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Business planning system generates new jobs


Brigid Veale
14 November 2006
A Coffs Harbour management consultant and Southern Cross University researcher has received international recognition for a business planning system that has led to the generation of more than 100 new jobs in the Mid North Coast region.

Dr Steve French graduated in September with a PhD, which outlines a new approach to strategic planning theory - successfully combining his years of practical management experience with academic theory.

The thesis, titled ‘Reframing Strategic Thinking: emergence beyond the box. A critical management study’, involved 260 businesses in the region from Tea Gardens north to Grafton.

Dr French estimates the planning process he implemented in these businesses has already led to the creation of 100 jobs.

“I did action research which means developing your research as you go through the process of making changes. It involved working with the principal people in 260 firms in the Mid North Coast region,” he said.

The success of his work has generated interest from the wider business arena, and his thesis has been accepted for publication in the highly regarded international Journal of Business Development in the United Kingdom.

“My background is as a practising management consultant and not as a fulltime academic. I was originally an accountant and I got interested in strategic planning after working in a couple of consultancy firms,” he said.

“But I felt it was the incorrect approach.”

Dr French moved to Coffs Harbour in 1996 to complete a Masters degree, before moving on to a PhD.

“If the business systems are complex and self-adapting, and not systems that are linear and predictable, then the tools we use for management won’t work and in fact don’t work in the field of strategic planning,” he said.

“Things are very unpredictable, so we have to look at the way we do long-term business planning differently.”

Dr French said his research had led him to develop a new way of planning, based on a series of questions posed in each business.

“This is a practical and implementable solution for taking your business further, which now has both academic and practical credibility," he said.

“These business operators already have the knowledge, but they don’t know how to apply it.”

Dr French said he was now seeking funding to put 300 more regional businesses through the process.

“Our intention is to focus on small business people who haven’t had access to strategic theory, because they are essentially entirely operational," he said.

“This could have a huge impact for this region through business growth and job creation.”

Photo: Dr Steve French celebrates at his graduation with wife Gillian French and daughter Katie.