I thought navigating 2021 would be a lot easier when we started. After all, what could be more difficult than 2020? I was wrong. Although we will have had our most successful year in the history of our company, it seemed like the rules and guidelines were always changing. Are we still in the pandemic, or is it over? And, the new “hybrid” work preferences versus “remote from home” required a little extra communication. We were successful because we had a plan. We have built a dynamic plan for 2022 that has just been completed and started at our Advance.

Our Advance is an annual three-day meeting in October involving our entire Executive Leadership Team. 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. Candor is essential. 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 2022 is focused on four key themes: Workplace Culture, One Step Forward, Four Steps Ahead, 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. In 2022, our focus will be on staying connected while working in many different locations, teammate training and development, continuing to build a more diverse and inclusive team, being leaders in our communities, creatively on-boarding new teammates, and supporting everyone.

One Step Forward is about near-term investments, process scalability, internal service standards, and cyber security maturity. We will be making significant investments in new talent, major system improvements, marketing initiatives, and our clients’ online experience. As I have said before, scalability is not just about getting bigger. It’s about getting bigger and better. Our scalability efforts will focus on on-boarding new clients, operational efficiencies, and making sure our existing client service standards continue to meet our clients’ needs. As part of our internal service standards we continue to strive for tax processing excellence. And as I wrote about last month, cyber security is of the highest importance to us.

Four Steps Ahead is a reference to our look beyond the next four years, which would bring us to 2025 and the maturity of our Top of Mind strategic plan. We will be setting in motion actions to build on our capabilities in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), expanding our Family Office investment platform, thought leadership, and development of our next level leaders. Over the last five years, we have built out our data warehouse and we are working hard to leverage the data within it to make better data driven decisions. Our efforts around High Touch with High Tech will be focused on how to serve clients the way they would like to be served, which may be very different in the future.

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. We opened our new office in Midland this year and we will continue to explore new markets in Michigan in 2022. Talent and disruptive opportunities will guide the way. 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.

I am excited about the prospects that the new year has to offer. I have a feeling we will all need to continue to pivot on occasion, but we might have built up some muscle memory here.