Some call it a strategic centering point – a single, encompassing statement which consolidates everything about an operation. I prefer “gathering point,” as it defines the action that is inclusive to everyone within a business. Gathering denotes a welcoming of people who come together for a specific reason, and isn’t that what many direct marketing operations are established on? Farmers market vendors I’ve spoken with more specifically call it “esprit de corps,” or a common issue which bonds a group of people together.

Whatever the words, definitions or semantics, the gathering point is an important factor in determining what would happen, what would be activated, in any number of business challenges. It answers the question – if you have to spring into action, what is the basis for your decisions and subsequent maneuvers?

The gathering point should be built upon the feedback and suggestions of all employees, supervisors, managers, owners, partners and working family members. This recognizes vital knowledge-based information from each perspective with built-in recommendations for meeting the challenge.

A manager might not know to how repair a specific piece of equipment vital to the overall operation, so input from the employee who daily works within that sector is critical to solving the situation. Likewise, a production worker may not understand the sales chain that moves product from the farm to processing and merchandisers. The pieces must all blend together to make a gathering piece function properly.

In preparing the statement and action items, think in terms of how the decision is likely to affect your business in financial, operational and marketing aspects. Risk assessment then is a part of the analysis and action steps. A gathering piece should also reflect the ideal overview of your business and your successes – what you are proud of and how you will carry out your mission despite any challenges.

This is where the esprit de corps comes into play for many vendors. Corporate identity, built through cooperation with all involved, helps to cement branding and marketing. Internally, it comes through meeting and gaining employee feedback, empowering workers and management and creating a culture of inclusiveness.

Example of an internal gathering statement: XYZ Apple Company began 30 years ago when the XYZ family planted an orchard in the rolling hills of Adams County. Our mission then and today is to produce a superior fresh fruit product for families to enjoy. Today we are faced with (name the challenge) but we are confident that by doing the following, we will meet this issue with confidence. (State the goals which will move the project forward.) We plan to work with industry leaders and our partners to secure the assistance we need to meet this situation head on. Even now, our employees and our management team are working diligently to implement action steps to correct the situation. Our company takes pride in the products and service we share with our customers, and we plan to continue our mission as we have always done. We will keep everyone informed about our progress and thank each of you for your input and suggestions.

Externally, these action steps will help you carry out the mission you have planned through the gathering piece. This may involve changing production steps, finding new processing methods, altering harvesting dates, working a transition with marketing chain vendors or calculating how losses may affect any part, or the whole, of your operation.

When you know some of your action steps, build an external message which conveys how you will work toward solving the challenge.

Here are some starting points:

Begin with a statement that outlines your business mission, goals and why you are proud of the work you do.

Continue with a statement of what you intend to do regarding whatever the challenge or success is – the action steps derived from feedback and planning sessions. Early in a situation you may not know what the outcome may be, but you can point to successes you have had in the past and state your intention to work the problem.

Thank your staff for their continued support and concern for all those involved in the situation and point to the good management (be it a family operation or larger corporate venture) for always considering customers and clients in their decisions.

State your beginning action steps and acknowledge your intent to keep partners or the public fully informed of next steps and when the challenge is resolved.

An external message example: Over the past two decades, the XYZ Apple Company has prided itself on serving the public a superior fresh fruit product straight from the orchard. While a number of challenges this year, including inclement weather and an invasive pest, have made our job a bit more difficult, we stand by our commitment to provide you, our customers and partners, with the best product we can. Our employees are in the orchard now picking our best apples to supply you with eating, cooking and baking varieties that reflect the true taste of the season. Although our supplies may be slightly reduced this season, we intend to do our best to provide the superior quality product and service we are known for and you deserve. We invite you to bring your family and enjoy our farm and orchards this beautiful season. Our social media sites and newsletter will continue to list the varieties and quantities available for you to enjoy and to announce all of our special events. As always, we appreciate your loyalty and commitment to our family farm operation.

A gathering piece is built on input from all of your business sectors, activates and implements plans to meet a challenge and encourages the team to work toward a positive outcome. It begins with an internal statement and often provides the basis for an external customer message. It can be as simple or complex as necessary to instill confidence and loyalty on both sides.

Take the time to formulate a gathering piece that will become the solid foundation of how you make important decisions and implement plans when you need it most. We all anticipate smooth-flowing day-to-day operations, but when the unthinkable happens, being prepared to spring into action eliminates chaos and confusion. Plus, you can remind yourself why your operation is important both to you and your customers and work from a place of confidence. A gathering piece is more than words on paper. It is an important marketing tool for you to create and use effectively.

The above information is provided for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling. The author is a former agricultural Extension business and marketing educator and agricultural economic development specialist.