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September 20, 2021

Recognize Your Moment of Confluence

By Stacy Kruse

In times like these when the world feels so fluid and unpredictable, it’s natural to hunker down, put your head in the sand, and ride it out. But, as I’ve learned, that’s exactly when we need to be eyes-up — because that’s when opportunities for significant growth present themselves.

As a nonprofit ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our mission is one of careful stewardship. We are charged with delivering a quality, cost-effective benefits program that protects the financial, physical, and emotional well-being of those who lead and serve the church.

As 2020 flowed into 2021, Portico found itself at a key point of convergence. Like rivers moving at their own pace, three very different events aligned, creating the right conditions for us to take several courageous steps forward.

Changing Market Conditions: Like a slow-moving river, market conditions and ministry realities have been steering Portico toward a different business model, one that will better maintain a stable, affordable, faith-based benefits program into the future. Over several years, we’ve implemented cost-saving improvements (without compromising quality and satisfaction) to expand our capabilities, serve a wider set of organizations, and leverage that larger pool to gain cost savings and innovative benefits not commonly available to smaller groups. In 2020, the pandemic sent many potential partners — social ministry organizations, colleges, and universities — into crisis mode. But since early 2021, the flow of organizations interested in partnering with Portico has strengthened significantly.

Success Navigating COVID: Like a rushing torrent, COVID turned our worlds upside down. In a week, Portico’s 170 employees were working from home — a little shell-shocked but more than able to maintain our high standards for integrity and excellence. Portico’s culture, it turned out, was well-suited for remote work.

Lease Renewal: The question of where to office arrived like a small stream with unexpected rapids. We knew our lease was up for renewal at the end of 2021 but had not considered leaving downtown Minneapolis — it had been home for over 30 years. However, terms for renewing our lease were higher than expected and the truth was, Portico was running quite well remotely with strong support from our employees. We simply could not ignore the long-term cost savings associated with remote work and downsizing our office space.

As these events converged in early 2021, Portico, I’m proud to say, was ready. Having trained for years to be a flexible, learning organization, we saw that embracing change could strengthen our ability to serve long-term. And so, we made two bold but strategic decisions:

  • With support from our employees, we embraced a hybrid work model — to preserve the flexibility employees value and direct the savings toward strengthening our capabilities so we can better serve our members into the future.
  • Based on careful analysis of our options, we signed a lease for a significantly smaller, unfinished space outside of downtown Minneapolis, giving us the opportunity to design a space that meets the needs of a hybrid workforce.

Of course, there are trade-offs. We miss the comfort of our old work life — all of us present in one place and the vibrancy of working in a downtown community, for starters.

But, in a world that’s fluid and changing fast, it’s not enough to keep your feet planted. To safeguard the long-term interests of those we serve, we must be courageous — keep our heads up, study the cracks, spot the opportunities, and dare to chart a different course.

For many years, Portico’s values — collaboration, respect, stewardship, integrity, and excellence — have served us well. In the wake of the pandemic, I’d add one more … courage.

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Stacy Kruse

Stacy blends a wealth of for-profit business experience with non-profit purpose in her role at Portico, where she leads all operational and financial aspects of the organization. Her dedication to process improvements and risk mitigation lays the groundwork for sound financial stewardship of members’ resources. Stacy strongly believes in helping employees see where Portico is headed and why, so that everyone understands their roles and works together toward a shared mission.  

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