Before you start formulating your company's strategic plan, determine exactly who should be involved. "We advocate getting the younger generations involved in the planning, even if they're not sufficiently knowledgeable about the business or can't offer too much direction," says Melissa Shanker, associate director of Loyola University's Family Business Center in Chicago. Being part of a task force is a way for young people to learn more about the business and its organization and to decide how involved they want to be.
The development of a strategic plan should also involve nonfamily managers. These individuals can enrich the process and ultimately will be part of implementing the changes. "Their involvement doesn't guarantee smooth implementation," says Karofsky, "but it does reduce resistance."
Once you've decided who will be involved, it's time to get to work. This may not be easy, as family businesses must deal with issues nonfamily businesses don't have to worry about. Corrosive internal conflict, disinterest in the business and a lack of qualified successors are as threatening to the longevity and success of a family business as slow business cycles, not knowing how to compete effectively in specific markets, or low-cost competitors. Start developing your plan by asking these questions:
- How aggressively are we willing to reinvest the family resources?
- How committed are we to continuing and growing the family business?
- What entrance requirements do we see necessary for the younger generation?
- Could our conflict-resolution methods be improved?
- Are we enriching the next generation's leadership skills by providing and encouraging additional education and training?
- Are the processes that we use to explore and review these goals and issues working?
Unlike strategic plans of nonfamily businesses, family businesses must take into consideration and plan around the strengths, limitations, likes and dislikes, and future plans of its key leaders, says Karofsky. For instance, if dad and mom are planning to retire in five years, that should be factored in. If a daughter being groomed for leadership has a passion for the outdoors and is more interested in manufacturing backpacks than pocketbooks, that should also be taken into account.