Running a business takes more than a day-by-day approach. You need a clear idea of where you want your business to be ten years from now — your own North Star that not only inspires you, it inspires your team as well. Essentially, if you want to get somewhere and you want people to follow you there, you have to visualize it first: you can’t be a leader without vision.
The problem is, most of us are too busy tackling the everyday challenges to sit back and look at what we’re doing and where we want to be. Buried under the daily pressures of running a business, most small business owners can barely think six months ahead, let alone ten years.
Here are four simple steps to picture your business in ten years, and chart the best course to get there and inspire your people to get behind you and come along for the ride:
1. Start with the mountaintop.
Imagine it’s ten years from now. Write down all the particulars you can of what your business looks like. There are no right or wrong answers here. The point is to focus on learning your vision of your business in the future: where you want to go, and what you want it to look like. Don’t worry about whether it will actually turn out this way.
- How many team members you’ll have
- What locations you’ll have
- What products and services you offer
- How your business is structured
- What your ideal customer or client looks like
- What kind of volume you’re doing
- What your own life is like, and how involved you are in the daily goings on of your business.
- And if you’re not involved any more, what are you doing instead?
2. Back up five years.
Once you have the ten-year vision down in writing, back up halfway. In five years, where do you need to be in order to be on track to hit that ten-year point? Cover the same details, and write them down. For instance:
- How many people are on your team?
- Do you have half the locations as in ten years?
- Are you offering the same products as services as now, or the same as in ten years?
- Have you found your ideal customers yet?
- Are you doing half the volume you’re doing in ten years?
- Are you still going into work every day? What’s your own life like in five years?
3. Back up two more years.
Now that you have your five-year vision, take it back to the three-year version of your business. Ask the same questions, and think about whether or not your three-year vision backs up your five-year vision: are you on the right course? Where do you have to be in here years in order to achieve your five-year goals?
4. Back up to next year.
Finally, flip the script entirely: You need to take a sharp look at the next year — and now you have a ten-year perspective to do it in. So ask yourself: where do I need to be next year to be on track to reach my three-year vision? Use the same criteria, and make sure it’s as specific as possible.
By starting at the top and working your way back, you’ve already set up your goalposts. And with a very specific outline of your one-year, three-year, five-year, and ten-year vision, you can start to create a plan and structure for your business that will get you to each benchmark. You can share this vision, and its structure, with your people, inspiring them to follow your lead. You can also check in periodically, and see if you are on pace to make what you need to make happen. If not, you have a good idea of what needs to be modified or adjusted — without losing focus.
The truth is, if you just go on about your daily activities and hope you’ll one day end up where you want to be, changes are, it won’t happen. Eighty percent of new businesses will not survive the first five years — and much of them fall prey to their own functional nearsightedness. Instead, plan out where you want to be and use a vision to guide you. Time flies when you’ve set a course.
Rich Allen helps create businesses with solid foundations, unique marketplace positions, reputable processes, high-performance team, and a visionary leader. Prior to becoming an advisor, Rich was VP HR with Texas Instruments then Division President/COO with Pella Corporation. Rich is a proud Rotarian and serves on several boards. His new book is “The Ultimate Business Tune Up: A Simple Yet Powerful Business Model That Will Transform the Lives of Small Business Owners“