To lead: Plan for the long-term

Mar 09, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 3.13.09 PMAnnual resolutions are short-term planning at best. Now that another new year is in full throttle mode, are you checking off your list of resolutions, or are you envisioning your firm’s future? Annual resolutions are short-term planning at best. For the long-term, your business strategies must be more decisive and focused. Here are a few suggestions to help stir up your thinking for the long-term. 1) Push the envelope. Think outside the box. These business phrases speak to the importance of doing more than the status quo. Steve Jobs was the epitome of thinking outside the mainstream. He had the unique ability to discern what his customers craved, and he brought passion to the process of inventing new ways to utilize technology. His drive for excellence and merging beauty into the engineering process forever changed the technology landscape. It’s easy to become complacent and set in our ways. However, as repetitive behavior breeds repetitive results, you need to ask yourself if you are satisfied with the status quo. Also, think about when you were most invigorated by your work. It was probably when you were expanding into a new market, implementing new technology or advancing staff to new duties. I have yet to talk to a successful leader who was not working to change or improve their business. When was the last time you did something different and challenging? If you cannot remember, then it is definitely time for a change. 2) Take risks. Be bold. Dare to fail. Create opportunity. These are business strategies that often ignite change. If you are a leader who wants to grow both professionally and as a firm, taking business risks is a necessary part of the path to growth. But what risks should you take? As an engineer I was trained to be risk averse, but as a business leader I embrace calculated risk as I know that it can lead to advancement of our firm. This also means that I accept that there will be failures, but history tells me that all great innovations were preceded by failures. I am not advocating that you risk the existence of your firm. However, absent some acceptance of risk and willingness to venture into the unknown you will not be able to implement change. In planning for the long-term, the decisions you make to move forward will either hold you back or free you to grow beyond your greatest expectations. 3) Act for the future. In addition to thinking about your firm’s future, you must also set aside time to think about yours, both personal and professional. A basic part of a leader’s vision is determining your exit strategy. Most of us postpone this discussion as we don’t want to think about the end of our careers, but this is a fundamental piece of any strategic planning. Aligning your interests with your firm’s capacity to support those interests is important as your decisions also impact those around you. You also need to know the future desires of others in your firm as they should be mutually supportive. While you want to act towards the future, it cannot be an individual act. It must be a group or corporate act if you want the leadership and visioning transition to be smooth and sustainable. 4) Climb out of the weeds. How many times do you look back at the end of the day and try to determine if you accomplished anything of importance? We become bogged down by the minutiae of our work instead of focusing on our firm’s vision. We are like a snake crawling through the grass, sticking our head up now and then, until a lawnmower finally rolls over it. While taking care of the day-to-day is important, aren’t you supposed to be the strategic thinker for your firm? Is the task you are doing the best and highest use of your time or should it be handled by someone else? I continually hear the excuse: “My clients expect me.” That’s not really true. Your clients expect a service and a certain quality of performance. And what better way to enhance that service than focusing on what is strategically relevant for the success of your firm. Empower and support your staff in the fulfillment of their duties and you can create your firm’s future path. 5) How do you want to be remembered? Finally, there’s the big legacy question: How will I be remembered? Personally, I want to be remembered for what our team accomplishes because their accomplishments are reflected on me. For that to be successful, I have to be the facilitator of our vision of the future. Set your sights on creating opportunities for others, and their success becomes team successes. You don’t need to hover and take credit for everything that happens at your firm. Take credit for being a jobs creator, an industry advocate, a leader whose vision is for the long-term success and viability of others. There are multiple examples of individuals and firms who have distinguished themselves by creating opportunities for others. Walter P. Moore Jr. took the firm started by his father and created an entrepreneurial environment built around technical excellence and highlighted by generational leadership change. Freese & Nichols Inc. won the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award – one of only seven U.S. firms to be so recognized the year they received it – highlighting that after over 100 years of existence they are still innovating and improving. And Charles Thornton has lead the creation and expansion of ACE Mentoring in recognition of our industry’s need to attract future generations into the workforce. There are many different ways to build a legacy. How will you build yours for the long-term? TAKE THE LONG-TERM VIEW. In the study “Why Good Strategies Fail: Lessons for the C-Suite,” sponsored by The Economist and the Project Management Institute (PMI), 61 percent of respondents said that their firms struggle to bridge the gap between strategy formulation and day-to-day implementation. Only a fraction of those who responded to PMI’s study said that their business model was extremely well-aligned with their long-term strategies. I’m guessing that everyone just gets too busy when business is good, and too mired in the status quo when business slows. Isn’t it time to usher out the old and welcome in the new way of thinking about your long-term resolutions? Stephen Lucy is CEO of JQ with offices in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Lubbock, Texas. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1139 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

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