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Strategic Plan


Strategic planning is the process of determining what an organization wants to be at some point in the future, and how it will get there. The following information is a summary of discussion points that will direct the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce in finalizing a strategic plan that will guide their work over the next three years.  


In October of 2015 the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce staff and Board of Directors participated in a full-day planning session as a commitment to beginning the strategic planning process. This planning session was the first in a series of many discussions that will focus on the priorities that will provide future strategic direction for the governance, leadership and operations of the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber Board and staff share the responsibility of implementing and monitoring of the strategic plan.  


There are several criteria relative to developing a successful strategic plan:

The process must be inclusive where all stakeholders have an opportunity to provide input
There must be clarity in the respective roles of the Board of Directors and staff
There must be alignment between the strategic planning process and current strategic initiatives
Timelines, responsibilities and measureable outcomes must be built into the plan
There must be ongoing communication about the plan between the Board, staff and community


The strategic plan is a living document. It will serve as a ‘road map’ to future planning, resource allocation, staff and Board development and decision-making as the organization works to fulfil its mission. 


As part of the planning process, drafts of a revised mission statement, core values and vision statement were developed. Based on the renewed vision, mission and values, strategic goals and objectives were established. Regular monitoring of the progress of implementation of the plan is critical to the Chamber’s continued success. Once finalized, the plan is meant to be adaptive, non-static, and subject to amendments as change or needs dictate. 

Strategic Planning Process

Strategic Planning Team

Following the initial planning session, a Strategic Planning Team was formed to take lead in the development of the strategic implementation plan. The Team consists of both Board and staff representatives. The Team will conduct regularly scheduled committee meetings, beyond the retreat planning session. These meetings will focus on further refining the vision, mission, values, strategic goals and objectives and establishing strategies, actions, leadership, timing and outcomes that will complete the strategic implementation plan.  


Strategic Planning Team Members

Paul Beachnau

Dana Bensinger

Elaine Bunker

Paul Gunderson

Mike Reling

Marcia Taylor

Summary of Strategic Planning Session

Mission Statement – Drafts

Support our members to create a vibrant, growing community
Connect business and community to maximize opportunity for members
Support business development of our members for a stronger community


Core Values




Building Business. Building Community.


External Case Statement/Story – Key Thoughts for Messaging

What do we do?

Support business development by:

Planning/hosting activities and offer resources that

Get results

Offering educational opportunities

Leadership Otsego
Statewide happenings
State of the community
Good morning Gaylord

Offering a place for people to get information about the community and businesses


Who do we serve?

Chamber members
Business and Industry in Gaylord and surrounding areas
Communities in Gaylord and surrounding areas


Why do we do our work?

To create a vibrant community where people want to work, live and visit


What sets us apart from the rest?

Membership organization and the many offerings through membership
More visible presence with new building and location
Collaboration with the Visitor’s Bureau
Focus on supporting and improving business outcomes
Events and networking opportunities


Why should I care? 

Business and industry – Current and potential Chamber members

Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce is on your side
Relationships and networking
Being part of something greater

Keeping the Gaylord area a place we want to live and raise our families for generations
Making the Gaylord area a destination
GACC is a link that connects the business community to the community as a referral source
As a member, you have a stronger voice at state and community level
Chamber work results in stronger individuals and businesses, a healthy business community and vibrant community where people want to work, live and visit

Community at-large

Because a thriving community is everyone’s business
A growing business is going to offer opportunities for employment
A thriving community improves quality of life for business owners and residents
Chamber work results in stronger individuals and businesses, a healthy business community and vibrant community where people want to work, live and visit


Vision for the Future

Key Priorities

No empty buildings (store fronts)
New industry and new construction
Defined relationship between DDA, EA and Chamber (clarification of roles)
Clear understanding among the greater communities and business community of what the Chamber does in its role of supporting business development
Every business in the Gaylord Area will be a member of the Chamber
The Chamber has a nice fund balance (money in reserves) so we can focus on completing projects, offering programs and services and doing good work versus being concerned about how to fund project, programs and services (i.e. completing the external façade of the Chamber building and the downtown trail project)
Chamber members are making money and meeting business goals
Engaged, happy and active members
Increase in participation in all events


Vision Statement

Every business in the Gaylord Area will be an engaged, educated and active member of the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber will offer programs and services that improve outcomes for members while contributing to attracting and retaining new business and industry. As a result of its work, the Chamber will be recognized for its role in building an attractive and vibrant community.

