By Len Monheit
The best and most successful businesses have a revolving and re-evaluated strategic plan that takes into consideration market, industry and external forces, and actively perceives a continuum rather than a specific place and identity for the company. The same can be said of leading organizations and associations, and it appears as though this approach is exactly the path currently being explored by the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA).
That trade association, founded in 1936, has announced board approval of a new mission, a first time vision statement, and the recommendation of a name change for the association to the Natural Products Association. The association describes its current situation as another example of its ability to grow and change, while maintaining its leadership role. Certainly, it has re-emerged stronger in membership in recent years, clearer in focus, direction and empowerment, contributing solutions to its membership and to the industry as a whole.
What impresses me, in addition to a one paragraph mission statement (in previous lives and companies I have on several occasions worked through vision/mission statement development and getting anything that people can buy into in under two pages is a miraculous feat) is that the association recognized that not only a re-evaluation of mission is frequently required, but vision is critical as well.
Too often, in this industry, we see the effects of classic cases of lack of vision. The results don’t have to be catastrophic, but they are almost always frustrating and result in failures to execute and to reach potential. They may also result in huge missed opportunities and almost always involve unclear directions and mandates.
So the expression of a vision statement on the part of NNFA is surely an example of what is needed more in our industry, rather than some of the short term behaviors we currently observe. To have a mission implies focus and objective; to have a vision implies longevity and in fact you cannot effectively create a future if you have not envisioned many aspects of it.
Going back to NNFA, I have had the opportunity to speak with NNFA Executive Director/CEO David Seckman many times over the past five or so years, and most recently this past week as we introduced our NPIcenter interview with him, the latest in our Executive Interview Series. (http://www.npicenter.com/anm/templates/Exec_Series.aspx?articleid=15557&zoneid=98) In our most recent conversation, we discussed the evolution of the NNFA mission, the new vision statement and the proposed name change.
New NNFA Mission:
As the leading voice of the natural products industry, NNFA's mission is to advocate for the rights of consumers to have access to products that will maintain and improve their health, and for the rights of retailers and suppliers to sell these products.
This contrasts extremely favorably with the old mission, which although valid and not dissimilar, delved also into how the association’s fundamental objectives were to be achieved. The real past mission expressed was largely summarized by:
“NNFA unites a diverse membership, from the smallest health food store to the largest natural products supplier. We champion consumers' freedom of choice in our marketplace. We strengthen and safeguard retailers and suppliers. We build strong markets to fuel industry growth.”
As one can see, this is not drastically different from the new mission, but the specifics included in the previous mission (and specifics can be extremely restrictive and also cause an organization to lose focus or over-analyze) have been removed.
NNFA strives to achieve a broader, more accessible marketplace for natural products that will improve the quality of life for consumers worldwide.
I must confess to being impressed with the vision statement. It is clear, concise, works lockstep with the mission and provides an excellent base from which to measure future actions and activities. (It intrigues me to consider how this would potentially mesh with an industry-wide vision – if one existed.)
Board of Directors recommends a name change
In order to reflect the breadth of members, and to better address all aspects of the natural products marketplace, NNFA’s Board of Directors has recommended the association name be changed to the Natural Products Association. It is quite true that of all the trade associations, NNFA represents the most diverse group of companies, offering an extremely wide scope of products. The words ‘nutritional foods’ is extremely limiting, and in fact, with natural personal care and other areas continuously growing, the proposed name change, and NNFA’s implied commitment to cover the expanded market scope and interests, makes sense.
It’s significant that all three announced aspects, the mission, the vision, and the proposed name change tie together well and are consistent. By being consistent, and more importantly clear and unambiguous, adoption gives the organization the mandate to execute effectively in support of its mission and vision, and on behalf of its stakeholders.
So, what’s in a name? The answer- Everything or nothing, depending on execution and vision. NNFA, it appears, has much of the energy, infrastructure, momentum and clarity of view to take it to the next level.