The future can be talked into existence.
At Skylum, we spend more time thinking about where we want to be three, five, and even 10 years from now than we do discussing the present. Why? Because we believe setting goals so far out — and referencing them regularly — helps hold us accountable for taking the steps required of achieving those goals. It makes them tangible, too — removes them from the realm of the ethereal.
But there’s more to it than that. Here’s why talking about the future more than the present will better not just your business, but your life.
Big things take time.
You’ve heard it before: the importance of having a five-year plan.
The reason having five-year plans is so routinely touted as important is because it takes about that long to achieve the big goals, both in business and otherwise: earning a college degree, becoming profitable, building a community of loyal users — all these things take time.
Sure, it pays in the short term to approach day-to-day goals more transactionally, keeping your head down and putting in the hours to close the sale, for example.
But to achieve the larger goals — the loftier ambitions that will ultimately define your legacy as a company — you have to plan with a longer timeline in mind. That’s just the bottom line. The huge accomplishments take sustained effort over a prolonged period of time.
Planning for the future enables you to operate more purposefully in the present.
At Skylum, our goal five years from now is to become the default photography solution for photographers and businesses worldwide. We want to be accepted as the standard.
That’s the desired result of our five-year plan.
But it’s not enough, of course, for us to simply possess that plan and desire genuinely to achieve that goal. We know we must also operate strategically in the interim to turn that goal into reality. And that’s why we’ve plotted out how much money we’ll have to make in order to do that, how many users we’ll have to acquire year-over-year, and how many of those users will have to be consumers versus businesses or institutions.
In other words, the goals of our future inform the logistics of our present.
And it is in this way that planning so carefully for the future improves the way we operate as a company now. We use our big goals to hold ourselves more accountable — to make sure we’re taking the steps necessary to achieve those goals. In fact, we hold formal check-ins once every six months to evaluate our progress against them.
Where newer companies often make mistakes in this regard is they let their plans stagnate after setting them. They know where in their hearts they want to end up, but they dedicate their mental energy only to the smaller tasks more immediately at hand.
This amounts to a misuse of ambition. Your company’s long-term plans should inform your organizational structure and your reasoning for conducting your day-to-day operations. After setting your goals, you should reverse-engineer so that those goals help comprise the foundation of what will one day become your castle.
Still not convinced? This sort of philosophy can have a tangible, immediate impact. Last year, Skylum’s sales increased 300 percent. In the first half of this year, our sales will increase yet another 300 percent. And that’s due in large part to how we plan for the future.
Possessing and planning for big goals makes you a more viable business partner.
Building your business atop ambitious five-to-ten year plans will help set you up for success — this much we know. But abiding by such plans can have an added benefit: potential business partners like people who have cogent, daring, and fleshed-out visions for their future.
This includes potential advisors, investors, co-founders, and talent. For us at Skylum, this purposeful anticipation of the future has attracted photography partners who’ve proved crucial to our business — folks who have millions of followers on social media and who share our long-term vision. They want to work with us because they see where we’re headed — and they see, too, that we know how we’re getting there.
Many companies, however view their futures fundamentally modestly, sometimes as little more than safe replications of successes earned in the past.
This kind of mindset stunts your growth.
It’s better, instead, to take risks to realize a vision of your company that doesn’t look like the past.
For example, we recently launched a division that will be researching and developing AI-based solutions for photography. We’re doing this because we know it’s going to be a critical component of the future of the photography industry. Since we want to help define that future, AI needs to be a crucial component of our present planning, too.
And that’s the kind of company talented people want to align themselves with — the kind that’s going to play a part in defining the future, not the sort focused solely on selling their products today.
I haven’t always had this sort of appreciation for thinking about the future, however — and my company suffered as a result.
When my team and I started Skylum, and we were focused solely on building out our software, we weren’t really thinking ahead — perhaps a month or two ahead, tops. We were focusing on making sales and completing other transactional goals.
All of which is to say: we didn’t invest purposefully in our future. We were thinking about things a day at a time, trying to make more money today than we had the day before.
Because of this, we didn’t start working on a lot of the things that could have brought us more benefits and even faster growth down the line. In essence, we stunted our start. We could be growing even faster.
What reflecting on this slow start taught me is this: rather than thinking transactionally, it pays to think visionarily.
This applies to your personal life, too.
As I mentioned above, the benefits of regular, visionary thinking are not limited to business.
Usually, when you step back and think about yourself, you think about your past. But such a focus inherently slows growth and development. Just as planning for the future enables your business to operate more purposefully and powerfully day-to-day, so too does it make you more effective in your personal life.
It empowers you to live every day in service of your larger goals, so instead of stagnating, you’re always moving forward toward something great.
Once you understand what you want five years from now, you can start doing things to accomplish that. Your goals for the future should inform what you eat today, what plans you make, where you speak, and to whom. On the other hand, if you’re never thinking about the future, how can you know what to do to become better?
At the end of the day, you should always be thinking about what you want your company and your life to look like in the future — as often, at least, as you think about the present — because visualizing that future is the first step toward actualizing it.
Source: Medium (link)