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Planning for Change
For businesses to thrive in a world of change, they must include several essential considerations in their business planning.
- Accept ambiguity. A certain amount of ambiguity is an essential part of the planning process. There are few black and white situations where there is a specific right or wrong answer. There are many ways to do business.
What is right for one family business may not be right for the business down the road. It depends on one's goals, vision, and financial circumstances; on how one's operation fits into the surrounding economy and affects the surrounding environment; and on the impact of the global market on the local and state economy.
As an example, the two similar dairy families mentioned previously chose different routes for their businesses. For both, the dairy animals, a comfortable level of living, and time with family were important. One couple chose to build a milking parlor and develop a partnership with a son and daughter-in-law. The other chose to sell their herd to a larger farm and work for that farm. Both maintained the connection with the animals, are living comfortably, and have more time with their families.
- Share information. Both families in the example made a decision and carried it out over several years. They had multiple discussions with all affected members of the family business. One couple joined a discussion group composed of farmers who had made similar changes. The focus was on maintaining the viability of their businesses by sharing information and experiences.
- Make full use of the many people around you. In the example, both families consulted several professionals for information and help in analyzing alternatives and making decisions. Even though there was disagreement and conflict while the plan was being worked out, there was time and energy for alternatives to be considered, space for emotions to surface and sometimes ease, and opportunity for compromises on all sides. In each case, the family used the strengths of all members, both male and female, in problem solving.
- Have a vision. Both families had a vision of what they wanted for the future. That vision served as an invisible force that enabled family members to in one instance remodel their business, and in the other to design a new kind of life without direct ownership of the animals.
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