Series Pt. 1 – Why Family-Owned Companies Need a Different Approach to Business Planning

A group of young employees discussing a document on a table.

Series Pt. 1 – Why Family-Owned Companies Need a Different Approach to Business Planning

Part 1 of the Series: The Family Business Planning Roadmap
By Margaret Wilson, Tandem Partners & Ann Quinn, Quinn Strategy Group

For family businesses, where the ties that bind carry as much weight as a strong bottom line, traditional business planning can fall short. After all, family enterprises aren’t just about maximizing profits or market share—they’re also about preserving a legacy, protecting family relationships, and creating generational wealth.

In contrast to traditional approaches, integrated planning recognizes that family businesses are complex systems where family dynamics, owner interests and business operations are intertwined, and mutually impact strategic direction and decisions.

Key Planning Differences for Family Businesses

To understand the unique challenges and considerations involved in planning for family businesses, here are the key differences compared to conventional business planning.

  • Complex Family Dynamics: Family businesses must navigate intricate relationships, emotions and patterns. These greatly impact decision-making, succession planning and overall business strategy.
  • Dual Focus on Family and Business: Unlike other businesses, family-owned enterprises must balance the goals of achieving business success while preserving family harmony.
  • Preservation of Family Values: Family businesses are founded on shared values and traditions, which must be upheld while adapting to changing market conditions and ways of working.
  • Succession and Leadership Development: Succession planning and leadership development help to ensure the business’ future success and continuity as well as preserve the family legacy and wellbeing.
  • Governance and Decision-Making: Effective governance structures and decision-making models are essential for balancing the interests of family members with those of non-family stakeholders.
  • Long Time Horizon: Family businesses typically have a long-term outlook and desire to perpetuate the business across multiple generations. Planning processes should consider long-term sustainability, including strategies for adapting to change, managing risk, and ensuring the business’s viability for future generations.

Drawing inspiration from the pioneering work of Randy Carlock and John Ward, who developed the concept of parallel planning[i], an integrated planning approach aligns the interests and goals of both the family and the business, ensuring a cohesive strategy that supports the long-term success and sustainability of the enterprise.

Ultimately, an integrated planning process serves as a roadmap for guiding the family business toward its objectives while preserving its values and legacy. By integrating the interests of both the family and the business, stakeholders can make informed decisions that support the long-term success and prosperity of the enterprise.

[i] Carlock, Randel S. and Ward, John L., Strategic Planning for the Family Business: Parallel Planning to Unify the Family and Business, Palgrave, 2001.