Today I listened to Chris Boardman speak at the Edinburgh Book Festival. This is a man who has achieved incredible things, including an Olympic Gold Medal and World records. One comment he made resonated with me as I have never been a person who has a 5 year plan. Chris admitted he doesn't do 5 year plans. He has 2 year goals. His belief that you can be passionate about achieving a goal in 2 years and have focus on that goal. I tend to agree. Five years is a long time and the world we live in can move a lot in that time. Five years is a long way off and it can be demoralising trying to work that far ahead. So I am going to challenge you to ditch the convention of the 5 year business plan and do a 2 year plan. Phew. Doesn't that sound so much easier to deal with. Do you think you can forecast your sales and profits for 24 months? Can you visualise what new products or services you can offer over the next two years?
I dreaded the question at interviews "where do you see yourself in 5 years time?". I felt like something was amiss because I didn't have a concise answer or a clear vision. I've always been person who looks for opportunities and takes them. There are things on my bucket list that I tick off during my life. Those who know me know that I have done some amazing things with my live. I have come from a life of relative poverty, put myself through universtiy and risen to senior management in the accountancy world. I've run marathons, cycled up numerous mountains, climbed Kilimanjaro....well you get the picture. But most of these goals I achieve over a 6 month, one year or two year timescale, when the time is right.
Two years also fits with the organic growth in business. Yesterday I was having a conversation with a start up business about defining an ideal customer. When I first started out I had many attempts at this. But you know what? Until I had worked with a variety of clients I couldn't really define my ideal client. Now, almost two years down the line I can tell you my ideal client. I have even given her a name (Ali, in case you were wondering).
I've also found that it is easier to break down a long term goal into small achievable goals. When training for a marathon you focus first on running 3 miles and building up 10% a week until you can run 18 to 20 miles in training. When you can only run 3 miles the though of running 26.2 miles seems impossible. So the same can be said for a business plan. The targets you set yourself for 5 years time can seem impossible. And when something seems impossible it is disheartening. But if you think of where you see yourself in 2 years time, doesn't it feel more real?
So who's joining me in breaking convention? Let's throw out the 5 year plan and focus on the next two years.