Why do we hold ourselves accountable to mostly arbitrary numbers of achievement over short periods of time – by month, quarter, or year? – This is how we measure our success. Your company and your stockholders have been trained to think this way.
We’re thinking way too small.
Perhaps we need a different definition of success. Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great,” only considered companies that showed sustained performance over a decade at a minimum. The first company I ever worked for took a similarly long perspective – we had a chart that showed the average up and down market cycle for our industry. It was an 8-year cycle, and the leadership made plans and decisions such as investment, hiring, gearing up and scaling back according to that 8-year timeline.
Our CEO also had a well-communicated and understood 10-year plan to be the most efficient, cost effective company in our sector of our industry, so that the largest company in that industry would want to acquire us in 10 years. In addition, we had 3 smaller, 3-year plans that tied to this 10-year goal.
And we achieved it. I started buying stock in that first company at $14 a share. A decade later, I sold my stock for $66 a share when the largest company in our industry bought our firm because we accomplished what we set out to do. Now that’s good business.
So why have I never seen another company with a 10-year plan? We measure success in months and quarters, which means there’s literally no return for tackling problems that are going to take years or decades. What happens to the biggest challenges? Where are the big solutions? How many great things simply aren’t being attempted?
If you’ve read the Girl Authentic blog before, you’ll know that our movement is about introducing feminine balance in the workplace. This isn’t a gender issue – it’s about a greater diversity of thought and behavior in the office, for women and for men.
Here are three ways we could define success:
- Enough profit to allow for reinvestment over several years
- The ability to provide a living wage for employees for as long as they wish to stay
- Growth to a size that allows long-term sustainability and stewardship of the business model – not the sale of the business in a matter of quarters
What does company success look like to you? Over what period of time do you want to measure it?