5 Steps for Successful Business Planning

Succession planning, by nature, can be complex.  As with any activity that has an element of complexity, the more clarity that there is, the easier it will be to keep things moving forward.  A comprehensive succession plan should account for not only the transition of ownership but also the transition of management.

When operators combine their succession planning activities with business planning, the business plan can help to support the management transition as well as ensure your heirs are prepared to work together.  Business planning should include developing a Vision for the organization, creating clarity of roles for everyone in the operation, setting clear expectations for how the team will work together, and provide the framework to evaluate performance and give feedback.

Business planning should be an ongoing and consistent activity.  There are five elements of a business plan that leaders should incorporate to ensure that transition activities stay on track.

Define the Vision: It is important that you and your team are on the same page regarding the Vision for your operation.  If you are not unified in what you are working to build or sustain, you may find that talking about the future is very difficult.  You should be on the same page not only about what you are working toward but also have a firm belief that the goal is achievable.  Your team should have a clear understanding of how operational performance can impact succession.  Once the Vision is established, it becomes easier to work backward to determine what needs to be accomplished in the current year to achieve the long-term goal.

Establish Clear Roles: Family operations can lose efficiency when people do not know what role they play.  It is important to have clearly defined roles and agreement regarding what each team member is accountable for.  As labor becomes more challenging to secure, you will find that operations who have the right people doing the right jobs find it easier to retain their top talent.   Accountability has nothing to do with job titles.  Leaders can be found at all levels when there is clarity regarding what needs to be done and who is empowered to do it.

Defining roles can also create clarity regarding opportunities for team members to advance, learn new skills or take on more leadership.  During transition, this is an important component for next generation engagement.  When incoming leaders believe there is no path or plan for transition, they may become disenfranchised and begin building their future outside of the family operation.

Set Expectations:  Many operators make the mistake of assuming that mind reading is a talent that their team possesses.  Business planning creates a framework for setting and communicating clear expectations for how the team will work together.  Often as the business plan develops, a team may identify tasks are being done inconsistently, causing variability in results.  If the task should be done the same way every time, documenting the process should go hand in hand with verbalizing it.

Monitor Your Measurables:  Your business plan should include scorecards or dashboards that are monitored weekly.  As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”  Each operation is unique and will have measurables that are leading indicators of year end results.  By monitoring performance weekly as a team, trends can be identified quickly, and adjustments can be made to correct an issue or capitalize on an opportunity in real time.

Give Feedback:  If your team is like most, feedback occurs only when something does not go as planned.  It is important when developing and implementing your succession plan to set aside time to tell your team members when they are doing things right as well as where you see areas where they can improve.  Catching them doing something right – and thanking them for it – builds trust and confidence.  They need to know that you have faith in them, see them as capable and that you appreciate the time and effort they are putting into the operation.  When positive feedback is absent, team members become uncertain, disconnected, and may even feel that their future in your operation is not secure.

Business planning creates a solid platform to review results and have discussion about things that are going well (celebrate successes!)  If done correctly, the business plan should also help leaders identify opportunities to innovate, diversify, and become more profitable.  During a period of succession, when resources are needed to support the transition of ownership from one generation to the next, this is critical.

Taking the time to create clarity though business planning is an investment in the future of your operation.  The more clarity you achieve through consistent communication and leadership – the faster positive results will follow.

By Rena Striegel

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