Think back three or four years ago. Would you have predicted that your business would be where it is today? So much has happened in our industry in the past several years that it seems a challenge to plan just a year or even six months ahead. Nevertheless, I encourage you to consider taking the long view and develop a five-year plan for your business.
Yes, I know it sounds absurd, given the fast pace of today’s business environment and continuing economic uncertainty. Here’s why you should do so. Without a long-range plan, you can easily begin to drift, tossed about by near-term trends and fluctuations in demand. While you can’t know for certain what the next six months, year or three years may bring, you can anchor yourself to your desired future for your business by planning ahead and allowing for contingencies that may occur.
Start with the obvious question: Where do you want your business to be five years from now? Ideally, do you want it to grow in size or expand into new markets? Do you want to be more diversified in your offerings or specialties? Would you like to do more selling, client development, and/or consulting and less design work? Or perhaps you are looking forward to retiring or selling your business. Those types of changes don’t happen overnight in most businesses. They require research, planning, cultivating contacts and enlisting expert advice, possibly hiring and developing staff so that they will be ready to take over some of your current duties when the time comes. Some scenarios may also require amassing a certain amount of capital.
Even if you can accomplish your goal in less time, it helps to take the long view. Like standing on the top of a mountain, you can see the lay of the land clearer and not be distracted by incidentals. Your plan does not have to be detailed at this point; it just needs to include the major objectives and milestones. Then, if something occurs you did not anticipate, you can maneuver around it or adjust as necessary, and keep moving toward your goal.