ask SCORE: There is no Limit to What You Can do

There is no Limit to What You Can do
A Celebration of the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Action
By Richard Walton
Assistant District Director for SCORE

I have been writing and consulting lately with an emphasis upon the Business Life Cycle and how life cycle stages provide opportunities for businesses to reinvent themselves and renew their commitment to growth and profitability. I believe there is always a new and different way to visualize and create a new beginning for businesses, regardless of their present state. In this article I will present several ideas on how to create a new and exciting future for any business regardless of its present circumstances.
The first point is to understand the need for and develop the capacity to visualize what could be as opposed to being stuck in dealing with what is. This is done by visualizing a happy and prosperous future and working backward through the steps that led to that visualized future (notice I did not say 'will lead to'). As each of the steps is traced backward, one would finally arrive at the present with a trail clearly shown out ahead leading directly to the desired future. The power of this method of thinking is that the end state, or goal, is already in view and is therefore a much stronger motivator of action in the present. And it avoids the mental (and perhaps financial, emotional, and other forms of distress) as the major inhibitors in the present of effect goal oriented action.
The second point to keep in mind is to live and work in the future rather than the present. One lives in the future when he or she does things in the present that relate to the future. This may seem difficult to conceptualize, given the pressure of tasks and obligations that take place in the present and require attention. While these may never be fully eliminated, they can be reduced sufficiently so that future oriented work as well as thinking can be carried out now, rather than then. There are a number of techniques that will enable the manager to do this. Delegation of time consuming tasks to others is one, another is making appointments with yourself (with the same or higher priority than one would normally assign to a meeting with a major customer or supplier). In these meetings of one the preset agenda could (and should) include major steps that are being taken now to set the stage for the future.
A third element is progress tracking as we travel the route established in our initial visualization (shown above as the First Point). Designing and then living in the future is made up of many different tasks and opportunities as well as detours and dangers, and it is obviously better to encounter these virtually first, and in real time only when properly prepared and equipped to deal effectively with them. A process chart with significant milestones indicated helps the planner keep on track and moving in the right direction.
The fourth element in successful futuring is communication. One should not travel this road alone, but rather with trusted colleagues who identify with the goals and objectives and who are willing and able to make the journey with you. Collaboration need not be restricted to your current employees, in fact they may not be able to contribute thought or action toward a goal not fully understood or welcomed. Others who can 'buy in' to the visualized future may be much more appropriate 'fellow travelers' enroute to the future.
Fifth and finally is determination to 'see it through', to keep 'your eyes on the prize', and to develop the resilience to continue even in the face of setbacks and failures. In fact it has been said that failing early and often can build a great foundation for future success. It is like getting the negative stuff out of the way so that real progress toward the future can be made. In this effort there is a spiritual element as well. It might be the sense of a 'call to greatness', or a commitment to 'make the world a better place', but whatever it is titled, the efforts needed to reach the goal should merit your continued best efforts over the required time.
These five steps can indeed bring about a transformational change in your business. In fact there is no limit on what can be accomplished with hard work and determination. There is nothing more noble than to strive mightily in a great calling.

Mr. Walton teaches Financial Management, Operations Management, Corporation Finance, and Entrepreneurial Finance at Frostburg State University and is the assistant district director for SCORE, Western Maryland, and is president of ERMACORP, a Hagerstown based Management Consulting Firm. Call 301-462-9850 or him at Find him on Facebook(r) at "Small Business Life Cycle" for inquiries and an exchange of ideas on small business management, issues, resources, and experiences.