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This CEO describes the benefits to her company of the strategic planning consulting support she received from Gagnon Associates: 

As I’m sure you recall, the situation we faced when we first engaged you was, for us, unprecedented and unusually challenging:   We needed to build consensus within our management team for developing a plan that would result in a new vision after losing our Founder of 41 years.  This would be no small accomplishment.  We needed a strong starting point for the company to rally around and move forward from after such an emotional loss.  Having had a strong Founder meant we never needed to express our own vision for what we wanted the company to be.  Instead, we relied on our Founder to set the vision, requiring only that we followed the path he laid for us.  It was challenging to get top management to think in a new framework that did not have to take into account our Founder’s point of view.

The capability you and your Strategic Planning Process brought to probe beneath the surface, even on issues that caused tension, to manage the group dynamics, to extract individual aspirations of key VP’s and integrate these into an action plan was done on a practical and realistic level.   Other consultants we tried produced documents loaded with “management speak” that was not translatable to the rest of the organization in a way that others on the team would be able to understand and embrace as their own.

In this context of “focusing on ideas that can be executed,” let me detail for your here the most important examples of the tangible impact that the new Plan you helped us develop has had on the company since last year:

  • Our global team, our advertising and promotions team and our media contacts have all been inspired by our corporate Vision “To be recognized as the world’s foremost expert on “The Art of Giving.”  (I am enclosing our Annual Report, branding strategy and copies of the trade magazine articles that all speak of the Vision as heralding the change we want to bring about.)
  • In our sales training workshops, our Vision has provided a focus point for redefining the way we sell, from an impulse/item-driven approach to a personal consultant approach that requires our sales force to position themselves as the authority on the “Art of Giving.”
  • In our marketing and branding efforts, expressing the Vision clearly has allowed our marketing partners to shape a unique agenda for implementation of our marketing objectives.
  • On our product development side, the Plan has guided our product development strategy and led to the transformation of the product line to reflect the “Art of Giving.” We intend to position ourselves as the authority on each of the categories we want to dominate: Baby, Plush, Seasonal, Occasions and Expressions.
  • In communicating to our employees, we have used the Vision and Values to teach everyone to “speak the language of gift-giving.” It has helped us articulate what we stand for as a company and what we aspire to as global corporate citizens.

In short, the new Vision has become part of our vocabulary (see our Annual Report and Gracious Living issues).

In addition to all the above, the Executive Interview Process with which you preceded the Strategic Planning Sessions were of significant value to me as CEO.   I appreciated the insights you provided into my team’s thought process and your sense of humor which made the learning and hard work a satisfying experience for everyone. Your Strategic Planning Process resulted in a plan that had a strong sense of ownership and one that we were all invested in emotionally.

Thanks again for coming at the right time for me and the company!