Path to Achieving Vision

In working toward achieving the vision of the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce, the goals outlined in the strategic plan aim to take the organization to the next level in terms of:    

Marketing and community outreach
Business development
Financial sustainability


Goals and Objectives

GOAL 1: Strengthen and Leverage Strategic Partnerships


Objective: Create structure that defines roles and formalizes existing relationships with the Economic Alliance, DDA and Chamber

Initiate discussion to clarify the scope of services provided by partners and determine individual roles
Increase communication among and between partners
Define a shared vision for the Gaylord Area


GOAL 2: Position the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce as a Vital Community Resource and Regional Leader in Business Development


Objective: Determine the scope of involvement the Chamber will take in initiatives that contribute to business development and creating a vibrant community

Define the Chamber’s role in areas key to fulfilling the organization’s mission (economic development, labor skill development, community leadership development, business advocacy at local and state level, business and industry recruitment)


Objective: Increase awareness and understanding of the Chamber’s role in adding value to members, businesses and the community as a whole

Create a marketing and communications plan that positions the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce among target market groups

Develop an easily understood external case statement (Chamber story) that illustrates the value of the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce
Analyze current efforts (communications audit)
Identify target market groups
Develop targeted communication strategies
Determine new initiatives
Measure outcomes


GOAL 3:  Maintain Positive Financials and Work Toward Long-term Sustainability


Objective: Obtain a Fund Balance of $100,000

Refine business plan

Analyze current activities and make financial projections
Determine annual financial needs
Identify opportunities to raise funds (revisit membership fee structure, increase number of members, pursue event sponsorships)


GOAL 4: Attract and Engage New Members


Objective: Establish a membership recruitment, orientation and retention process

Develop and communicate a compelling member benefit package for long-term involvement

Develop a member value proposition

Research other chambers membership plans
Improve management of member information
Listen to potential & new membership to ensure the Chamber is meeting needs
Organize membership drives


Objective: Make membership appealing, meaningful, and welcoming to businesses in the Gaylord Area 

Explore new opportunities and events for membership engagement
Create more opportunities to educate membership and heighten interest  in advocacy efforts and successes


Objective: Promote the chamber through marketing and promotion to create stronger brand equity and increased interest in the chamber

Establish a public relations and community outreach plan for new membership (part of overall marketing and communications plan)

Maintain the Chamber’s reputation as the premier host of business networking events


GOAL 5: Educate and Retain Current Members

Objective: Improve outcomes for current members

Establish an evaluation process for member programs and services

Determine measureable outcomes for programs and services
Evaluate current programs and services
Make changes to improve outcomes


Objective: Meet member needs and expectations

Conduct membership satisfaction survey and listen to members to ensure the Chamber is meeting member needs
Conduct face-to-face discussions with members who are not active and exit interviews with non-retained members
Offer activities and services that benefit current members and encourage long-term membership


Objective: Establish a membership recruitment, orientation and retention process and support materials

Research membership plans for other chambers
Create frequent, informal opportunities to recognize the efforts of business persons who are community champions
Develop tools for Board members and ambassadors to assist with membership
Engage the Board to assist with non-responding members
Empower and prepare members to serve as ambassadors


GOAL 6: Make planning an ongoing activity to allow for innovation and adaptation as needed to meet new challenges or needs


Objective: Assess the organization’s infrastructure and determine areas of capacity building that will benefit Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce today and in the future

Determine priorities in key areas that will contribute to the organization’s continued success:

Board development (and evaluation)
Staff development (and evaluation)
Marketing and community outreach
Fund Development


Objective: Commit to an ongoing planning process

Use the strategic plan to direct actions and set priorities
Structure Board meetings around discussion of progress in achieving strategic goals
Ensure information is collected and used to support and improve planning efforts


Internal & External Factors

As the Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce works to achieve the vision outlined through the planning process, the following must be taken into account. Consideration of these elements will allow the organization to be proactive in leveraging strengths, pursuing opportunities, building on weaknesses and anticipating threats.


