You may have heard the phrase, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” For some businesses today however, the intent from Day One really IS a sprint—new companies are launched with the goals of first achieving lightning-fast growth, and then being acquired by the highest bidder.
For those who see their business as an extension of themselves, not to mention a source of income for the long term, this mentality may seem alien. But it’s important to stay true to your goals, which may mean defining personal success as running a business you love that also grows at a steady pace and brings in steady profits.
There’s nothing wrong with making your business your life’s work. In fact, there are a lot of highly-successful entrepreneurs who do just that. Here are three suggestions to help you avoid short-term thinking, resist the “grow and sell” trend, and stick to your long-term vision so you can run a business that makes you proud and supports you financially year in and year out.
- Focus on manageable growth—Ask yourself some questions: How much do you need to grow each year in order to stay competitive? How much growth is too much, in that it would mean diluting the quality of your product, or acting contrary to your business mission? It can be difficult to forecast exactly how much you should plan to grow, but it’s critical that you spend time considering these questions, and setting some expectations. Beating your forecasts is always a good feeling, but it can be very easy to start chasing greater and greater growth—a choice that usually requires clear investment in equipment, partners, and staff.
- Be mindful about taking outside investment—More often than not, if an investor wants to write you a check, he or she is expecting rapid growth and a quick return resulting from the sale of your business or other capital event. He or she may also ask to own a sizeable piece of the company. It may be tempting to take a large sum from someone who wants to give it to you, especially if you’ve got big ideas, but sometimes, turning away investment money can be the best choice for your business. If you’re in need of capital to grow but don’t want the conditions that might be associated with an investor, you might consider borrowing—the relationship with a lender will be more straightforward, since you simply pay back the money with interest. Compare that to investment, in which you’ll be expected to give up an ownership stake in your business, and opt for ways to achieve rapid growth even if they diverge from your long-term business mission or goals.
- Consider the long-term consequences of decisions you make today—There’s a difference to making decisions today that you know you’re going to have to live with five, 10, or even 20 years from now. While it’s sometimes tempting to focus on actions that will help you business right now; without thinking about the long-term implications, those decisions could potentially have unintended long-term consequences. Taking the time to consider long-term consequences for the decisions you make today will help your business grow and thrive for many year