Ask Amy: How do I get the support I need?

Dear Amy,

The biggest challenge our business is facing right now is doing the right kind of strategic planning for the future. I am in need of project management skills. 

On a personal note, having some mentors would be really helpful as well.  When I worked in other jobs, having women/men mentors who had been there and done that proved to be really helpful.  Now that I am Business Development Manager of my family’s business, I’d like some guidance on how to cultivate those relationships. 

– Susan

Amy KatzDear Susan,

In your first sentence you identified two of the major facets of strategic planning:

  1. “getting it right”-in other words, making sure that your business makes good choices for the future, and
  2. “managing the project”-implementing the activities, tactics, and change in direction that are required for the business to meet its goals.

If you are in charge of strategic planning for your family’s business, I suggest forming a small group of people who can serve as a steering committee. If you’re not a strong facilitator, perhaps someone else in the group can serve that role (or you can hire someone). That way you can still be in charge of the process and also offer your opinions and ideas along the way. You and the other group members can talk about the business environment, trends in your industry, competitors-and what you can learn from them-and any skills or competencies or technologies that you know the business will need in the next few years.

Having a group work with you will help to bring diverse ideas and opinions to the process (vital to strategic planning), and also help you with project management. A strong and committed group of people will help you stay on task, set the agenda for your meetings, and come up with recommendations that are grounded in good information and data. The other reason for a group is that having others involved with you will help to assure family members and employees that several people have thought long and hard about potential strategic choices. And when it’s time to implement the plan, the group members will have an investment in influencing the organization to follow it.

As for mentors…you can find them anywhere. Truly. They can be younger or older, male or female…it just depends on what your needs and interests are. If you have friends in other small businesses (family and non-family), ask them how they manage projects, develop plans, etc. Perhaps they know others who can help you. I know that sometimes women in family businesses are isolated, and I also know that networking can be exhausting. But if you know what you’d like to learn, start by telling people you know what your needs are. You will be surprised by the way one contact leads to another. I’m sure of it.

All the best,

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