In many ways, your success as a business professional has less to do with any one major decision. Success has much more to do with the countless little decisions you make on a daily basis.
“Is this font okay for our next flyer?” “We've just run into a problem with our supply chain — what do you want us to do?” “If we try to implement this new service it will cost 10% more than we originally planned! Should we move forward or drop the idea altogether?”
These are all important decisions to make and you'll rarely find a day that isn't filled with them.
But in an environment where you're hyper-focused on the “now,” it's imperative not to lose sight of the bigger picture. That bigger picture is the business you always hoped you would one day be running.
The Problem With Short Sightedness
Short-term results are important, yes, but they're not everything. What if you want to drive growth and innovation that will sustain your business into the coming years? In that case, you MUST be focused on how those short-term decisions affect your long-term strategic objectives.
In essence, you need to ask yourself two key questions before making any type of management decision:
- How is this move going to affect us this week?
- How is this move going to affect us one, five or even ten years from now?
If you make a choice only for short-term gains, you may very well get them. If you choose to cut costs in an effort to bring on new customers, you may likely succeed. But what ripple effect does that cause in terms of the bigger picture?
What does it do to your customer's lifetime value? What does it do to word of mouth? Perhaps most critically, what does it do to the long-term sustainability of the product or service you built your business on in the first place?
If you're only focused on what's right in front of your face, “bad” answers aren't the problem. Rather, the problem is that you don't know the answers in the first place.
Short-sighted decisions focused on immediate gains and instant gratification often result in unhappy customers, a degrading experience and bad word-of-mouth. That in turn is the irony of the situation! By ignoring the long-term effects of something and focusing only on the immediate future, you're needlessly creating consequences that ONLY manifest themselves in long-term ways.
Additionally, this in turn can splinter off into a few of the many, many common reasons why businesses fail. Even something like cash flow problems ultimately stem from a lack of focusing on how choices affect your business in the grand scheme of things.
A lack of planning or preparation, a general unreliability in terms of business decisions, an absence of important critical insight – all of these things are often born from the same place.
It's All About the Process
As you begin to dive deeper into the day-to-day operations of your business, you'll quickly begin to realize just how important communication is to nearly everything you're doing. From getting every member of your team on the same page to building anticipation by way of a marketing campaign, clear and concise communication is essential.
But again – this doesn't just concern your short-term activities. Of course upcoming deadlines, like that big project you want done by Friday, are important. What's equally important is conveying how that big project contributes to the larger whole that is your organization.
This is one area where the world of marketing and the daily grind of running a business tend to overlap. Just like you might use a piece of visual marketing collateral to show potential customers why your product or service is important, you can do the same thing for your team.
You can use a Venn diagram, for example, to help visualize your business processes or plans. It can be a great way to SHOW, not tell, two critical elements:
- How what you need to get done today relates to other areas of your business.
- How everything together adds up to something much more powerful and meaningful than any one individual step.
The Bigger Picture and Your Customers
The same basic concept is true of your outward communication, too. You can use Infographics or other pieces of visual collateral created with tools like Visme to show your audience not just what you're doing, but why it all matters.
It's essentially the same thing you're trying to do when you sell your product or service. Visualizing information in this way gives your audience the proper context to see the world through your eyes. You're not just saying “my product or service has X, Y and Z features” when you sell. You're saying “here is why X, Y and Z features matter and how they're going to change your life for the better.”
Never Lose Sight of the Future
But again, none of it is possible without contextualizing things in terms of the bigger picture. Finding a way to tell a story and let everyone know what you're trying to do is important, yes.
However, you NEED to take the next step of showing people WHY that matters and HOW things are going to get better. Only then will your communication efforts, both in terms of your team and that connection you're making with your customers, really begin to shine.
Nobody opens a business on Monday with the only goal of trying to remain open until Friday. They want to be open fifteen or twenty years down the line. Only focusing on immediate consequences of your actions works contrary to this goal. In everything you do, be it the way that you manage your employees or the way that you communicate with your audience or even the larger business plan you develop, it's important to uncover the full story. How something will affect you today is important, yes — but you must never forget to ask how it will affect you tomorrow, too.
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland based digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.