Begin With The End In Mind
Visualize what you want your business to become before setting out on your journey
My first job out of college was working as a sports reporter for The Meadville Tribune in Meadville, PA. Covering high school tennis matches and taking rec league bowling scores over the phone wasn’t the most lucrative job for a recent college grad, but working in a fast-paced newsroom for half-a-decade was a bunch of fun.
Bob, the sports editor and my boss, knew that most of the reporters he hired wouldn’t call The Tribune home for more than a couple of years before moving to a larger newspaper that featured more visibility – and more money. Bob was very upfront that his goal was to provide the training and experience that would help us move to a bigger, better newspaper.
“My goal is to get you out of here in 2 or 3 years,” Bob told me during my interview.
Bob was embracing the idea of “beginning with the end in mind,” a philosophy which was made popular by author and motivational speaker Stephen Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
In his book, Covey argued that people first need to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then empowering other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. You need to imagine where it is you want to go before deciding what actions you have to take to get you to your destination.
When Bob first hired me, he was already planning for my exit several years later. Not only was he thinking about how I was going to leave The Tribune at the same time he was hiring me, he wasn’t afraid to discuss my eventual exit with me, in person, during my interview.
Do you begin with the end in mind when thinking about your business? Can you visualize where you want your business to be in 5 years, then construct the steps necessary to achieve your vision?
Here are three ways you can think about your business starting with the end in mind:
Form strategic partnerships with employees. My former boss Bob began with the end in mind when he hired employees at The Tribune. Do you? Let’s face it. Most of your employees will leave your company. Some may stay 1 year, some may stay 20 years. But eventually, most of your employees will leave to go elsewhere for a job.
Will you maintain good relationships with former employees after they’re gone? They could be a potential referral source for future employees or provide value in another completely different way that you can’t think of right now. At the same time you hire an new employee, mentally prepare yourself for when that employee turns in their two week notice. Tell that employee that you’ll do whatever you can to help them in the next chapter of their career.
Always be innovating. Your award-winning product or service today may not be your award-winning product or service tomorrow. You need to think about your product or service’s lifespan, and what will take its place when that time comes. That may be 5 years or 25 years down the road, but you don’t want to be caught without a Plan B once it’s time to retire Plan A.
Plan your exit strategy. Your business career (and everyone’s business career, for that matter) will eventually come to an end. There are three choices: a.) You liquidate your equity holdings while you’re still alive; b.) Your equity holdings are transferred to a person or persons of your choosing after you pass away; c.) Your equity holdings are transferred to a person or person of the probate court’s decision after you pass away. It’s your choice how the story ends.
The moment you start thinking about starting a business, you should start thinking about how you will exit that business. That way you won’t be caught off guard if unexpected life events occur that force you to choose a non-preferred exit option.