Thinking about your long-term future might feel like something you do in your mid-life crisis or when you’re old and wrinkled. After all, who has time to think about the distant future when there are taxes, competitors, and customers to worry about right now? It’s common for small businesses to run from one season to the next without ever giving serious thought to what comes after that.But what if we’re all guilty of making a mistake by not thinking about our legacy? Know that moment when you hit a major milestone in life: turning 25, getting married, buying a house, or launching your own business. If you’ve been in business for several years and it hasn’t made a lot of money yet, it may be because you haven’t given much thought to how things will go on past this first stage. There are many things you need to consider before moving forward with any business venture.
Know your why.
Every venture needs a strong foundation. Why is your business in existence? There are countless small businesses out there — why should yours exist? If you can’t think of a good reason to exist, it is unlikely that you will build a successful business. Think about the current climate. What do you see that makes you want to jump in and start something? What do you see that makes you want to stay out of the game? What problem are you trying to solve? What do you want to change? You must have a strong foundation and know why you are in business. One way to get started is to think about what your career path would look like if you did absolutely nothing for the next five years. Where do you see yourself? What do you want to achieve? What does your ideal retirement look like? Understanding where you want to be in the next five years can help you figure out what you need to do now to get there.
Establish a vision.
A vision is a snapshot of your ideal future. It helps you to focus on what’s important and what you need to do to get there. It’s not a detailed business plan with five-year projections. It’s a simple, clear idea of the future you want to create for yourself and your team. Establishing a vision for your business can help you to focus on what’s important and what you need to do to get there. It’s also a great way to align team members to a common goal. A vision should be simple and easy to understand. Don’t try to write a book — keep it short and sweet. It should be something that you can easily refer back to in times of stress and confusion. It’s not something that you write once and then forget about it. You need to actively refer back to it to keep yourself on track.
You are not your product.
This concept is easy to forget when you have one or two products that make up the majority of your sales pipeline. You are not your product. However, it is important to remember that you are not just your company. You are the human behind the company. You are the person who chooses to work with a certain group of people. You are the person who makes decisions and guides your business in the right direction. As you grow your business, you will likely bring on new products and services. You will partner with other companies and sell their products. You will become more than just your product. Even if you’re just selling one thing, that thing will evolve and change over time as you get more experience. Your product and your relationship to it will both change over time.
Define what success means to you.
As you build your business, you will hear all kinds of advice about how to become successful. Most of that advice is based on what people think makes a successful business, not what makes your business successful. Success isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. It isn’t a path. It’s a feeling. Success means different things to different people. For some, it might be having a big house with a white picket fence and a bunch of kids. For others, it might be a beach house or a certain net worth. Whatever it is for you, you need to have that goal in mind and work towards it. You need to have the end goal in mind so that you can make decisions that move you towards it.
Build a team with skills you don’t have.
No one is great at everything, and that includes you. As your business grows, you will likely find that you need more skills than you currently have. If you are trying to do everything yourself, you will quickly find yourself burned out and unable to move things forward. Find people who have the skills you don’t have: writers, designers, marketers, salespeople, strategists, accountants, and so on. Use contractors to help with your most time-consuming tasks: data entry, content creation, web design, and development. Work with other people who have the skills you need to move your business forward.
Think about the long game.
As you build your business, you need to think about the long game. What will your business look like in five years? Ten years? What do you need to do now to get there? This might seem like a silly question, but it’s important. There are so many things that can get in the way of your success. You could get sued. You could have economic downturns. You could lose interest in your business. There are lots of things that could happen to get in your way. This is why it’s important to think about the long game and make sure that you have a plan in place to get you where you need to go.
Now is the time to think about your small-business success. There are many things you can do now to set yourself up for long-term success. Establish your vision, define what success means to you, build a team with skills you don’t have, and think about the long game. By thinking about your long-term future, you can set yourself up for success now and well into the future.