SWOT Analysis



Great Board
Staff leadership
Ambassador program
Strong membership
New building
Programming (leadership program)
Stranding in community - members trust GACC as a strong leader in the business community

Data management for members
Funding sources
Formal budget planning process
Public understanding and awareness of what GACC does
Clearly defined mission and consistent messaging
Process for evaluating Board performance






Educating and providing tools for ambassadors and Board to be more effective
Engage members (in addition to Board members) as ambassadors
Our economy is stronger so our businesses are doing well

Staff turnover
Declining fund balance
Personal agendas (among Board, staff and/or members)
Other community organizations competing for time and funds


Community Perception

Current Community Perception

New members

Excited about younger generations getting involved in the Chamber/new faces
Lack of understanding of benefits to members


Newer members vs. older members

More connectivity among new members than older members
Lack of understanding of what the Chamber does and how it ties into other organizations (i.e. Chamber vs. City responsibilities)
The thought that the Chamber should be doing everything


Members outside of Gaylord

The Chamber only does things for businesses in Gaylord
Those who could benefit from connection to the Gaylord community view the Chamber as a referral source


Associate members

The Chamber is a value-add to their marketing efforts


All members

Want more business and look to the Chamber to help with this
Want more exposure and look to the Chamber to help with this


Desired Community Perception

All members

The Chamber is an advocate for the business community and business issues a state and local levels (voice of businesses)
Chamber membership is valuable: members believe their dues is worth something, members feel they are getting more than their money’s worth, members recognize the promotional opportunities you can only get as a Chamber member
If I am a business, the Chamber is the place to be
Why wouldn’t I be a member of the Chamber
The Chamber is a vital component to a vibrant community
The Chamber has an important role in building business and when you build business you build community – together
If I am a business, I need the Chamber
The Chamber focuses on uniting and networking for the good of all businesses and communities
The Chamber is welcoming and a great place to be involved
The Chamber is comprised of strong leadership and a great team of professionals that are active in getting things done
The Chamber is well-informed of what’s going on in the community and links the business community and community at-large
The Chamber’s priority is business development
The Chamber cares about community
The Chamber provides great customer service
The Chamber is here to help – and members understand how
The Chamber is a support arm for the success of businesses NOT solely responsible for the success of business and industry in the Gaylord Area
The Chamber is proactive, available and welcoming



Key Issues & Priorities

Presidents Club (sell or no)
Retention of members
Value of membership (concern of members not seeing the true benefits)
Long-term sustainability
Uncertainty of what the Chamber’s priorities should be
Can we be doing more with partners
Constant stream of events with a lot of moving parts – and we want them to be perfect
Difficulty in explaining the value of the Tourism and Chamber relationship
Lack in clarity of our role with the Economic Alliance and DDA

How can we compliment each other?
How should we be working together?


Key Learnings

The Chamber needs a clear message of Visitor Bureau and Chamber relationship (i.e. explaining explanation of Executive Director’s time)
Financial stability allows us to be productive
Board development, communication between Board and staff and Board engagement are important to our future
The Chamber must be more proactive in anticipating challenges
The Chamber must continue to strengthen its infrastructure
Investing in ourselves (i.e. the new building) increased our impact but also impacted community perception (re: confusion regarding Chamber and Visitor Bureau relationship)
New programming has had positive results (leadership program)

Diversifying funding sources is critical to the long-term sustainability of The Chamber 

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Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce

319 W. Main P.O. Box 513 Gaylord, MI 49734
Phone: (989) 732-6333 Phone: (800) 345-8621 Fax: (989) 732-7990
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