This is the fourth in a four-part series on the importance of managing your business with the long-term perspective in mind. Too many business owners take a short term approach to their business and as a result never achieve the growth they desire. In this article, we will discuss the importance of long-term strategic planning.

As a business owner, you spend lots of time each week planning. Most of this time is likely spent on short-term, operational planning – creating your production schedule, assigning projects to various employees, etc.

Hopefully, you are able to spend at least a couple of hours per month engaged in strategic planning. This time is critical to the long term future of your business. Below are three elements that should be present as you plan for the future:

  1. Analysis of your current market and projections for the future. It’s important to take stock of your market from time to time. Who are your competitors? How have they changed their business model, marketing strategy, or other tactics recently? It’s equally important that you plan for the future evolution of your market. Is there a new technological innovation right around the corner that has the potential to shake things up? Pay attention to these things, so you don’t end up like Blockbuster video rental stores in the age of Netflix and internet streaming.

  2. A focus on innovation. The key to maintaining your status as a leader in your market is to stay ahead of the curve. You can do this to a degree by paying attention to your customers, listening to their feedback, frustrations, desires, etc. But as Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” As the business owner, it’s your job to look for opportunities to innovate – whether they are obvious to your customers or not.

  3. An emphasis on sustainability. Entrepreneurs and business owners are known to act impulsively from time to time, in fact, our bias towards action is a major strength. That said, it’s important that you don’t overextend yourself and your operation as you seek to innovate. Remember to create systems for your business operations, so that they are sustainable and repeatable. This is an area that many of the business owners I work with struggle, so make it a special focus.

You spend time regularly planning for the short-term future of your business… but to build a world-class business, it’s important that you spend time planning for the long-term, too. Keep these three principles in mind during your strategic planning sessions and you’ll be better positioned for success.