Creating a Strategic Plan for Growth

Put It In Writing

It's not enough to come up with ideas in your strategic planning sessions and then just hope they'll be put in place. The plan needs to be organized in writing. In a 1995 survey of family businesses conducted by Arthur Andersen Consulting and MassMutual Life Insurance Co., more than half the respondents said they had strategic plans. A follow-up survey in 1997 asked a more definite question: How many family businesses have written strategic plans? With the insertion of the word "written," the percentage dropped to 30.

Yet the difference between having a plan and having a written plan is significant. According to the 1997 Andersen/MassMutual survey, there's a high correlation between the existence of a written strategic plan and higher sales revenues and greater international sales.

This need not be daunting, however. Limiting a strategic plan's summary to a page or two helps break down the psychological resistance to implementing it.

And implementation is what the process is all about. Once a plan is written, it must be communicated to the family and other employees. Once shared, the plan becomes a unifying force within the family and the company because it reflects the family's values and goals--and plans for reaching those goals.

The process of strategic planning starts with thinking, assessing and evaluating. The plans are then written down, communicated and implemented. They must be continually monitored, evaluated and updated. Weaving the family and business parts together to form a viable strategic business plan for the family business is tricky. Still, it's worth remembering that when a plan is put together, the likelihood that the business will survive and prosper from generation to generation is strengthened.

Patricia Schiff Estess writes family business histories and is the author of two books, Managing Alternative Work Arrangements (Crisp Publications) and Money Advice for Your Successful Remarriage (Betterway Press).

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This article was originally published in the September 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Survival Training.

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