Avoid getting so tripped up by the present that you lose sight of the future
I admire farmers. Just about everything they do, from purchasing livestock to planting seed requires a combination of vision for the future, faith and commitment to see it through.
What makes it more amazing is that despite the number of things that could go wrong, from bad weather to insects to poor seed or livestock quality, they resolve to push beyond the risks to do what they do, every day.
I remember when I was a child, my mother had a vegetable garden where she grew tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans a a few other things. One year, despite everything she did, the garden simply did not produce to the level that she expected. If the garden was our livelihood that could have meant that things would be very rough for us.
What happens when you are a farmer with hundreds of acres of crops and you have a poor season? What if one year, you lose an entire crop and end up having to turn it over only to start over again the following year? Do you give up? Do you stand around and point the finger? Or do you do your homework, figure out what changed and resolve to ensure it is fixed by next year’s growing season?
When considering a strategy for a company, one of the things that every leader must understand is the difference between short-term and long-term thinking. Short term thinking or a short-term vision is based on the way things are right now, and may be the best decision or type of decision for the moment. In the analogy of the farmer, that would be equivalent to seeing that you have a bad crop and not taking it to market.
You have probably seen it before: things happen in your company that are out of your control, such as employees leaving, running out of a certain product or poor weather keeping you from getting your offering to your clients. Sometimes you simply have to take the necessary steps in order to be ready to “hit it hard” in the next growing season. In other words, the short view doesn’t necessarily mean that the world will end.
Long term thinking, on the other hand, tends to drive the way that things take shape and decisions are made, immediately. It will impact every area of your business, from marketing to product development to staffing to the how you deliver your product or service. As a farmer, they know that they will continue to plant crops in the following seasons, what crops to sow, when and where to sow them in order to have a successful farm. Therefore, they begin preparing immediately for that future by turning the crops to provide nutrients for next year’s crops, and doing other preparations to decrease the likelihood of another crop failure.
At your company, you many not be able to determine what the next 2 to 4 years will look like. However, it is likely that although your products and services may change, your company will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs and wants of your marketplace in the matter in which you will serve or you will find it obsolete.
For example, if you owned a bookkeeping firm in 2001, computers and the internet weren’t nearly as available or accessible as they are now. Therefore, most business was done either face to face or over the phone. Traveling to each client decreases the number of clients the bookkeeper can take on, or increases the cost of doing business if they hire someone to do the running for them.
In today’s world, the internet allows the same bookkeeper to work virtually, and places a ticking time bomb on competing businesses that refuse to adjust to the changing technologies. The business that embraces virtual services will be able to hire support services from anywhere in the world and sell services to businesses anywhere in the country. Therefore, their pool of potential clients and employees is much higher.
Less travel and less expensive labor results in a cost reduction for the business (Note* it does increase risk and lower customer interaction – both must be weighed!). This cost reduction and increased market potential gives the business strategic advantage in the marketplace, either giving it the opportunity to charge less for its services than competitors can, or to invest more in creating visibility for the company. (Putting more money in your pocket will not give you strategic advantage. That would likely be short-term thinking!)
Taking the long or strategic view enables you, as a business leader, to be able to focus on a single direction for your company, giving your company the ability and opportunity to shift or change in order to meet or predict the changing needs and wants of the marketplace. This means that when electric cars become the norm, you will be one of the first on your block to equip your station to service them. You won’t be stuck focusing on what is but rather, looking at how things could be or what your company could become.
Your company needs a strategy. It may not need to be as sophisticated as you might see at large corporations, it may not have all of the data or access to analysts, and it may not be thirty pages long. People still write strategies on the back of napkins. Only the business that has committed to drawing out a battle plan is the business that will be in a better position to gain advantage in the marketplace. It is the only business that can be extraordinary.
Have an extraordinary day.
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
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