Based out of ms Indianapolis, Michael Thissen is our Business Development Leader for municipal clients. Michael brings years of local and state experience to the team, including roles with the State of Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, Crawford County Economic Development Partnership, Southwest Indiana Development Council, and the University of Southern Indiana.
Supporting organizational and community goals, Michael partners with various entities to develop winning outcomes for clients, including fundraising and grants, strategic planning, economic development, and more.
Michael is also a trained archeologist and surveyor with degrees from Washington University in St. Louis and Colorado State University. Keep reading to find out more about Michael's expertise, what he likes about working with communities and organizations, and how he got into the industry.
Getting to Know Michael Thissen
We asked Michael a few questions to learn more about his experience and the unique perspectives he brings to the ms team. Check out his Q+A below.
What is your professional specialty?
I specialize in strategic planning, specifically for communities and organizations. Previously, I was a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Administrator at the state level and a formally-trained anthropologist.
What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to meeting client needs?
The biggest challenge in strategic planning is group dynamics, where people are naturally different. My job is to bring everyone together with a sense of a level playing field, where we can focus on a mission or strategy together in a creative way. Another challenge is keeping up with the speed of innovation where a yielded plan will advance beyond the timeline.
What is the biggest trend you see in strategic planning?
I’m afraid the biggest need is to make plans more actionable. Let’s save time and money, and ensure we don’t create plans that can’t be followed through to completion. Creating actionable plans is key.
What’s your favorite thing about working with communities and organizations?
My favorite part about working with communities and organizations is there is always something unique that I can identify in their landscape that gives leadership an “aha” moment. The simple meeting of the town council president or a mayor to chat about infrastructure, business climate, and the general pulse of the community gives me a sense of the landscape. Then I ask appreciative inquiry questions about pain points and how we might alleviate them. Sometimes it takes a while to build on that relationship. However, once in place, I can be with the community or organization for its natural peaks and valleys.
How did you decide you wanted to work with communities?
The profession kind of chose me. As a trained anthropologist, cultural understanding fascinates me, and organizational culture became very interesting as I evolved.
If you weren’t in this profession, what would you be doing?
If I weren’t doing this work, I’d be a Park Ranger for the National Park Service (NPS).
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy reading maps, hiking, and traveling to experience new things.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Wow! I’m really not sure…I’ve had some terrific people bestow advice, and I have a close circle of trusted friends who are mentors. For me, having two or three mentors throughout my life has been critical. So, on a higher level, I guess the best advice is to find mentors who will encourage you but also be able to tell you a hard truth because they have good intentions.