Family firms lacking that strategic edge: Stoy forum to show how long-term planning is as important for the small business as it is for the multinational company

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STRATEGY is a word much in vogue in the business community. Recent years have seen a proliferation of books, courses and management theories designed to promote the concept.

Much of this attention has focused on the larger company, particularly the multinational. But Peter Leach, chairman of the Stoy Centre for Family Business, insists the concept is just as relevant for small companies.

'Strategic planning is a huge issue for all businesses but neglected by family businesses,' he said.

Although strategic planning is an essential starting point for a business that is looking to expand and prosper, many companies ignore it in favour of more day-to-day matters. Family firms - in which systems have often developed over generations - are notorious for this.

To meet the need, the centre - part of Stoy Hayward, the accountancy firm that has built a reputation for advising entrepreneurial organisations - has teamed up with Mitchell Phoenix, the firm of business strategists, to hold an evening forum on the principles involved.

The event - to be held in central London on 18 May - is the latest in a series organised by the Stoy Centre to promote family businesses. They typically attract between 30 and 40 people, and past subjects have included psychology and planning for succession, another fundamental issue for family firms.

In organising such events, the centre is able to draw on years of experience. It claims to be the only body dedicated to serving the interests and needs of the UK's family businesses and aims to help them develop by providing advice and guidance and lobbying the Government and others. Support comes from an advisory panel made up of leading figures in the business and academic worlds who have direct experience of family businesses.

Next week's forum will focus on the need for plans and ways of implementing them. But it will also examine how strategic thinking can be introduced and built up at all levels of a business.

'Family firms must ensure that they are in the best position possible to maximise opportunities that present themselves as the economic outlook improves. The strategic plan can considerably enhance business performance and enables everyone to be involved in the company's long-term development,' Mr Leach said.

Kevin Yates, the managing director of Mitchell Phoenix, who will also be speaking at the forum, is known for his strategic consulting work with large companies.

He will use this background to introduce delegates to the concept and 'set a framework, so they understand what it means', before dealing with specific examples of how the idea can work.

'Businesses regularly commit their resources to ventures which have ill- defined plans, management without purpose and staff without direction. For businesses to prosper in the future, this approach has to change,' Mr Yates said.

For more information, contact Heather Lombard at the Stoy Centre for Family Business on 071-486 5888.

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