Forbes Coaches Council

Three Lessons For Setting Your Business Up For Future Success

Think of running a business like driving a car. No instructor would suggest that you keep your eyes on the road behind you instead of straight ahead at the road in front of you. However, instructors do suggest you look back over your shoulder when you’re changing lanes, for instance. There could be something in your blind spot.

It’s never a bad idea for a business owner to look back occasionally in order to see where they’re going and to catch any blind spots that have been overlooked. You can learn a lot from noticing how far you’ve come and what’s worked over the years (and what hasn’t). If you don’t glance behind your shoulder occasionally to learn from the past, your business may be risking a pile-up on I-95.

My company, The Entrepreneur’s Source, just celebrated its 35th year in business, so naturally, I’ve been looking back on a few lessons as we stay focused on the future. I’ve come away with a few useful lessons that may help business owners and prospective business owners like you, whether you’re celebrating a major milestone or trying to create a lasting legacy.

The entrepreneurial mindset shouldn’t stop with you.

Yes, you’re the entrepreneur, but your employees should have an entrepreneurial mentality, too. Successful businesses are fueled by people with starkly different goals and motivations.

You should want all of your employees to be empowered to be independent, entrepreneurial thinkers — to feel free to suggest creative new ideas for your business and to make daily decisions that propel your company forward. An insecure entrepreneur who feels that they should do it all can micromanage his or her way into only retaining employees who are afraid to make decisions and simply count down the hours to 5 p.m. If you want smart thinkers and eager team members to populate your business, you have to treat them with respect — and trust them to do their jobs well.

Your business must adapt.

Looking back and valuing the past is important, but letting go of the past is important, too. What got you here is not always what will get you there.

In 1984, when I started my company, there was no mainstream internet, we weren’t yet a national franchise, and everything moved slowly. Then, of course, about a decade later, the internet came about, and everything moved faster. But even the 1990s seem like an idyllic Stone Age compared to now.

Over the last decade, our business, like many companies, has continually adopted new technologies to continue to stay top of mind for today’s clients, like virtual coaching, for example. The world moves so quickly that you can’t just keep up with changes; instead, you must get ahead of them. If you can anticipate where society is going, your business will be far better equipped to offer products and services that the public wants.

Think targets, not goals.

Stop with the goal setting. That sounds counterintuitive or even reckless, I know, but focusing on the outcome and not the process won’t give you the outcome you want.

Think of the last time you played darts. It’s still possible to score high and win the game without hitting the bullseye. In fact, if you only score by hitting the bullseye, the game is likely to become very taxing and frustrating. However, if you approach the target with an “aim small, miss small” mentality so there are successful outcomes in multiple areas around the target, you’re better off.

In other words, instead of getting hung up on the outcome or hitting certain annual numbers, focus on doing your job well and constantly working on what you’re doing today. That’s how you’re going to get the tomorrows that you’re seeking. Maybe it’s semantics in the end, but I think goal setting – rather than aiming for a target – can discourage innovation and experimentation. And if you’re a business that isn’t experimenting and trying to evolve, that can be deadly to your bottom line and growth.

Will every experiment and innovation work? Absolutely not. You’re going to fail countless times, as we have at our company. But that’s OK. In fact, you’re doing something wrong if you aren’t failing every once in a while. In this speed-of-light culture, our company has a philosophy that we’re doing something right if we’re failing fast and frequently.

For us, that was a hard concept to grasp, but that’s why it can be so useful to look back at your own business history. You start to realize just how much you’ve learned, and that gives you the confidence to push yourself even more — and to pick yourself up even faster if the next thing doesn’t quite work out. If you’re going to do big things, you have to try big things, and many times, those big things won’t work. But many times, they will. You have to fail in order to succeed.