By Barbara Spector
Family businesses face extra challenges when it comes to strategic planning because they must address family as well as business issues. Too many family firms schedule multiple planning meetings and still end up with a failed plan, because they didn’t approach the process properly. Before you prepare a PowerPoint deck to show your planning team, consider the following questions:
• Are all family shareholders on the same page about the mission and vision of the organization? What inspires your family to stay in business together? What are your goals for the enterprise? What are your growth aspirations over the next five years—and what investments are needed to achieve those goals? Under what circumstances would you consider selling the company?
• How will objectives be set? Are you seeking input from the people who will do the day-to-day work to carry out the strategic plan? Does your time frame and budget account for real-world constraints?
• Are you allocating sufficient resources to meet your objectives? If your goal is to provide products of the highest quality, are you budgeting enough to ensure production of high-end goods? If you want to be seen as trustworthy, are you investing time and money on quality control? If you aim to expand into new markets, does your budget reflect needed steps to appeal to customers in these markets?
• Does your plan address disruption? A PwC survey of family businesses in 2016 found that 87% expected to still be earning money from the same products and services in five years. Given the rapidly accelerating rate of technological change, how valid is this assumption? What adjustments would be needed if the economy entered a recession? Do you have an emergency succession plan?
• Is your plan based on sound research? Relying solely on your instincts, or advice from your friends, can get you into trouble. Valid surveys provide a reality check, helping you assess whether your product/service offerings are in line with the needs of the marketplace, your price points are appropriate and your marketing strategy will successfully attract new customers.
• Is there a plan for developing the capabilities of your family members? Are you educating NextGens so they can become responsible stewards and valued contributors to the enterprise? Think ahead: What family governance structures will be required as the family grows larger?
• When will you revisit the plan to assess its effectiveness? Be sure the assessment goes further than just checking boxes to mark the completion of projects. Did the completed projects lead to greater profitability or operating efficiency? If something didn’t get done, what obstacles got in the way?
An independent board—businesspeople who have taken other companies to the stage you are striving to reach—is a great source of guidance as you develop your plan. Their constructive critiques, offered from a perspective of prior experience and objectivity, can help ensure you are neither failing to plan nor planning to fail.