How do I start thinking about the future?
Dear Aunty B,
I am in the web development and design space and have spent the past three years with my head down, bum up building this business.
At a workshop recently I was asked to see my business three years from now and I couldn't see it. What I saw was lots of small businesses and it made me realise that was not my original dream and that we could get very distracted chasing opportunities that might make us short-term money.
How do I think about our future so that I build something of value?
This is a classic small business dilemma. You probably have about eight staff and feel like a rat on a wheel unable to work on the big picture because you feel like you can't step off that wheel. Been there, done that, and unless you are careful you can get stuck there, as only 6% of businesses ever really grow beyond this stage.
The first thing to do is to set up a strategy session with key staff and great outsiders. Ask other business owners who they have used as a facilitator and thought was terrific. Find out from them the results they were looking for and see if it matches up to your expectation. What you want here is to be able to see your business in three years' time.
Tom McKaskill, who writes a lot on growth strategy has a lovely line. He says high growth businesses tend to band together. The various parts of a business complement each other. The core parts of the business support all the extensions. The business works closely together and synergies exist. Any business that does everything is in trouble as is a business that provides multiple disparate products and services – even if it is to a single focused market.
You talk about building something of value and I assume you mean in order to eventually sell. So the second thing you have to look at when you talk about value is this: how does the marketplace define value? What are your future purchasers likely to want to buy? Of course this is not something that you should spend a lot of time thinking about. If you build a successful company then you are most likely building something of value. But it's always good to understand the business of would-be purchasers!
So off you go to work on developing a vision, strategy and execution plan. I find this the best part of the job, so enjoy!
Your Aunty B
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