In my experience over the past ten or so years, I am have been surprised with how many companies work only in the "now" and really do not have long-term goals. As part of my consulting company, I have been hired by many very successful companies to work on various projects and I find it amazing how there is a true lack of planning by some very successful companies.
Before I go any further, let me clarify that yes, every company pretty much has an idea of where they want to be. For example, I recently consulted with an insurance company that said that within five years "they would like to be a provider of foreign auto insurance for major insurers". The problem with this goal is that it is a broad statement and really has no plan around it to get them there.
They were not the first company that I have consulted for that were like this. Surprisingly most companies I have consulted for were like this. As a successful business consultant, I always like to talk about the future. I like to see and think about the future. What can we achieve? What can we do? For example, with the insurance company, their goal was to get with some major carriers. However, when you try to get past that initial surface of that goal statement, what do you see?
This is often where I do have some friction with the businesses. They do not want to talk about or as some have them put it "waste time or energy" on this subject since they are not ready for it yet. I am seeing this trend across the board. Companies are being short-sighted and planning for the moment or the very near future without really setting up long-term goals and aspirations.
Another company I contracted with, when asked what their five-year goal was told me "growth". A natural response from me was, "well how do you plan on reaching that?" Again this is where the conversation was sort of shut down and was told by the client that it would happen naturally because they have seen "x percent of growth year after year".
I feel that these companies are not reaching their true potential because of their lack of planning to achieve growth and their goals. Their goals are only broadly defined, they are not specific with no targeted path to lead them to the road of achievement. Even if the goal is five-years from now, what you do today is extremely important. If you plan accordingly, the choices you make today can be your GPS navigation that take you to your destination five years from now. Without planning, it would be like driving alongside a cliff in the middle of the night with only one headlight working.
I always tell my clients and potential employers that I keep one eye on the future and one eye on the present. Tomorrow is just as important as today because what I do today will either make tomorrow successful or a rocky road. Letting your business have organic growth and success is great. I am not going to say that organic growth is bad, but if a business applied itself fully and planned for growth instead of thinking about something five years from now was "putting the horse in front of the cart", how many more businesses would be better off in five years since the decisions they make today would help them reach their long-term goals?
Goals, vision, and planning are some of the tools that businesses have for free. Perhaps the fact that they are free is the reason that many businesses undervalue them. My goal as a business development consultant is to use my abilities to help businesses learn about how powerful having a future vision of the company is, then using that vision to set goals, and finally planning to reach those goals.
How have your experiences been with your clients or your employers? Do you find my findings to be accurate? How much of a impact do you think that setting longer-term goals and plans to reach them on the longevity of the business?
David Strausser is a graduate of Penn State. He holds a degree in Information Sciences and Technology and is currently seeking another degree in Business.