Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Can RIF Pittsburgh say its strategy?

This week I interviewed Florri Ladov, Executive Director at RIF Pittsburgh. I did this in an effort to bolster the learning of the class by effectively implementing the tools given. When 2009 hit and massive amounts of national educational funding was pulled RIF National had no money left to keep it going. Its RIF satellites had to fend for themselves and most ended up closing. Florri came into RIF Pittsburgh when it had one employee, no money and less than 6 months to live. Since then she has turned it around into an efficiently functioning company. How did she do it? Strategy.


In Can You Say What Your Strategy Is, Collins and Rukstad outline that an executive must be able to articulate 3 things about their strategy for it to be effectively followed.


  • What your business will do differently from or better than others?
  • What the part of the landscape in which you operate are?
  • What is the end point(objective) and what is the timeframe for reaching it?


Florri was the CEO and President of Innovation Works before coming to RIF. She was in charge of strengthening relationships with angel investors across Southwestern Pennsylvania. So already a master of her craft I asked what the strategy of RIF Pittsburgh looked like.


“To help students build literacy skills and turn them into lifelong readers” was her quick answer when asked the objective of RIF Pittsburgh. This answer was at once sustaining and empowering. I could see how her program directors and outreach coordinators could easily take these words and build new ideas to make sure that their offerings fulfilled their mission. Not only that but she added that she doesn’t come up with many of the ideas that they use. By articulating an effective strategy she is able to let the programmers concentrate on how best to deliver that services. Every year they set new goals to reach and this year they are focusing on summer learning loss, utilizing technology, and continuing to support the current programs as they grow.


This aspect of growing the program is a huge part of RIFs competitive advantage. Florri said, pointing to her heart, “Most non-profits are run from here...” However, at the end of the day, each non-profit is a business and people want to know how their money is being spent. When Florri goes out to ask for money, she gets face to face meetings where she can tell stories about the benefits of the program and figure out where people want to spend most of their money. This led to a diversified investor portfolio that keeps RIF from going under at the hands of anyone investment. With this model, RIF is sure to be around for a long time.

Since RIF is sustainable and always growing it is looking for new ways to instill a love a reading in kids. They do keep an eye on the scope of their company in order not to stray too far. Earlier I said that one of the strategic objectives was to figure out how they utilize technology. Rather than just injecting it into their systems using IPads and ebooks. They have spent time understanding how it can build lifelong readers by testing and researching it. If it doesn’t fit in the scope of what they do then it is not worth doing.

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