With only weeks to go before the commencement of my ninth IBIE, I was thinking back over the years and show cycles. It is clear we are now operating with a new set of priorities to meet the needs of our growing and evolving industry. Each planning committee, each partner and vendor, each individual initiative is veiled in strategy with the overarching mission of connecting, educating and providing resources for our members and the customers they serve.

I like to think of BEMA’s strategic plan as a vehicle that we are using to deliver an overwhelming competitive advantage to our members. As we work to diligently fulfill our mission and vision as an organization, we must follow a roadmap and ensure the vehicle paces as planned. Key areas of interest include innovative training and education, member-focused value and engagement, partnerships and alliances, and financial strength and sustainability. BEMA’s involvement in IBIE personifies these four strategic areas and our commitment to stay the course.

Training and talent are topics near and dear to BEMA, as we have invested greatly in developing BEMA-U over the past several years to provide customized training programs that are relevant, timely and actionable. In addition to BEMA’s belief in the education initiative, it’s obvious to anyone who has glanced at an industry publication or had a conversation with a baker or supplier, that people are proving to be the biggest hurdle. We strive to create learning experiences that go beyond the knowledge level to application of skills. I’m proud that we have brought this philosophy to the IBIEducate program. Boasting more than 100 courses, IBIEducate has become the smartest place to connect with experts and innovators who will lead focused training sessions and share best practices. Just as BEMA-U provides customized content and delivery, IBIEducate is offering specialized tracks to address a spectrum of trending topics. That synergy is no accident; it’s strategy in motion.

Being a membership organization, one might think that member-focused value and engagement would come naturally. To some extent it does. Our core membership is highly engaged and aware of the services BEMA offers and gaining valuable R.O.I. from their membership. But what about those not at the core? How do we communicate to that segment regarding the value of their membership and encourage them to become more engaged? How can we showcase and leverage the benefits of IBIE to provide each member the maximum value proposition? Answering these questions requires creativity and intention, alongside a personal and personable approach … that’s BEMA’s specialty. We are going where the members go: trade shows, conferences, other industry association events and right to their facilities. Initiatives like #TourdeBEMA is membership engagement in action.

Alliances and partnerships are all around us. During my 30 years in the baking industry, I’ve been witness to these relationships changing the landscape of individual careers, companies of all sizes and the industry as a community. Moving and shaking, rising and baking, growing and prospering are functions of unique and purposeful alliances and partnerships.

In 2018, our leadership team cultivated conversations with six other associations regarding opportunities for collaboration, all their own flavor; there is no competition to rival a force united working toward the same goals. Under our newly appointed chairman, Mark Hotze, we are now looking outside of baking to the broader subject of food science as a STEM pathway. We are researching and exploring how to engage and recruit the next generation of innovative talent by partnering with the institutes that provide education. IBIE is another shining example of valuable partnership — the American Bakers Association, Retail Bakers of America, BEMA — and how our teams combine, working in unison, to design and deliver one of the largest baking expositions in the world.

As a precisely woven web, our first three strategic endeavors combine and feed the fourth: financial strength and sustainability. Much like bread feeds and nourishes the world, financial security feeds and nourishes our association and its ability to achieve our mission. At times, being married to a strategic plan can feel limiting. However, no different than taking up a new hobby, or committing to a new gym routine, results come to those who stay the plan and put in the work. Discipline and focus, over time, deliver results. I’m inspired to lead BEMA, with the support and strategic vision of our board of directors and the wealth of experience that comes with our past chairmen, into 2020 and beyond.