I occasionally meet resistance with business owners when I challenge them where they want to take their business in 5 to 10 years time.
In order to create a successful enterprise you need to think long term, which means being ambitious and confident in the how far your capability can take you. You don't have to be the next Google, Facebook, or Microsoft. But you do have to 'think big'. On a small level it means thinking about creating a professionally run business that will generate an income above what you would get in a salary job. At a more ambitious level, you want to create a business that earns above industry average income, creates wealth for you, allow you to be comfortable in your retirement so that you can do all you want to do, and have peace of mind that you and your family are financially taken care of.
To do this, you need really need to think beyond 12 months, and you need to think about what you ideally want to achieve if all barriers to success were removed. This is where the thinking process gets a little unstuck. In attempting to get business owners to answer the really big questions, I'm coming across some resistance and mental blocks.
Stop wasting time
Someone recently told me that I only had 2,000 weeks left to live. Statistically less. But I looked rather fit and healthy, so why not add on a few to round it to a nice even number.
Wow, did that knock me for a 6 (excuse the Australian idiom). In one brief statement, everything in my life suddenly took on a new perspective. Breaking the time I had left in this world to number of weeks suddenly altered my view on everything I was doing. Suddenly, a lot of things I was spending most of my time on became trivial, whilst I also realised a lot of things that are very important to me I was not doing. Knowing that after this week, I only have 1,999 weeks left, has a way of adding urgency to things.
I recommend to everyone, to think in terms of how many weeks you have left, and to ask yourself what would you prefer to be doing right now. Improve? Or keep motoring on doing what you're doing now.
If thinking about one's mortality doesn't work for you. At least acknowledge that time is finite and you can't do everything. So start prioritising your time towards the most important goals in your life.
Goals? Yeah, whatever.
A lot of people roll their eyes when I start talking goals. For some reason it makes people uncomfortable to talk about dreams and goals. I've yet to figure this one out but, the only conclusion I can reach is either it's too scary to think about failure. Or maybe they're truly content with where they are. Neither are a bad thing to acknowledge. But do ask yourself the question. On your death bed, will you look back with regret at anything you didn’t do or achieve? You have only one life, and one chance to use it. Take responsibility for what you get out of it and be honest with yourself.
Ok, so what is a goal?
Creating a goal is essentially defining a target to which you aim. A point of reference in the future that defines something desirable you wish to achieve.
There's a lot of literature about goals and why you should set them. But there's one quote I've seen that I really like is by Lewis Carol. “If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
Think about it. If you don't set a target to where you are going, invariably distractions and obstacles will lead you astray. Friends, family, your partner, customers, suppliers, they all have their own agenda and will distract you and set you off in different directions.
Creating a goal is a choice to set your own direction. It enables you to set and end-point that for you defines success. Of course to define success, you first have to know what you want.
Know what you want
For a lot of people, defining what success looks like is hard. We have been conditioned by church, our school, parents, society, to be humble, not to ask for things, and not to put ourselves before others, or even to win. We've therefore never been challenged to ask ourselves the question, if I could be whatever I want to be, what would that be?
Start asking this question. What are you good at, what makes you passionate and motivates you to action, what gets you out of bed in the morning.
At this point you might be asking, I thought we were talking about my business, not me. But for me there is no difference. Businesses are run by people, and led by people. Namely you.
Aligning your business objectives with your personal objectives will ultimately allow you to create a more profitable business. Read "The On purpose business" by Kevin McCarthy for more information on this topic.
Overcome barriers to thinking big
Sometimes we choose to not think big, because we put up artificial barriers. Let's look at some of these.
Achieving success comes at a cost of others
You don't have to step over others to be successful. You can achieve success by focusing on what you do well and continually doing it better. Doing it better than someone else doesn't mean you are destroying someone else's business or life. In fact the best way to achieve success is to do something that no-one else does.
It's not about me, I just want to help others
If your ambitions are more noble and altruistic, remind yourself of people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who are donating billions of dollars to others. What better way of making the world a better place, then to run a successful business, that generates excess cash which you can then funnel to any charity or social endeavour of your choosing.
You have to be great to achieve greatness.
There's a difference between successful people and talented people. Goals, determination, single mindedness are far greater factor of success then talent, skill, and intellect. If you need proof just look at George W Bush. I don't knock him. In fact I respect the guy. I'm just saying, he's not the most talented, intelligent, or skilful individual the US have produced.
I love this Warren Buffet quote which I think addresses this point pretty well. "It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results".
I know what I want, I just don't know how to get there
Don't worry about how you're going to get there. Goal setting has a remarkable ability to focus you and the people around you to help you achieve your goals. You'll start learning, get training, start doing goal related stuff, putting yourself in places where likeminded people will help you and advise you. Your mind will start to think creatively about making things happen. If you want something, you're prepared ask for it, and stay focussed on the task, things will start falling in place over time.
Are we thinking big yet?
Let's go back to a fundamental assumption in business. 80%-90% of businesses fail within 5 years. Everyone knows this statistic. So, think about why that might be the case.
In the book Good to Great by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the world's best companies are famous for setting BHAGs, or "Big Hairy Audacious Goals."
Define yours today and take the first step to creating a successful business.