As a retired Army Brigadier General – and an ultra-marathoner who actually enjoys running 100 miles at a time – Bob Gaylord is a man who knows a challenge when he sees it. Yet when he took over as president and CEO of IDEA in December 2008, he came face-to-face with challenges he didn’t expect.

IDEA was formed in 1998, when two organizations – the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Electrical Distributors – came together. A progressive data synchronization and eCommerce company based in northern Virginia, IDEA facilitates the flow of eCommunication and data sharing between manufacturers who make electrical parts and distributors who sell them. When Bob took the helm at IDEA, he oversaw an enterprise that had gone through significant changes. Originally a non-profit, IDEA had been converted into a for-profit company. Also, its previous data-sharing agreement with an industry competitor was due to expire. There was all that – along with the fact that the board and staff had to adapt to a new CEO.

Bob knew that IDEA was at a crossroad – and that the vastly growing demands of eCommerce would be as daunting as his next ultra-marathon. He felt the time was right to review the company’s strategic plan – something that had not been done since the organization was formed. For this important task, he called on Managance. Managance knows all about socially responsible organizations, but it was not familiar with the electronics industry. According to Bob, that was a significant advantage. “I knew they would have no baggage coming into this. What I wanted was a process expert to help guide us, and that’s just what I got with Managance,” Bob said.

The process began when IDEA did a competitive analysis of their industry. Managance then complemented that with an environmental scan, where Managance interviewed IDEA’s board members and staff, as well as current and potential customers. The process involved collecting input from people with diverse interests and points of view. IDEA’s board, for example, is made up of manufacturers and distributors who often compete with one another.

“We had to get input from many people who were not used to a process like this,” said Nick Manzo, IDEA’s Director of Account Management. “Managance was always very patient in leading us through it. Whenever we got sidetracked, Managance guided us back to our vision and our process. They never let us meander.”

Managance representatives asked many questions during this process and listened intently to the input from the board, staff and customers. From there, they developed strategic alternatives for the board to consider. This meant writing and designing future scenarios to guide the board and staff in visualizing the paths IDEA could take.

According to Lily Saad, IDEA’s Director of Business Development, “Managance really knows how to think outside the box. It was different than what a lot of our people were used to, but Managance helped them see the advantages of their process.”

The end result was a new strategic plan with three focused, limited and concentrated goals – all determined as a direct response to what IDEA’s customers said they want the company to achieve. First, IDEA is positioning itself as a go-to company for eCommerce. Second, the company is committing itself to data synchronization that is user-friendly, helps customers communicate better with one another, and helps take costs out of the channel. And third, they are developing a set of industry standards that will make that synchronization possible.

In addition, Managance provided IDEA senior staff members with internal guidelines to help keep the board and staff focused on their goals. The plan has already created what Bob considers “a tectonic shift in the course of our organization.” By making standards a primary part of IDEA’s focus, the company will be better equipped to successfully help distributors and manufacturers communicate better with one another – and ultimately make their business more cost effective.

“We now have a plan with clearly-defined goals that keeps us focused on our mission, and Managance deserves a lot of credit for that,” Bob said. “They were as vested in the process as we were.”