Dave Wegge, President of Envision Board of Directors

In the fall of 2018, Matt Schueller was invited to enroll in Envision’s first Strategic Foresight workshop. As the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Nature’s Way, the Green Bay subsidiary of Schwabe North America, Inc., that manufactures and distributes dietary and nutritional supplements, Matt took away from that workshop vital tools and skills that have had both immediate and long-term effects on the success of Nature’s Way. As a result, he’s been able to effect new strategies, new facilities, and a real commitment to shaping his company’s future.

Shortly after completing the workshop, Matt met with the Schwabe Board of Directors in Germany and recommended that they acquire a company that could offer a new distribution strategy for Nature’s Way. The company that Schwabe had under consideration for acquisition distributed medications in personalized dosage packets to the customer. Matt says, “This personalized approach to distribution makes it easier for the customer, but the real value was going to be in our ability to begin talking directly with our customers.”

The nutritional supplements market started out in stores that sold only nutritional supplements. Then the market shifted to the big box retailers like Walmart. Strategic Foresight signals telegraphed to Matt and his team that the next iteration of the market was going to be the “digital market” – that is, communicating directly to the customer.

Moving into this new “digital market” would have substantial growth potential for Nature’s Way. According to Matt, “A digital market strategy would provide the opportunity to start a direct customer relationship, hear what our customers want, and provide us with new opportunity insights for innovations.” As part of Matt’s board presentation, he used the “headlines” strategy from the workshop to communicate to the board the key signals he was picking up that indicated this was the right strategy for the future. Matt’s presentation capitalized on his newly learned Strategic Foresight tools, and the board accepted his recommendation. That was a first, quick demonstration of the relevance of Strategic Foresight within Nature’s Way.

Over the longer term, Matt has focused his attention on getting all departments to begin thinking in terms of Strategic Foresight. To that end, Matt had two additional colleagues enroll in Envision’s Strategic Foresight Workshop to deepen the Nature’s Way knowledge base in Strategic Foresight. Nature’s Way now uses a “Three Horizons” model to help guide them strategically into the future. In order to assess Third Horizon (preferred, long-term) goals, each department monitors 30 trends flowing from the STEEP model and asks how these will impact their progress toward the Third Horizon.

Each unit has identified its own critical signals related to social, technological, economic, environmental, and political trends, scanning for disruptors that might drive them off course. When Matt facilitates his strategy sessions, each department is asked to report out on any signals they are seeing that might impact the achievement of Third Horizon goals. Having Strategic Foresight become infused into the culture and mindset is the most significant lasting impact on Nature’s Way. As Matt says, “Our competitors simply don’t think like this, so we will continue to stay ahead of them.”

The success of Nature’s Way is tangible in the recent opening of its new 46,700 square-foot, state-of-the-art corporate office facility and the new Gummies manufacturing plant in Green Bay’s I-43 Business Park. According to Matt, “At Nature’s Way, we focus on excellence in everything we do, and that includes being on the leading edge strategically.”