I thought the title to this month’s newsletter article appropriate mostly because we are all thinking it after a challenging 2020. We just finished up our annual strategic planning process which culminates with our Advance and company-wide Strategic Planning meeting. And, we have a lot to look forward to in 2021.

Our Advance is an annual three-day meeting in October involving our entire Executive Leadership Team. Following our “business as unusual” approach to this year, our Advance was entirely virtual. This provided both challenges and opportunities. The purpose of the Advance is to share and discuss divisional strategic plans for the upcoming year. Divisional plans are scrutinized and challenged by each leader’s peers in an effort to create a cohesive organizational plan. I actually felt that the virtual format enabled more candor. Once an organizational plan is constructed, we build our budget around it. We view strategic planning as a long-term endeavor. However, each year we want to take one step forward towards achievement of our longer-term Top of Mind strategic plan. Our Advance helps us do this. And, if you are wondering why we do not call it an executive retreat it’s because we are not going backwards. We call it an Advance because we are moving forward.

Our organizational plan for 2021 is focused on four key themes — Workplace Culture, Client Experience, Scalability, and Purposeful Growth.

Workplace Culture continues to be one of the most important reasons teammates join Greenleaf Trust and want to spend their careers here serving clients. We strive to hire talented diverse people and provide them with a work environment that challenges, supports, equips, and multiplies their efforts through collaboration. The end result is an engaged team that is inspired to do great work for our clients. Working from home presents its challenges here but we are more committed than ever to this important work. In 2021, our focus will be on staying connected while working remotely for the foreseeable future, continuing to build a more diverse and inclusive team, being leaders in our communities, creatively on-boarding new teammates, and supporting everyone.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, we are always striving to enhance the client experience. In order to do this, we ask our clients a lot of questions and then listen. Staying connected as a team is important. Staying connected to our clients during these times is even more important. We intend to build on some of the creative ways we accomplished this in 2020. We will also be enriching the functionality of our website and clients’ online experience, fortifying digital security to keep clients’ data safe, broadening our research team’s impact, and creating a brand-new call center experience for participants who use our Retirement Plan Division.

Scalability is not just about getting bigger. It’s about getting bigger and better. Moving critical systems to the cloud, investing in our virtual capabilities, leveraging our data warehouse to make better decisions, implementing workflow solutions, and enhancing our project management throughout will help us scale up in 2021.

Purposeful Growth involves growing deeper and broader in our capabilities in order to serve existing and prospective clients better. If we do that successfully, we will be able to serve more clients. Adding new talent to our existing team will help us do this. In 2020, we added 12 new teammates and expect more in 2021. We are continuing to explore new markets in Michigan to serve as well. Finding the right talent in one of these new markets will determine which new market we enter first. New lines of service that our clients desire are continuing to be developed and opportunistic purchases of adjacent businesses that are culturally aligned are also being considered. Building on brand awareness through broader social media exposure and more prolific public relations efforts will also be a focus.

I am excited about the prospects that the new year has to offer. “Business as unusual” will be our mantra as long as necessary. Whether we are working virtually from home or in our offices, clients will continue to receive attentive proactive service always with their wants, needs, and desires in mind. We look forward to face-to-face interactions with clients in 2021. Until then though, we will continue to creatively serve and execute on our game plan.