Ada opens a shoe store with one intention: she wants to eventually earn a decent income from it. She rents a shop, stocks it with ladies’ footwear, puts up a signpost at its entrance, and opens business pages on social media channels. A friend tells her it’ll be nice to have a tagline for her business, just like the big brands; so she gives it one: “shoes, class and comfort”.
But Ada isn’t giving much thought to the future of her business. She’s just alright with the shop as long as it’s generating decent income for her. There’s a hope that the business will “expand” as time goes on, but this is merely a hazy idea that pops up in her head when she’s asked about her plans going forward.
Unfortunately, Ada’s approach isn’t likely to help her business’s growth. This is because it’s hard to reach a goal if you don’t have a clear idea what it is in the first place. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re very likely not going to get there. This is true for business as it is for anything else.
How should Ada go about planning for her business’s long term future? How should you?
A few things to bear in mind
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a decent income from our business. You could start a venture with the goal of eventually expanding your wealth. This could be a long-term plan. And it’s perfectly legitimate.
However, remember that you’re running an entity that’s distinct from you. If you treat it solely as your cash cow, you may not pay attention to making detailed plans for it. In fact, your business stands a better chance of prospering if you’re making plans for it that aren’t identical to your long-term plans for yourself.
In simple terms, you should have personal plans and plans for your business. They’ll be connected in some way, but not the same.
Your personal plans may include your goal of significantly increasing your wealth, or building a comfortable lifestyle for yourself and your family. You could have the following plans for your business:
- Growth in size
- Expanded reach and customer base
- Increased profitability
- Going public (becoming a publicly traded company)
- Holding the largest market share of all businesses in your industry
- Having a positive social impact or legacy
These are some long-term goals you can work toward. Notice that if you’re doing well with your business goals, you’ll almost certainly be attaining your personal long-term goals as well.
How to work with long-term goals
Now that we’ve established the goals you could be aiming for, let’s see how you can attain them. Here are some steps you can take to make it happen.
Identify your personal and business visions
We have already laid out a few examples for you. Having them in mind will help you run your business with a clear sense of purpose, and steer it in a definite direction.
It’s equally important to make these goals measurable. You can do this by attaching defined quantities and deadlines to them. For example, don’t just say you want to expand your wealth. Put a figure on it: you might want to be earning a million naira in monthly income from your business in seven years’ time. You could also aim to reach monthly sales worth ₦2 million in five years.
It’s easier to strive for a goal when it’s clearly defined.
Whatever your goals are, be sure that they are attainable. You may want to set the bar quite high just so you’ll be extra motivated. But don’t make it so high that you eventually wind up paying lip service to it, or getting burnt out by pursuing it.
Consider your resources, your environment and your ambitions. Know what the obstacles are, and think up ways to surmount them.
Build on short-term plans
Many entrepreneurs struggle to align short-term, everyday business with the grand but distant future. They eventually end up reciting vision statements like they’re mantras, without believing that they are attainable. That’s another way of saying that they’ve given up on reaching those goals.
You can avoid this dead end by taking the journey to your vision one step at a time. Design your short-term plans with your long-term goals in mind. Let them build up cumulatively to your ultimate vision.
Here’s an example: If you have a long-term aim of building the best available product for your target market, you can approach it by devising efficient production systems, employing great talent, and letting them go for the right training. If you do this continually, with reviews and improvements to your employee’s output along the way, you’ll be building toward the long-term aim of offering the best product to the market.
Lay out steps to achieving your goals
You have long-term goals, and you know what short-term steps to take as you reach for those goals. What’s next?
The usual advice would be to create a detailed plan, like some sort of grand roadmap to success. The danger in this is that you’ll get exhausted with trying to abide by such a rigid plan and eventually put it aside.
Focus on milestones instead. Create a simple timeline with key points along the way that you want to get to. Put figures on them (quantities and years) like we explained in step one. Then give yourself room to determine how you reach those milestones, as circumstances permit. This makes your plan flexible and easier to adhere to.
Let your staff in on it
Emphasize business goals in meetings with your staff at every opportunity. Let your words and actions signal the importance of these aims to them.
You don’t need a heavy duty tracking plan to check your worker’s understanding or implementation of the business’s long-term ambitions. If your regular employee evaluation systems are already checking for the achievement of short-term targets, you’ll be just fine. However, the business’s progress toward long-term goals may be evaluated on a periodic basis. There’s more on this in the next step.
Evaluate and adjust strategies
When you make plans, you do so while assuming the state of your operating environment. For example, you might take it for granted that the economy will remain pretty much as it presently is. But things could change, and there could be an economic slowdown or an outright recession. This means you’ll have to make changes to your plans and adapt to the new realities.
Review your plans and progress once in a while. Alter your strategies to suit prevailing conditions when the need arises.