Series Pt. 2 – Balancing Family Continuity and Business Strategy

Group of employees standing around a laptop having a discussion.

Series Pt. 2 – Balancing Family Continuity and Business Strategy

Part 2 of the Series: The Family Business Planning Roadmap
By Margaret Wilson, Tandem Partners & Ann Quinn, Quinn Strategy Group

Any discussion of planning for a family business begins with an obvious but complicated truth: Family businesses are different from other types of organizations. Families in business aren’t just focused on maximizing profits or market share – they’re also dedicated to preserving a legacy, protecting family relationships, and creating generational wealth. In our previous post, we explored why family businesses require a unique approach to planning. In this post, we share how to balance family demands with the requirements of the business in a unifying, integrated planning process.

You’ve probably heard the statistics about the number of family businesses that fail to successfully transition to the next generation. There are many reasons for this, including family dynamics, changing markets, successor issues and estate considerations. But the biggest reason of all may be a failure to plan comprehensively for the family’s and the business’ shared future.

What family businesses need is a holistic approach to planning that considers both the business and the family, and results in coordinated actions between the two. That can feel like a tall order. However, intentional planning, in a way that addresses the unique needs and dynamics of both, can lead to greater overall success. To start this process, it’s essential to address key questions on both sides of the equation.

 

Critical Questions for Family Continuity
For family-side planning, consider these critical questions:

Core Values and Vision

  • What are the fundamental values that define the family?
  • What is the family’s vision of their relationship to the business?

Commitment and Participation

  • What is the family’s commitment to owning the business?
  • How will the family participate in business operations?

Leadership and Stewardship

  • How will the family prepare its members for leadership?
  • Who will own and run the business in the future?

Governance and Communication

  • What governance structures are needed for decision-making and conflict resolution?
  • How will the family ensure transparent and effective communication?

 

Essential Questions for Business Strategy
As the family begins its discussions, business leaders have these questions to answer:

Capacity and Capabilities

  • What are the company’s strategic strengths and problems?
  • What resources are available to support the business strategy?

External Factors and Trends

  • What external factors and trends influence future opportunities?
  • How will the business adapt to changing conditions and technological advancements?

Lifecycle and Strategy

  • Where is the business in its lifecycle, and how does this influence strategy?
  • What are the short-term and long-term strategic goals?

Integration with Family Goals

  • What family factors should influence the choice of business strategy?
  • How can the business strategy align with the family’s vision and values?

By addressing these questions, family businesses can develop a comprehensive plan that addresses the needs and goals of the family and the business.

As in many things, balance is key. Overemphasizing the business can erode cohesion, trust, and shared vision among family members. Overemphasizing the family can undermine operational efficiency, strategic thinking, and responsiveness to the environment.

Integrated planning is a framework to ensure that the family and the business are strategically aligned for sustainability across the generations. In the next installment of this series, we’ll share practical strategies and actionable steps for implementing this process. Stay tuned as we continue to unravel the complexities of planning for family and business.