Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ve always found this an interesting question, especially for recruiters to ask.
If I’m honest when I sat on the opposite side of the table, the voice inside my head screamed out ‘not here’.
I wonder how many others have thought the same, whether employed or running their own business.
In fact, I hope we all shout ‘not here’, because everything changes over time, especially when running our own business and staying the same, doing the same things can be a really dangerous place to be.
When starting out lots of business owners focus on creating a 5 or 10 year plan for their business combining pages of strategy, market research, predictions and financial projects. Often beautifully illustrated with graphs, images and annotations.
No sooner is the ink dried on the SWOT analysis and the PESTLE bullet points have been completed, the document is used to satisfy a bank manager before becoming relegated to the back of a filing cabinet draw.
And the business plan becomes irrelevant, out of date and forgotten about.
So where do you want to be in five years’ time?
Many business owners I ask, don’t know.
Others say they want to free up their time to pursue other businesses or hobbies.
More and more reflect on their work-life balance and how they want to spend time with their loved ones.
When I was young in business, the desire to metaphorically ‘take over the world’ was strong in me, so my goals were always about growth, development and hitting the next target.
Life teaches us constant lessons and that’s why in my opinion a 5 Year plan can be whittled down to a single sheet of A4 or A3 paper. Bullet points of destinations we want to reach in our business journey.
Save the detail for marketing plans, annual business plans and our quarterly focus plans.
Today’s business environment is ever-changing and we need to be flexible about the way we reach our goals. Think about the new kids on the block – COVID and AI.
Millions of businesses had to adapt to COVID, Working From Home and Lockdowns – there was an immense effect on small businesses. Some having to change their product and service offerings over night to survive. No one saw that coming, yet they had to react and quickly.
On the other hand, tools like AI or artificial intelligence have been around a little while and are fast gathering momentum. From uses in the legal arena and risk management to being used in content creation and copywriting, the applications seem endless.
In a lot of cases, the threats (and opportunities) to whole industries posed by the implementation of AI, will likely be seen in less than 5 years, especially if you are a firm believer in Moore’s Law.
Things really are changing that quickly in the world around us.
The skills and knowledge our children need for their future careers isn’t being taught in schools. not intentionally, but because the technology hasn’t been invented yet, or even been used by a generation to then teach the next.
The computer technology I grew up with, my older siblings never learned about in school. It hadn’t been invented. Likewise the technology our children will become conversant with, we will have no clue about as parents or business owners.
Exciting times, but equally as scary.
But what does this mean for small businesses?
As small business owners, we can move faster, adapt and transform our business quicker than high street chains, or behemoths of corporations.
However, we are often too time-poor to be looking at the future or the changing landscape around us.
Those SWOT and PESTLE analyses’ are something never performed outside of the classroom, let alone re-visited regularly.
In fact, it’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about my 90 Days to a Better Business workshop and the Strategic Planning sessions I host.
Coming on a workshop forces business owners to step away from the email and set their mobile to voicemail whilst they look at their business under a microscope.
A day with kindred spirits gives insight into other industries, developing trends and also highlights opportunities for businesses to fill gaps.
At one recent session a business owner heading toward 60 set out his plan to grow his business, buying vans and building a workforce, with the aim to get out by 65.
Whilst achievable, and requiring substantial investment in finances, equipment and workforce, our business owner ‘Bob’ had his thinking challenged to find other ways of reaching his goals.
That light bulb moment that he could leverage other people’s investment, by building strategic partnerships and project managing the delivery of projects meant that he is well on the way to achieving his financial goals, without having the burden of risk.
His action plan from a 90 Day planning session became focussed on building those partnerships and increasing marketing in Quarter 1, returning then to regain a new focus in Q2.
But each decision and plan aligned with the 5 year goal, just delivered by short bursts of focus over 90 days, adapting along his journey as to the conditions around him.
Small businesses can achieve their goals, but they need regular tweaking and adjustment to keep them on track and that’s where regular goal-setting and focus sessions come in. Lifting the bonnet and making some corrections ready to continue our journey of entrepreneurship.
If you haven’t taken some dedicated time to look at your business and be honest about what’s working, and what’s not, then we should probably have a chat.
Joining me on one of our business planning workshops could just re-ignite that passion for your business and get it back working for you, the business owner.
Remember, where you are in 5 years’ time is your choice. But to be in a different place, you have to take action!
Jamie Morgan is a business coach and marketing expert who hosts 90 Days to a Better Business and Business Strategyzer Sessions throughout the year at locations across Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire.