By Joe Morey
The LCO Tribal Governing Board (TGB) spent a two-day strategic planning session with Blue Stone Strategy Group on May 29 and 30 at the Flat Creek Eatery in Hayward. Blue Stone was retained by the TGB on April 29 to assist the tribe with strategic planning for the many projects recently discussed, provide feasibility studies on those projects deemed priorities, and to do a complete analysis of all tribal enterprises.
“The two day meeting with Blue Stone was great,” said Jason Weaver, LCO Secretary-Treasurer. “We set some priorities for short term and long term goals for both economic and government. The main idea that came from the meetings was that the Businesses of the Tribe need separation from the oversight of the Tribal Governing Board.”
LCO TGB member Tweed Shuman said the planning meeting was wonderful. “We have some priorities narrowed down and with the planning meeting we’ve come up with some ideas on how to get there.”
Blue Stone, founded by Jamie Fullmer who is a former chairman of the Yavapai Apache Nation, is a group with 12 years of experience in strategic planning, marketing, feasibility studies and financial assessments, and they work strictly with Tribes.
“Blue Stone has successfully completed over 300 assessments, strategy and action plans for more than 90 tribes covering a wide range of business and government disciplines,” explained John Moors, Blue Stone President.
Weaver said the tribe needs strategic planning. Part of the services offered by Blue Stone is to do a complete analysis of all current tribal businesses and give some hard recommendations on what to do with them.
“They have helped over 180 tribes reach new levels of success in economics and governance by helping them get through the tough changes,” Weaver said.
Moors said Blue Stone will do assessments on tribal businesses and provide an unbiased review of them so that tribal leaders will have accurate data and information to accurately evaluate the business. Moors said they have performance measures that monitor the business on a regular basis, such as monthly or weekly, and catch red flags when a specific business drops in performance over the period. They immediately contact tribal leadership and alert them to the red flag.
Shuman said Blue Stone is going to have one of their experts come and look over our accounting.
“Right now Blue Stone has all of our businesses information,” Shuman noted. “All of our businesses are struggling except the C-Store and for the first time in many years LCO Development is doing better and better and they are maintaining since they have been working on the housing tax credits and the LCO Financial Services Building.”
One main point that was stressed at the planning meeting is that our businesses need tribal support, Shuman further explained. “Our people are shopping and spending their money off the reservation but in order for our tribe to prosper, we need them to support our businesses.”
Shuman added the tribe has long awaited a strategic plan to address our high risk status. He went on to say that the tribe has been on high risk status since 2002.
“That’s unbelievable and embarrassing and we as tribal leaders can’t ignore it. It would be highly unprofessional for us not to address our high risk status,” Shuman said. “The strategic planning with Blue Stone will address our accounting practices and procedures that will produce clean audits and eventually get us removed from high risk status.”
Shuman noted there would be tremendous financial savings to the tribe when we are moved off high risk status.
Both Shuman and Weaver said they are going to involve the tribal membership in the direction of the tribal strategic plan as the tribe moves forward. As a strategic plan is developed with Blue Stone, the TGB intends to bring the plan to the tribal membership for their input.
Weaver stated, “We look forward to some important changes and developing a plan with the community to move our tribe forward to the next level of economic success and Governance. I think many people see our shortfalls in our current style of operation and getting from here to where we need to be is very difficult and challenging. By utilizing successful pathways that are already developed in Indian Country we can avoid the pitfalls that have hampered our ability to grow and operate as effectively as we should.”
TGB with executives of Blue Stone Strategy Group from L-R) LCO Chief Financial Officer Diane Peterson, TGB members Rose Gokee and Jason Schlender, Blue Stone President John Moors, TGB member Tweed Shuman, Blue Stone Tribal Advisor Ponca Tribal Chairman Larry Wright, LCO Chairman Louis Taylor and Blue Stone Chairman Jamie Fullmer.