or adjusted to be more realistic.

“One of the key priorities was to add at least two people under the age of 30 to show committee,” Helder says of the committee’s plan to deal with succession planning. With the additions of Chris Mueller and Rebecca Parker, the committee was able to clearly say they had clearly achieved that goal.

Other key priorities for the 2018 show included orientation materials for members of the Show Committee, summarizing and sharing the strategic plan to empower chapters and sector groups, to utilize technology (social media) with exhibitors, and to develop a process to ensure 50 per cent of exhibitors utilized the digital VIP passes.

With an updated plan for 2019, Helder says the key priorities are much more focused this second time around.

Giving it all a purpose

The strategic planning process also allowed committee members to clearly define the purpose of Congress and identify the factors needed to ensure success. That is defined in the document as keeping Congress relevant and leveraging LO’s total connection to its membership.

Action items to ensure that is met include: yearly strategic planning sessions with quarterly updates, developing marketing strategies to bring in new business and increase attendance, elevating the on-site experience, exploring new markets and revenue streams, and maintaining annual profit margins.

Strategic plan for the association

Helder’s work with the Show Committee to develop a strategic plan was noticed by LO’s Provincial Board of Directors, who have hired Helder and Southbrook Consulting to work on a strategic plan for the entire association.

Helder says just as the process helped to create a clear vision and unify members of the Show Committee towards working towards a common goal, the facilitation of a strategic plan for the association will help to unify all stakeholders and create a clear road map for future success of the association as well.