By Guest Blogger Tara Onthank
Many organizations find that reaching success is easier than sustaining it, but with the right leadership in place, long-term goals can be realized.
Setting clear and flexible goals is key for sustaining prosperity of your association throughout succeeding generations. It indicates that you have a vision of progress and want to obtain a lasting legacy in your community and beyond. At the same time, flexible long-term goals provide you ways to measure what is working and what needs to improve in your daily operations in order to achieve success.
Some people find long-term planning intimidating, feeling it will be time consuming and ultimately unproductive. The opposite will be true, if you simply follow a few easy guidelines.
Consider These Items First
Create your goals during a time when your organization is facing downtime or at least is less busy than usual. You want to focus as much as possible, with little interruption. After all, these pre-set goals will be serving as a guideline of where you want your association to proceed in the future.
What you consider long-term can vary, but generally people assume you are talking about at least one year in the future. Some plan even longer than that, but whatever is chosen, keep in mind that as you plan further in time, it is more likely many variables will appear that can adversely affect your goals.
Assess the current economic conditions and political climate in order to determine your goals. We are at best emerging from the global recession, so resist the temptation to be overambitious in your planning. Make careful estimates of what growth should be realistic to obtain, given the circumstances of the clients you serve.
Try to stay three to four months ahead of the curve when planning. Your financial advisors should be able to provide you with guidelines about what is reasonable to expect in the future. For example, our company’s advisors warned us in advance of the recession that indications were the financial market was starting to slip, so we adjusted our inventory orders, investigated areas where we could stay lean and cut costs, and explored other options. The result was that we were able to survive the downturn in business and come out prosperous now.
Long-term planning should include making goals for individuals as well as for the organization itself. It is easier to expand your business if you challenge your employees to grow, learn and be trained about new practices and knowledge that will improve the association and surpass its stated goals.
Have Everyone Contribute
When devising your goals, keep all of your main management team engaged in the discussion. They should be ready to contribute in creating the final list of goals to be pursued.
At the same time, an organization is only as strong as all of its employees, so if they have ideas on where to take the association in the future, encourage them to speak up. You and your management team will make the final call of whether the proposals have merit and can be attained, but always keep an open mind and ear for what they suggest. Their experiences and backgrounds can contribute effectively to your planning.
Customer service is an excellent resource to include in long-term goal discussions. Your clients are the ones who will spread the word about you to others and create referrals. They will perform this service in part by knowing you are an active, vibrant group with dreams to make a real impact in your industry now and in the future. Letting them know they have a stake in these goals empowers your clients to contribute their ideas and reinforces their support of your association.
Review Your Goals
Once you decide on your future plans, you must monitor and measure current conditions against your aspirations to make sure you can make them a reality. It is recommended you review your goals at least quarterly to align them with current conditions and trends, particularly if a major crisis affects your industry.
If during your review you find that conditions are unfavorable to reaching your long-term goals, consider altering them so that you can show progress in different areas. When my business saw indications that we faced a loss of activity as the economy slumped, we decided to broaden our suite of products that we offered to include the related area of patio furniture. That design really helped to sustain us in connecting with new customers and generating new business from returning customers. Such decisions can seem scary, but you have to take some risks if you want to keep growing as an organization.
Above all else during your reviews, maintain the high quality of the products and services you provide. Cutting back here is a sure way to end your success, as shown by many failed businesses that followed this practice in the past.
The implementation of long-term goals can truly make the difference between prosperity and failure in the future. These guidelines will provide you with a road map of where you need to head going forward and how to reach your destination feasibly. If you and your employees know this in your organization and operate your daily business with the hope of achieving these long-term goals, your chance for success will be much higher.
Tara Onthank is co-owner of Rising Sun Pools & Spas, a family-owned business that has been serving customers in the Triangle area of North Carolina for more than 40 years. Founded in 1972 by Charlie Vassallo, the company offers custom pool design, construction and spa installation services, as well as a variety of outdoor furniture, to customers. With offices in Raleigh and Garner, N.C., Rising Sun Pools & Spas has a staff of talented and knowledgeable aquatics professionals available to help make anyone’s backyard dreams a reality.